(Re)Defining Self Care
Self-care seems to be having a moment right now. It's everywhere. All over social media, in print advertising and on my TV I see women asking each other what they're doing for self-care. I see companies selling women self-care. I see so, so many people who have no clue what they are talking about. This isn't the first time I've written about the way we sell self-care. Sometimes I feel like I'm screaming into the wind about this. But then I hear from a potential client that they aren't sure that they need self-care because all the massages and bubble baths in the world won't fix their problems.
So let's talk about it. Let's take this word back from the marketers and back to its roots.
SELF-CARE IS ANYTHING THAT WE DO IN ORDER TO TAKE CARE OF OUR SELVES.
It's that simple. It is literally about focusing on and caring for yourself. So why do women, and why do moms especially, seem to suck at it?
Because we are programmed to.
Most of us were taught from childhood to take care of others, to be nice, to be generous, to be kind. And those are wonderful things to teach children.
But what weren't we taught?
We weren't taught to pay attention to our needs. We weren't taught to listen to our bodies. We weren't taught how to express our emotions in healthy ways. We weren't taught how to set boundaries.
We were not taught that we are worthy.
And it's not just us. Our partners were not taught that we are worthy. They weren't taught that mothers are human beings FIRST. They weren't taught that we have a full range of human needs and desires that are JUST AS IMPORTANT as those of our partners and children. So what we end up with is an entire household leaning on a mother and a mother who believes herself weak when she cannot bear the weight. Sacrifice becomes the highest virtue of motherhood and "self-care" becomes a joke that moms tell over extra large glasses of wine.
And if it sounds like I'm pissed off about it, that's because I AM PISSED OFF ABOUT IT. I've met far too many mothers who believe that taking the time to think about themselves is selfish. They say yes because they never learned how to say no. They assume that everyone else has it figured out and they are the only ones floundering. They believe the hype - that their partners can't parent as well as they can, that the emotional load of the family belongs to them, that they have to "earn" a break.
AND IT'S BULLSHIT.
So how do we change? The first step to true self-care is learning about your self. For as many times as I've bemoaned the fact that my children didn't come with an owner's manual, I missed something essential. I do have an owner's manual. You do too. We can actually figure out what we need in order to thrive. We do know how to care for ourselves.
It may take work. You may have to dig through all the layers of lies that have been heaped on your head by society, by the media, by your friends, your family - by you. You may have to strain at first to locate the voice inside you that has gone hoarse from screaming unheard for so long.
Once you hear it you may have to fight against the impulse to disbelieve it, to tell it that your hopes and dreams, your wants and needs are impossible. You may have to fight battles over boundaries and bandage wounds you never knew existed.
It may be a slow process of discovery, of meeting yourself in new ideas. It may be a revelation like a thunderclap. It may take all of your might to push back against societal expectations and systemic oppression to stand in the sun in the fullness of YOU. But it can be done. It is being done by mothers every day.
We are, each of us, unique. Our journeys to ourselves, to our own self-care practices, will be unique as well. That does not mean that we must walk alone. Creating community with each other can be one of the most powerful ways to begin our self-discovery. If you are ready for self-care that is deeper than a massage and more potent than a bath bomb, there is a community of women in The Self-Care Squad that are walking this road together. Join us.