The Truth About Self-Care
Updated: Jun 24, 2019
I'm seeing them everywhere. Anxious women hurriedly rushing, forgetful, cancelling plans last minute, or not showing up for commitments at all. Breaking down crying because the mountain of To-Do anxiety has grown out of manageable proportion to the day's energy. I'm having this conversation with woman after woman in my life who just can't seem to stop. Pattern recognition became easy after I'd been this woman: over-committed and deflated like a flat ball. Burning up energy stores like credit.
Putting a pump or two in the ball didn't do much. Time alone and self care never seemed to be enough, and even self-care activities started to become burdensome. And I seemed to swing from one extreme to the other.
Sometimes I did life very graciously. Inspired by involvement in meaningful work, enlivened by opportunities I had attracted, witnessing the universe work in my favor through divine synchronicity, and buzzing with spiritual flow and connection.
But when someone showed up at my office door when my tank was low, I'd be pissed that they even dared ask anything of me. I sensed them walking on eggshells. I would resent how much I had to do all by myself, and judged how "useless" everyone was. All patience and tolerance was lost, ("why can't they just figure it out and get with the plan?"), and found myself making regular misery injections into others (AKA my husband). On top of it, I felt guilty for not showing up as the mom I vowed to be.
If I wasn't blaming someone else, I was blaming myself. I was caught in a shame storm that stirred my ugly pile of unresolved resentments and regrets. This pile had grown large enough to block the sunlight from touching my soul. This is martyrdom at its finest. The problem wasn't my annoyance. It was that I'd long stopped asking for help and I had an unrealistic expectation that other's should be able to attune to my needs when I was moving at mach speed.
Then I finally hit bottom after years of running up the downward escalator. I fell hard under the weight of my ever-growing list of commitments, my work toward becoming a life coach, an insanely busy full-time job, and an online university class I enrolled in for work. I was the Chair of an association where I found myself picking up the slack for others. I taught yoga and mentored women in the inner city, and played volleyball weekly. I was trying to "fix" an auto-immune condition with some crazy diet.
On top of it, I had a three-year old at home, and daily life filled with dishes, laundry, text messages and emails to return. I was co-sleeping and extended nursing through the night. My husband was bringing his work misery home and I found myself caretaking the mental and emotional well being of others.
My body was screaming at me to stop. The auto-immune condition was but a symptom, I had lost my voice, and woke drained every day regardless of how much sleep I'd gotten. My life force had diminished. Yet I'd find a way to dig deeper and keep showing up--abandoning myself repeatedly for the sake of ladder climbing, pleasing others, and what I thought was the way to being a good person who was making a difference in the world. I actually liked the rise I got when I packed my calendar and the moment a space opened up, I'd backfill it without a second thought.
This is doing life to the extreme. But at what cost? You've all heard the saying, "we are human beings, not human doings." So why is it so hard to stop?
Because when things get quiet, anxiety and even full on panic can creep in. So we have to keep running. We believe we have to do this and we have to do that, or else it will all fall apart. There is a tape that runs in the background, "what if I don't get everything done? What if I let them all down? What if, what if..." The roots are deeply linked to family systems issues, societal messaging and what was learned from our mother's generation.
But instead of examining the shadow side of the problem, it's easier to just send that last minute text, "sorry I can't make it today." But I hated constantly staving off commitments that I should have had the power to say no to in the first place. I didn't want a reputation for being a flake, so I pushed myself to show up. I worked to become so reliable that I'd become unreliable.
I tended to take on commitments that would benefit me; AKA look good on my resume, position me for stature in the eyes of others, or open a door. I rationalized my self-motivation by calling it "selfless service" because they were all community-based commitments. Like an addict who can't stop until their health gives out, I was giving of myself in dangerous proportions, and for all the wrong reasons. A strong idealist with a spiritual cause, I wanted to be a person who gives back, lives in the solution and brings forth the healing and love I'd been gifted. So what if I happened to get some of the perks along with it.
Wrong. I all came crashing down on me the day my adrenals crashed and I couldn't get out of bed. I had literally burned out. I fell into the darkest time of my soul, and couldn't get out of bed to DO anything to distract myself for 10 days. All I could do was sleep and lay there thinking. My nastiest self was attacking me and I had no choice but to face it.
I was flung into a massive attack of the shadow. Everything I didn't know about myself until now and the things I didn't care to look at continuously slapped me in the face until I acknowledged them. Everything I thought I knew came to question, including my identity which seemed to be a blank slate. I no longer knew who I was, what I stood for, what I knew of myself and the world.
I had to get honest about my motivations for making the choices I made. I'd let my ambitions feed the monstrous dragon which is my need to be needed and feel relevant. I would get an ego payoff when people came to me for help or wanted me to become involved in a seemingly important initiative. I was operating from a belief that I was indispensable. But the big payoff was gaining other's approval.
I'm sure there are people who would be in their right mind and know when to quit, but instead I tried to bargain with the universe, "Okay, okay, I'll let go of some of it, but how much really needs to go?" Deep inside I knew it was all or nothing. Complete surrender.
Because I hadn't listened to my inner self, I was put in a position of all-or-nothing. I had to take leave from work. I sent the dreaded email stepping down from the board and immediately felt a thousand pounds lift from my body. I quit the online course right in the middle, because I realized that didn't need the credit anyway. I told the women I mentored that I needed a break. I stopped teaching yoga and playing volleyball immediately.
No one was angry like I had feared. They all sent me love.
A compulsion is a "fix" that alters thoughts and emotions. I was running from my unregistered feelings about not getting my needs met, and an inability to simply BE with myself. I continuously swept myself under the rug and self-sacrificed to keep others happy. I was fueled by a societal idealism of what it means to be a good person and dreams of manifesting my desires by simply outputting good into the world. I was letting the world impose the idea that my worth is determined by what I do in the world and was chronically outputting when I needed to be inputting. I was literally giving what I didn't have to give.
I had too long faced my sight outward when I needed to finally face inward and become accountable for who I was and how I was showing up in the world. I wasn't a bad person. But I didn't understand why this was happening to me. I began the lengthy sojourn to understanding how I'd got here, and healing body, mind and spirit.
I learned There is purpose in darkness. That all souls will be called inward at different times of our life, either through darkness or crisis, many times over. This gift of darkness, I like to call it, is a touchstone to higher realization of self and a stripping of disillusionment. It brings us more into acceptance of what is reality, whereas, I'd spent much of my energy trying to alter reality.
As a result, my energy is now my most precious commodity. I had to learn how to expend my energy wisely. I say how much, who, and when. This takes a bold commitment to self that walks all over people pleasing, who understands that the word "no" is a full sentence, and refuses to caretake other people's feelings, nor should I put myself in that position. It comes down to priorities.
When I became pregnant with my first daughter, I vowed to make her the sun in my sky. I've talked to so many women from my mother's generation who feel remorse at how the greatest gifts in their life somehow got edged out. This darkness renewed my greatest priority and also lit up what it should have been all along: me.
I had to discover what self care actually means. It was more than taking in a yoga class or a walk. I found that for me, its about becoming willing to DO the hard stuff.
It means learning to decipher between work with lasting impacts versus mindless busywork, and being wise enough to invest my energy there.
It means if a job over-extends me 100 percent of the time, it's not the job for me.
It means if it doesn’t set my heart assail, then its simply not for me.
It means saying no from the onset instead of backing out later, cancelling because I double-booked, or flaking out.
It means having rock solid boundaries. Easier said than done.
It means becoming willing to heal on all fronts: mental, emotional, spiritual and physical, because no problem is solely one dimensional.
It means learning how to receive and allow myself some time to even the score. Letting others give to me shows that I matter.
It means being willing to have difficult conversations and make difficult decisions to leave situations and relationships that take more than they give.
It means figuring out what I need and asking for it.
It means making it okay to put myself first sometimes and saving myself first, then the world.
It means more than changing habits but healing from a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual approach.
It means putting an end to feeling most alive in chaos.
It means never lying to myself. I show up for myself on every commitment I make to me, no excuses and not putting others wants before my needs.
It means walking my talk and modeling what self love looks like for my children.
It means getting in touch with what I believe and living from that place at all costs.
This is the hard stuff.
It means doing the hard stuff and becoming better for it.
It's learning that there are no mistakes, only experiences that aren't learned from.
This is the true meaning of self care.
Love and hugs.
Author: Dawn Deguire
Truth Inside Wholistic Coaching & Healing