Self Care, Self Care, Self Care (August 2011)

Self Care, Self Care, Self Care. We hear the outcry all the time. “Take care of yourself”. More often than not we know how to care for ourselves- getting out for a run, curling up with a good book, making dinner with friends, doing SOMETHING that brings personal joy. But so often in our jam packed schedules saying YES to ourselves means saying NO to someone else. AND saying no is usually where discomfort bumps up against me. 

The first time I ever said to a friend, “I can’t meet you for dinner, I’m going to yoga”- I honestly felt a little nuts. As if saying to my friend, “Yes, I know you’re important, but I’m doing something for MYSELF right now” was not an acceptable reason to back out of plans. 

Why might this be so difficult? Is it because as women (especially those who grew up in the semi-south), it is nearly indoctrinated into our souls that we should take care of others first, offer the best of what we have to our community, and then take whatever is left for ourselves. The idea that I could best take care of someone else by taking care of myself first and foremost was presented to me only two years ago. At the time it felt both utterly foreign and somehow completely familiar. 

As most of us do at some point in life, I had in my teens pushed well beyond my limits to do extraordinary things that involved being always available, always working my absolute hardest, and ALWAYS getting sick. 

So this new idea of taking care of myself first as a doctrine of self-care felt bizarre. It also felt empowering. I had the power to choose both NO and YES..

It wasn’t easy at first to choose myself first, to do what I wanted (dare I say, needed), and, in the process, to occasionally disappoint others or have to push their priorities to the side. What I have learned over the past few years and continue to learn on a daily basis is that by evaluating my needs first and moving from a place of desire and motivation I am able to be more fully available to everything that I am doing.  Sometimes that means that I choose LESS. But by honoring a moment of self-consideration before I make a decision, I am often able to say YES with more enthusiasm, power, and presence.