The whole concept of self-care, as we’ve been taught — take a bath, buy yourself flowers, take time for you — is based on a single, flawed premise: that it’s okay to have a life that depletes you as long as you take time to re-charge.
Let’s flip this idea of self-care into one more conducive to lasting health: How can you improve your relationship to self and others so that self-care happens in community, instead of in solitude?
Lest you think this is narcissistic, the roots of this idea actually come from the social justice/activism community. It’s an idea of self-care in community, of caring for each other instead of escaping the world to find the nurturing we need.
(Note: As an introvert, I’m not asserting that spending time alone is problematic. Only that sometimes our relationships are the biggest root source of depleted energy.)
We must dig deep and uncover the root reason: Why is life so exhausting?
If you want to know the truth, I expend a lot of energy trying to rise up from a situation that has developed because I gave away my power many years ago. It’s been a long journey of finding myself again, of reigniting my inner wild child and learning the balance of bending towards others’ needs while simultaneously asking them to bend to meet mine.
Maybe you have a similar root strangling your desire to blossom in self-care. If you have trouble with eating healthy or finding the time to exercise, I encourage you to look deeper than finding an extra hour or looking for new recipes. What is the true reason that you stumble with foundational self-care?
Often, the root lies in a flawed relationship, either with yourself or others.
I still remember the day I woke up. After a disagreement with someone, it was suggested to me that I needed to change, I needed to display more flexibility to appease a wrong situation. Suddenly, I realized the exact opposite was true. I had been far too flexible for far too long.
Life presented me a box, and I spent too many years contorting myself to fit inside. Underneath this attempt was the feeling that I was flawed, that the things I wanted out of life were too much or not practical. That my feelings and desires were wrong because I was wrong. And so I pushed myself into a box, kept trying to please others at my own expense. It felt HORRIBLE.
When I realized how long I’d spent bending over backward to stuff myself into someone else’s version of an ideal life, the anger came.
The years since, I’ve spent a lot of time unpacking this. How do I welcome my feisty wild child into my adult life? How do I unleash my personal power without burning everyone around me? Where is the balance between bending to be flexible while asking other people to bend for me?
If you’d like 11 journaling prompts to explore your boundaries in terms of self-care, enter your info below, and a worksheet will sail into your inbox.This unpacking has gone in cycles. I resist, feel angry, come to realizations, shift, accept and move on, and then eventually start resisting again.
At first, I believed resistance kept returning because I was flawed, because I couldn’t learn the lesson already, but this is where self-love comes in. Love yourself enough to honor your needs, to ask for what you want in relationships. To not feel bad about asking others to help out around the house or make a compromise so you can enjoy life more.
Why do so many of us keep thinking that emotional pain is a failure? It’s not, but only a call to deepen our listening.
Emotional pain is a call for us to lean in and learn more about ourselves.
In last week’s blog about unconditional self-love, readers received a worksheet listing basic, foundational habits to nurture self-love and radiance. This week, I was going to write about how you can return to balance after you’ve fallen out, but this much bigger topic of boundaries and self-care came to light and I wanted to explore it.
Because let’s be real. A major reason why so many people struggle with foundational elements like nutrition and exercise is because of cracks in the foundation of life itself, which typically manifest as unbalanced relationships with self and others.
How do you eat healthy when your family wants to eat meat and potatoes, without veggies? How do you find time to exercise when you’re working 60 hours a week and have no help with life stuff? How can you be self-actualized when you lack the personal power to ask for what you really want or negotiate a way that feels good for all?
It all comes down to boundaries and making sure that your core desires are met, not at the expense of others, but in collaboration with others.
One reason so many people struggle with self-care is because they view it as yet another thing on the to-do list. Flipping the script, sometimes it helps to re-frame self-care as creating time to fill up so that you can serve.
I urge you to go a step further: What is it about your life that makes you feel like you have to constantly give everything you have? What imbalances in your relationships with self or others make you feel like you have to escape the world in order to function in it? What expectations do you have of yourself that cause more harm than good?
How can your community, whether that’s your family or group of friends, better band together to make this experience of life feel a little better?
How can you shift the foundation of your life so that self-care becomes less an individual activity and more a way of collective living?
Self-care is not a win/lose proposition.
The idea is that we should all support each other so that we all prosper. Don’t escape to fill up and then return to a way of life that depletes you.
Organize your life and your relationships so that your life itself becomes as nourishing as possible.
*Note: If you feel angry after reading this post, it’s likely some stuff was stirred up within you. I urge you to not repress it, but explore in your journal and burn the energy off productively, through exercise or making art.
Then, make some changes! Anger is not bad. It’s a shadow emotion that we often repress, but that has much to teach us. It’s okay to be passionate and emotional, as long as you’re aware and responsive, as opposed to reactive. The social message that emotions are weak is the same as the spiritual message that you have to be peaceful all the time.
It’s not realistic! This life of growth and exploration is messy and that’s the way it should be! Embrace the mess, live the life! Dive in and explore.
Download the self-love journaling prompts from the free worksheet below to kick off your exploration.