As a coach and wellness practitioner, I have always embraced and promoted the wisdom of self-care – that “self-care is essential” for our lives and living and that “self-care is a very necessary form of self-love” – both as a way of being in my own personal life, as well as in working with my clients. This is especially important for my clients who serve – whose work in the world is to be of service to others. Because, for those who serve, self-care is very often one of the most difficult concepts to embrace and practices to maintain. So I was elated when ‘self-care’ made it to mainstream consciousness. More people were talking about it and various tools of self-care became ‘de rigueur’. But as with any wisdom practice that gets commodified and reaches commercial status, certain tools of the practice became the focal point (i.e., massages, spa days, retreats, etc.), rather than the wisdom and purpose of the practice itself. In many ways, self-care became synonymous with high-priced activities affordable only for the privileged few; a luxury many who needed self-care simply couldn’t afford. And for many, self-care became something other people (have the luxury to) do. As a result, the enduring purpose, ancient wisdom and personal power inherent in self-care practice and lifestyle became lost to the mainstream. And the backlash came as quickly as self-care made its mainstream debut. Today, as many articles and blogposts as there are extolling the virtues of self-care, you can find just as many talking about how self-care is selfish, lazy and irresponsible; a waste of time when you could be doing something productive, something that serves, something more important than focusing on you and your own privileged, selfish needs.
Well, I believe it is time we reclaim the wisdom of self-care from this backlash with the truth of what self-care is really all about, what self-care really looks like and how practicing a lifestyle of self-care, especially for those who work in service of others, is necessary, essential and can be achieved without the luxury price tag.
WHAT IS SELF-CARE?
Self-care is not just about doing what makes you feel good in a moment. Self-care is not massages, spa-days, walks in the park, a break from work, a break from your partner, an annual vacation, etc. While these are potential tools of self-care, self-care is about something much deeper than all of that. More important than the tools one uses for their self-care is what the act of self-care serves and accomplishes. Once you understand what self-care does, what you need your self-care to do for you, the tools required for your own self-care will become evident.
For many, particularly those who offer themselves in service to others, self-care can help re-member those parts of ourselves we sacrificed in the past, so that we can fully be here now, and move forward whole. Self-care reminds us of our duty, obligation, and birthright to be, live, and thrive in this life; to experience this life whole, complete, and full of (fully connected with) our Goddess-Self; and therefore serve in that same Divinely exquisite manner. Self-care reminds us that when our service is our ‘self’ we must be responsible stewards of ‘her’ in all her needs so that we can give of that gift of ‘self’ in her whole strength; not in her weakened parts. Self-care reminds us that placing ourselves, our needs, our dreams at the center of our own lives, is not only a necessary act of self-care but an essential act of self-love that empowers us to offer our best selves as we serve others. Self-care allows us to be whole so that we can serve whole; be full so that we can serve fully; be replenished so that we can serve continually. Self-care assures we ‘be’ well, so we can do well, so we can give well, so we can live well. Self-care provides the example to the next generation of ‘self’-givers of how to truly give of themselves in ways that maintain and sustain them for the job and thereby end the cycle of self-sacrifice and martyrdom of the very thing we seek to offer in service to and for the world – ourselves.
When your self is your service, when your offering is you, the greatest offering you can give and the greatest service you can be is the experience of you through self-care; the experience of the self-cared you. For there is no more powerful, no more impactful, no more change-making, no more essential service you can offer in and for the world than that which comes from the self-cared you!
WHAT DOES SELF-CARE REALLY LOOK LIKE?
Self-care is both a practice and a lifestyle. Self-care is a choice – and that choice is you choosing in favor of you: your needs, your health, your dreams, your voice, your joys, your peace of mind. Self-care is choosing the time and space you need to advance your healing, your growth, your creativity, your passions, your purpose, your gifts, your empowered sense of self, and your overall well-being. Self-care is you acting in favor of, and in alignment with, your values, your innate wisdom and your intuition; especially when they’re telling you it’s time to re-center yourself in your own life, focus on you and take care of your own needs. Self-care is knowing that when you make a practice of choosing in favor of you, when you place caring for your ‘self’ at the core of your living and lifestyle, you are simultaneously putting yourself in position to be of the greatest service to others. And despite all the martyrdom and self-sacrifice notions that have attempted to teach us otherwise, there is evidence both ancient and contemporary that self-care is the essential condition for wise living and being of service to others:
An old African proverb says: “Beware the naked man who offers you his shirt.” (also known as: one cannot give to others that which s/he does not have for her/himself). A Biblical proverb from the book of Luke, “Physician heal thyself,” comes from the Latin “cura te ipsum,” which is derived from the ancient Egyptian proverb, “Man know thyself.” And even when you fly today, as you prepare for takeoff all flight attendants say, in reference to use of the oxygen masks: “Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” All of these remind us of what we’ve always known, but too often forget: that in order to care for/serve others it is essential that we must first care for and serve ourselves.
So you see, self-care has been the enduring message of well-being and wise-living for millenia. As such, I believe we should reclaim the wisdom and power of the self-care message as both practice and lifestyle for the essence of who we are, the purpose of who we want to become, the quality of the service we desire to give, and the joy of the lives we want to live.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SELF-CARE PRACTICE?
The following are self-care tools I regularly engage that are part of my personal self-care practice and lifestyle. As you can see, all but the last of these tools require no significant resources of any kind; yet what I get in return from each is priceless in value not only for me, my growth, my life purpose, and how I choose to live; but also for my clients and how I am better able to show up fully, be present and serve them as a result. I invite you to adapt these for your own use, and/or develop your own set of practices, as you create your own personal self-care practice and lifestyle that supports you, your well-being and the service you desire to give:
SPENDING TIME IN NATURE
Nature is color, sound, movement, song, mystery, creativity, magic, mysticism, peace, inspiration, wisdom, breath, life, God, YOU. There is a healing your body, mind and soul can only receive by being in nature. Simply by spending time in the wonder and beauty of nature, breathing it all in, you’re able to rediscover your ‘self’ as part of something greater outside of you that connects to something greater within you. Nature, like self-care, is essential. Let yourself ‘be’ in that essence.
As an introvert (INFJ), spending time alone has always come natural to me. Now I understand spending time alone is essential to who I am, how I understand me and process my experiences. ‘Solituding’ (being in solitude) gives me the space I need for the silence, the quiet, the inner listening, the inward focus, the attunement, the thoughtful conscious choosing, and intention-setting that allows me to simply be with myself and learn to love me over and over and over again. This is essential for my healing, my self-awareness, my inner knowledge and my ability to re-energize me within myself in order to positively, joyfully re-engage the world. Solituding is essential.
HAVING MY SAY
Asking for what I want. Speaking my truth. Sharing my authentic feelings. Not silencing myself or allowing myself to be silenced. Talking through my ideas. Speaking into reality my dreams and desires. Using my words to express the truth of who I am, what I want, what I believe, and the world I seek to create. Saying “YES!” when I mean yes. Saying “NO.” when I mean no. Using my words to express what I value. Speaking me, all of me, the authentic truth of me, into existence. Having my say is essential for my self-care; essential for my life.
STAYING LIFTED: CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE FRIENDS & FAMILY
Surrounding yourself with uplifting people – people who raise your energy, your vibration, your thoughts, your conversations, your actions – is not just a self-care practice for your life, it is devotional practice to your Soul. Whether family or friends, the quality of the people you surround yourself with can make or break you on your self-care journey. Consciously choose to surround yourself with those who keep you lifted and positively contribute to the self-cared you. This is essential to any self-care lifestyle.
JOURNALING FOR LIFE
I have been keeping a journal since I was 16-years old. Now, as then, journaling helps me to make sense of the world and my experience of it. Journaling allows me to release, heal, unlearn, re-learn, re-center, discover, and uncover. Journaling helps me to create, dream, design, express, and choose who I am, who I want to be/become, and the life I want to live. Erika Badu said “Write it down on real paper, with a real pencil and watch shit get real.” A blavity.com article on the author Octavia Butler is titled: “Octavia Butler’s Personal Journal Shows the Author Literally Wrote Her Life into Existence.” When discussing her science-fiction writing, Octavia Butler said herself, “You’ve got to make your own worlds and you’ve got to write yourself in.” As a tool for self-care, it’s hard to get any more essential than that.
Sometimes I just need to bounce! Yes, I love to travel. Yes, I love experiencing the different people and cultures, languages and food, art, music and history that exists throughout the world. Yes, I love to experience the various ways I am able to feel ‘at home’ in cultures very different from mine and countries different from what I’m used to. Yes, I love connecting with other like-minded creatives and entrepreneurs around the world, brainstorming ideas for innovation and partnerships and making them come to life. And, yes, I love experiencing, time and time and time again, how much more alike we all are than we could ever truly be different. And, yes, all this does contribute to my practice and lifestyle of self-care. Yes to all of that. AND, sometimes my self-care requires getting up and going. Leaving. Getting away. Bouncing. Sometimes my self-care requires what Ta Nehesi Coates referenced in his July 13th, 2015 New York Magazine article: “Keep an eye on the exits and map out the routes of escape.” Whatever it takes to stay centered and sane in this life, this too is essential to self-care.
What is the current state of your self-care?
What will you commit to doing in order to create the self-care lifestyle & practice that serves you?
(Note: A previous version of this post was published at Las Morenas de Espana)