Self Care has become a buzz word of sorts over the last few years. And yet, as commonplace as the term is, the definition has become ambigous at best. We toss around words like "self care" assuming the definition is the same, while in fact the definition is a different as the people speaking it. Without having a shared definition, the miscommunication surrounding it just magnifies. In this situation, I suspect it might be beneficial to create a definition. My current working definition is: specific time and attention devoted to our well being. We've become a society focused so much on productivity, that we have lost sight of our own well being. The constant focus on social media has only perpetuated the tragedy that has become self neglect. I'm sure it is no exaggeration to say that you can think of at least 5 people off the top of your head, who don't get adequate sleep on a regular basis. In my experience, we have become a society that engages in and encourages self neglect. We've become a world where people are frequently sleep deprived at best. At worst, people are not eating properly, not drinking enough water, not making time for social needs, not exercising, etc. The list could literally go on and on. It's as if most human beings don't even register on their own priority list. All of this is exacerbated when Shame is present. Shame convinces people that they are not good enough or are not worthy enough to devote time, dedication, love or attention on themselves. Shame is a very corrosive thread in our existance. Shame not only tells us we are not good enough, but also that we can't get better. It's that nasty voice that convinces us that things will never change. Historically women have been taught to be the last priority in their own lives. "A good woman takes care of everyone else." Women who have begun to make themselves the number one priority in their lives, have received guilt, shame, humiliation, and bullying from others. We need to commit to stopping these behaviors. It is absolutely unacceptable! And it only perpetuates the myth that self care is the equivalent of being selfish. When I am working with clients, individually or in a group, I love to use the example of a cup with nothing in it. I take the cup with nothing in it, and I ask my client if they can drink what is in the cup. Invariably, they all say no! When I ask why they can't drink it, the answers are pretty similar. In the end, they tell me that it is empty. I then take the cup and I explain how similar they are to the cup. I explain to them that because they rarely, if ever, take the time or attention to fill themselves up, they are pouring "nothing". [Because they are empty.] I go on to demmstate how when we are the number one priority in own lives, we always have leftover to give to others. But if we are walking around as an empty cup, you can't transmit something you don't have. I want to focus this blog on dispelling the myths of Self Care. My hope is that if I can show people that their beliefs about self care are inaccurate, perhaps people will allow themselves to explore the freedom and healing of self Care.
The myths I have heard include:
1. Time: This is one of the biggest myths that people consistently buy into. I'm not sure where this myth originated but self care does not require a big time committment. Healthy and effective self care can occur in as little as ten minutes a day. Literally less than 10 Minutes! If you are wanting to develop the habit of self care my recommendation is to take 3 minutes twice a day. During those 3 minutes: shut off your phone, walk away from your computer (if you are a parent of little children, go in the bathroom and shut the door) and just breathe. Check in with your body and just notice where the stress is collecting. Breathe into that spot and notice the change.
2. Energy: Many people incorrectly assume that adequate self care is intense. Here's the reality, healing and rejuvenating self care can require simply whatever energy you have left to give. Some examples of low energy self care include: focus on what you did well, journal, set a goal for the week, put some lotion on your body (and take a few moments to smell it), drink some water, stretch your body, or breathe. Set your intention to take good care of yourself and notice what changes.
3. Money: One of the top misconceptions of Self Care is that it's too expensive. This just is not accurate. For some people self care can include more expensive things such as a pedicure or a massage, but those are just a piece of it. Some examples of free self care include: taking 5 minutes and just feeling the sunlight (or moon light) on your body, take a bath or a shower, smell something that soothes you (baked cookies, flowers, candle), and if there isn't enough time or energy for any of that simply wash your hands in cold water.
4. Will power: Everytime the topic of self care comes up, people will start talking about nutrition. Don't get me wrong, once you become very skilled in the realm of self care, it can become natural to address the food you are consuming. But, at this point, I suspect it's kind of like putting the cart before the horse. My experience is that when you begin developing and creating the habit of self care, nutrition eventually falls into focus. I encourage people to focus on breathing, hydrating, sleeping, and overall honoring the body.
5. Child care: When I met my bonus kids, they were already teenagers. I can't begin to compare my experience with those of you who have little children. Here's what I really want you to consider: what if taking better care of yourself would allow you to be more present for your children. Keep in mind also that you are teaching your children what self care looks like. Some examples of Self Care with kids include: distract them while you take some time to yourself, teach them to meditate with you, and allow them to do some of their self care while you focus on yours. The last suggestion could create an entire movement.
6. Worthiness: This is perhaps the most complex. Many people who struggle with Shame also struggle with believing that they are worthy of Self Care. Sadly there's no real easy fix to this issue. However my recommendation to overcome this barrier include: Acting as if you believe you are absolutely worthy, start small, and just focus on the habit (whereby excluding the worthiness issue entirely). I'm a firm believer that the recipe for success is to work on just allowing the habit.
I'm not writing this blog from a place of superiority or perfectionism. I have lived my life with experiences on both ends of the self care spectrum. In working with people for over 20 years, I have noticed a theme of lack of Self Care. I created the Self Care Initiative to help people create the habit of Self Care. It's totally free, learn more about it here: https://www.jennbovee.com/self-care
Jenn Bovee is a Psychotherapist turned Shame Busting Coach. Jenn works with people all over the world to teach them that Shame has no place in their lives. Learn more about Jenn here: www.JennBovee.com