Learn To Love Yourself – Reinvent Self-Care

I got featured this week in the Year-Long program A Year with Myself. the the topic is “Self-Nurture: How to Make Total Self-Care a Lasting Habit”, and  I share what self-care means to me, how I practice it in my daily life, how spirituality and self-care intersect, some herbal recipes, – and – well, since I’m pretty long winded, a heck of a lot more.

And even though you might think I’m some sort of self-care junkie (seeing as this is the 5th post on the subject in three weeks), you’d be wrong. It’s a struggle for me too, and I’m in love with the idea to replace the word “self-care” with “self-cherishing.”

Because that’s what it’s really about – loving up our lovely selves – by doing whatever that means to each of us individually.

Actually, one way I like to cherish myself is my delving into my weekly installment of A Year With Myself!

Am I Worthy Of Care?

When I returned home late last week from my coast-to-coast travels I jumped right into my interview, (in fact I began brainstorming on the plane ride home). And it got me thinking a little more deeply on this topic of self-nurturing.

I came to the question, “What is your biggest challenge when it comes to self-care?” and the answer sprang to mind immediately. Believing that I am deserving of care.

That alone is the hugest obstacle that prevents me from practicing what I know and from truly honoring my needs through self-nurturing. Realizing this made me want to probe a little deeper into the whys behind this.

Because something tells me I’m not alone here.

Why is it that women tend to put themselves last when it comes to caring? Why do we undervalue ourselves, and what can we do to turn this around?

All of this leaps into a sharper focus as we find ourselves staring midlife in the face. It’s a time when (for many of us) our reserves are nearly depleted. Our adrenal glands (which are the storehouse of that energy we so badly crave) are crying out for restoration.

A lot us wouldn’t know how to nurture our pinky finger after all those hours, days & years of mothering, of serving others, of giving, giving, giving.

When we don’t believe we deserve, there’s always another story, another reason why we choose to give ourselves short shrift.

I’ve identified a few common reasons here that many of us women neglect (or think we must neglect) our own self-care, along with some work-arounds. Can you think of any others?

We buy into the time-proven mindset women are supposed to be care givers – to others.

From the Virgin Mary to June Cleaver, from Day 1 we’re bombarded with images and stories of womanhood – especially motherhood – that revolve around selfless giving. Women just naturally take care of things. It’s in our DNA  – and it can be quite satisfying to know we’re doing it well

Weirdly, it can even be a form of self-care, because when you’re satisfied and like what you’ve done, you nurture yourself with by feeling good about yourself. (See how easy self-care can be? It can just be a feeling!)

The danger of course lies in overdoing the giving, getting depleted, because then the fun and good feelings are gone. It becomes drudgery, a chore, something to be resented. And, again weirdly, the more resentful and unhappy we become, the less inclined we are to practice self-nurturing.

But, hey, it’s 2012. Time to write a new story.

Whether you’re still changing diapers or rattling around in an empty nest – you don’t need to buy into this idea that your role is to continually give to others and others only.

Distinguish between those times when you truly have to give (baby’s got to be fed and have a new diaper) and when you are  buying into others’ ideas of what you should give (Hubby or the 12-year-old really CAN fix their own lunch.)

Who has time? There’s too much to do.

Since this will never, ever change (the too much to do thing), it’s time to just get over it and accept that the list will never be completely checked off. And to go sit outside for 10 minutes, or take that walk, or call that friend.

That list is loyal. It will stay right there on your desk. (Whoa – I think my inner guidance is giving me a lecture right now.)

And guess what? Caring for yourself can happen in 1-5 minute increments throughout your day. A stretch at your desk, savoring a glass of water that hydrates and replenishes, a 2-minute conversation with a friend or coworker who you enjoy. All of this counts

I’m the worst culprit when it comes to focusing too much on the ‘doing’ rather than the ‘being’, I’ve written about it before, and I’m sure I will many more times. In the end I’m always stronger when I let in time for the being – and always to my surprise I seem to get more done too!

But why should I be surprised? After all I’m a human being – not a human doing!

I just can’t afford it.

There’s a bit of a myth that “self-care” has to be something special and expensive like a massage, pedicure or facial. Ditch that idea right now (not than any or all of those things aren’t a fabulous way to treat yourself when you can.)

You don’t need money to take care of yourself. What you do need is an attitude of self-love (or at least a willingness to consider such an attitude) and a shift in perspective.

I’d say there are literally millions of free or super-inexpensive ways to nourish and care for ourselves. From cuddling with a pet to smelling a flower to cranking up some music and dancing around the living room. What’s your favorite?

Isn’t it selfish (and not very spiritual) to focus on caring for yourself?

This is another one that I struggle with often. Why should I deserve to be cared for when so many others lack the most basic items of survival? Shouldn’t I spend all my free time and energy on helping others?

Honestly, I’m still sorting this one out. What I do know is that when I do not nourish myself, I don’t have what it takes to nourish others. It’s like the oxygen mask cliché – springs to mind because of my recent travels I guess. You’ve got to put your own oxygen mask on first, or you might lose it before you can oxygenate someone else in need.

Try it. Put on your own oxygen mask with whatever little actions that take care of YOU. It might surprise you how much more you have left over to give.

Let’s Reinvent This

As I wrote in Part II of the Self-Care Roundup, I’ve felt a little hypocritical in the past around this whole topic. During those years I ran my store (which was all about natural healing and self-care) I rarely found moments to nurture myself.

At least in the ways that I thought I should be nurturing myself.  I’ve since come to realize that true self-care encompasses much more than massage, meditation and adhering to a strict diet plan.

In fact it can sometimes take the opposite tack.

What if self-care was about following what you truly want to do in any given moment?

I don’t mean giving into unhealthy cravings, or self-medicating (necessarily), I’m talking about truly tuning into to your own inner guidance and wisdom – rather than always believing those exterior voices of authority.

Hanging out with friends you love is a form of self-care. Playing – however you like to do it. Noticing when you feel pretty good. Fixing yourself a nice little meal and savoring the tastes. Pausing in the midst of self-flagellation and rephrasing the message.  All ways to love yourself.

Self-care springs from the simplest of actions. But mostly it happens when you can believe you are worthy.

As I said, I got pretty in-depth on self-nurturing specifics during my interview in the A Year With Myself Full Adventure Kit. I invite you to join me in this phenomenal community of women and read it in full.

Meanwhile, today I challenge you this:  Think of one tiny, tiny thing you’ve done or will do today that could qualify as self-care.

Yay! You do know how to care for yourself! Pat yourself on the back.

Tomorrow add another.

I’d love it if you shared in the comments below what activity you chose for this.

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Showing 20 comments
  • HappierHuman

    Hm… this may seem like a silly question, but what exactly is your definition of self-care? 
    I ask because this post got me thinking, but I found my brain going in to many different directions, because I didn’t have a clear conception of what self-care is and what exactly it entails. I’m not asking what self-care involves, I know that will vary from person to person, just what, in your mind, it is conceptually but concretely 🙂

    • saraho

       @HappierHuman Well, that’s a tough question Amit – and to explore that question is the whole reason I decided to write this post. I think the easiest way to explain my current understanding is that self-care is the stuff you do for yourself to make you feel really good – for the long term. Sometimes it gets a bad rap because it feels like a chore – you have to eat certain foods, or exercise, or do all these proven activities for mental and physical health. But true self-care takes the ‘have to’ out of the equation. When we truly care for ourselves we do it because we want to, because we believe we are worthy and deserve to have flexible healthy bodies, relaxed minds and great relationships. I guess there could be even more posts on this topic in my future… Unfortunately ‘self-care’ has become kind of a buzz word, so I appreciate your asking for that clarification. These buzz words often become meaningless when they are bandied about too often, so it’s good to dig a little deeper and THINK about what they mean to us.
      Hope that helps!

  • clairekerslake1

    I really love the phrase ‘I’m a human being, not a human doing’.  Something that I, too, need to often remind myself of.

    • saraho

       @clairekerslake1  LOL, I think I need to post it on my wall. In every room of the house! Wish I could take credit for it – but I got it from a video I was watching. Have heard it before too though.

  • Carol Hess

    I was delighted to realize today that it’s been a long, long time since somebody told me I was being hard on myself.  Hallelujah!  I think that means I am finally cutting myself a break.  What used to be a blind spot and a real challenge for me in the self-cherishing arena has turned into a non-issue.  This gives me tremendous hope that other self-care challenges will also become non-issues.  As for right now, I’m going to take a nap because that’s what my body is asking me to do. 🙂 PS — love the substitution of self-cherishing for self-care, Sarah.

    • saraho

       @Carol Hess  I hope I get to that day soon Carol (when I stop being so damn hard on myself!) It’s getting better every day, but tiny increments. In fact maybe even bigger increments. Yesterday I had a power nap. Today I got my workout in AND had a massage ($20 from a student – but she’s good!). Both during the day. So I’m slowly learning how to cherish and love myself. Hope you had a sweet nap!

  • okielicious

    Sarah, first of all, I didn’t think you were long-winded in the least!  I liked what you had to say (from beginning to end) — especially that gem to “self-cherish” — and also the “1 to 5 minute” idea!  The one tiny thing I’m going to do for myself after this is “take a nap.”  Not a long one.  Just a well-deserved one. 🙂

    • saraho

       @okielicious  Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed the whole article. But, ahh, you did not yet see the tome I wrote for A Year With Myself! Includes my life story even (well an edited version, but could be TMI for some). I am so glad this post is inspiring you and others to take those naps. I can’t rave about the power of the nap enough. In fact I believe all workplaces should have nap rooms (just like in kindergarten). I think productivity would soar! See you over on the Fearless FB page!

  • ZenCaffeine

    I don’t always practice self-care – sometimes I overeat, sleep too much or do things I’d rather not. But I think we all slip up, and what’s important is that you pick up the practice at the next opportunity. For me, that was exercising this morning after eating tons of junk last night. Did I want to exercise? Hell to the no! But when I was done, I knew I had done something good for myself, and honestly, I felt great. Loved the post, Sarah. I’m excited to learn more and incorporate better self-care into my life. 🙂

    • saraho

       @ZenCaffeine  You’ve got this just right Kaylee! I was just thinking today about how self-care is a balancing act for me. I may overindulge of an evening – but then I sweat it out in my exercise routine the next day. And you know what? Sometimes the overindulging is so much fun that I don’t even think it’s a bad thing. It’s only when we don’t counterbalance that it becomes a problem.
      I NEVER feel like going on a run on starting my workout. But once I get going (and endorphins kick in) I pretty much always feel great. And I think I enjoy it even more after some indulgence – whether it’s food, some drinks, or just lazing around the day before. I’m really thrilled that you are getting a lot out of these self-care posts.

  • BobbiEmel

    Sarah, as I’ve been studying self-compassion a little more recently, I can see that self-care really dovetails with it. When we allow ourselves to be kind about our own emotional experience, we can also act kindly and with care toward ourselves.
    Besides other self-care ideas I’ve mentioned before on Holistic Hot Sauce, I’d have to say that honoring my extraverted nature is something I’m learning to attend to more. I don’t need to be around people all of the time, but I do need that energy sometimes! Being a blogger, writer, and therapist, I can spend long periods of time by myself at the computer. I find that going to my favorite restaurant for lunch is really helpful to feed my extraversion. I’ve been going there for 8 years and everyone knows my name, just like Cheers! I feel fed not only physically, but emotionally as well after I go there.

    • saraho

       I love this idea@BobbiEmel ! I’m an extrovert too (athough with a few introvert tendencies) and I also get antsy working at home writing, blogging and on computer all the time. I do go off into town every few days in the afternoon to run some errands, but I’ve never thought of it as self-care, as in taking care of my extroverted personality. I always think I have to rush through it and get back to work or ‘real’ self-care. Thanks for this insight!

  • CiaraConlon

    I’m off to spend the weekend with my two girlfriends and I’m not going to feel an ounce of guilt- Thanks Sarah!!

    • saraho

      Have a wonderful time @CiaraConlon ! No guilt at all. You definitely deserve it, and it’s good for you too!

  • joeyjoejoe

    It may sound strange, but walking with my dogs is self-care. I get exercise, the rejuvenation of being outside in nature, and a peaceful mind from it.
    It’s normally a daily dose of self-care but when I skip it, I feel like I’ve let myself down and don’t care enough about my physical/mental health.

    • saraho

      Not strange at all @joeyjoejoe , I think walking the dogs is an excellent form of self-care. In fact that is one reason I’ve wished we had a dog – so someone else could remind me to get outside for a walk! I bet your dogs are disappointed when you skip it too.

  • Loran Hills

    Great post with many helpful ideas, Sarah.  I think you are right that because we are always going to be busy we just have to “bite the bullet” so to speak and schedule in some time to take care of ourselves.  We aren’t going to be any good to anyone else if we are sick or too tired.  It’s a balancing act between family and work but it can be done!

    • saraho

      You’re so right @Loran Hills . LOL, I use that odd expression all the time – I have no idea why!
      It’s definitely a balancing act, and takes some discipline to get there, but even short amounts of ME time add up. And it pays off.

  • lindajm

    Hi Sarah… this came to me on a day when I’m totally taking care of myself because I’m sick… I caught some kind of bug while out shopping. Usually every day I do errands at 4pm when our mail is in the PO boxes… it is a small mountain town and we have no street mail delivery. So at 4 I go get the mail, visit friends, and go to the store for provisions, if we need them. Last night I developed a sore throat and have been in bed all day today, taking a variety of vitamins and herbs!
    Something else self-careish that I did, which is intended to be more of a long-term effort… was to join a vegan message board. I’ve been a vegetarian 42 years but still my weight is out of control, in my opinion. I want to be vegan… so I joined the message board for encouragement. I was happy I could do that, allowing myself an authentic plea for help. I figure by talking to other vegans I’ll get some motivation to do better for myself.

    • saraho

       @lindajm Isn’t it funny how sometimes our bodies will just take us down and get sick when we need to take some care of ourselves. For years when I ran my business I would go go go, and finally some nasty flu would have to chase me down and force me into bed with a good book or a movie! Glad you are just taking it easy and I hope you feel better soon!
      The message board sounds like a good move for finding more information about a vegan diet, and how it can be implemented in a weight loss effort. And I do think it’s a form of self-care to interact with other like-minded folks (online or off) and always to learn! I’m sure you’re going to gather some valuable information!

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