It's a beautifully blustery evening here in Colorful Colorado, and maybe it's the weather, but I'm feeling compelled to put my opinions out into the interwebs and see where they land.
There are loads of articles out there that describe why self-care matters, establishing that self-care or self-love is not selfish, and offering the 100 things you can do for self-care. But, I don't think I've seen an article yet that describes 1 - how self-care and self-love are NOT synonymous terms, and 2 - why you should care about your Self enough to find a balance between the two! So here I am, to save the internet from meltdown...and wax poetic on the topic.
I care quite a lot about self-care and self-love, and the place in the middle where I feel women are their fullest and most authentic selves. Yes, you got it, I consider self-care and self-love to be two parts of a Venn Diagram, which means that I believe there should be a balance between the two and that both are necessary to one's overall wellness, which I'm referring to as peace.
So allow me to break this down in a very non-scientific, no evidence to support my claims, just mere anecdotal justification for my ideas around this whole self-care/self-love thing. It could be that I tend to be a very literal person, and so I see the difference between these two things, because well, they are two different words. But more than that, I see ways in which imbalance between the two can breed a bit of a beast, and destroy the importance of each in one's daily routine.
Self-care is very basically the allowance for yourself, all the things you would do for another in order to caretake. If your kid is sick, you don't tell them to just muster through, you take them to the doctor. So why do you sit through your bronchial infection rather than seek help? When your bestie gets dumped, you don't tell her to just get over it, you take her a tub of ice cream and let her cry. So why do you force yourself to ignore your feelings when you just need to cry? When your mom seems tired and complains that she's "so out of it," you don't tell her to buck up because there's work to be done, you encourage her to get some rest. So why do you force yourself through 20-hour workdays, when it isn't your sole responsibility to do...anything?
Self-care is exactly as it sounds - taking time to care for oneself. This could include, but is not limited to, tending to daily hygiene, getting enough rest, proper nutrition and physical activity, constant learning, getting a massage, buying new clothes, and other such activities that relate to general care. Common misconceptions about self-care, other than "self-care is selfish" (it totally isn't), often revolve around the notion that it costs a lot of money to take care of oneself. People, ok women, will have a spa day, brunch, go shopping, buy organic everything, or get a manicure all in the name of self-care. Yes, those could be ways one takes time to show care, but self-care doesn't require that you go into debt. Here's where things start to move further from the center and closer to the edge of the diagram.
Self-care is not about the surface level, superficial ways that tend to our "self," instead it is the very real ways that we make time to nurture our body, mind, and spirit. It requires commitment, kindness, and accountability - to YOURSELF!
Hold on to that little nugget of information about self-care as we talk for a moment about self-love. While you're busy tending to the body, mind, and spirit, you can't forget to tend to your heart (emotions) and soul (your true self).
But how is that different from body, mind, and spirit?
Self-love requires rigor. Self-love forces you to deep-dive your deepest fears, regrets, happiness, desires, relationships (past and present), and so much more. You have to be ready and willing to endure all that comes with loving yourself, and sometimes it's painful. Sometimes, it's the hardest thing we'll ever have to do as human beings, especially as women. Self-love goes far beyond the daily ritual of taking care of yourself. It goes far beyond creating routines, setting boundaries, and finding moments of bliss.
Self-love calls into question all the times when you struggle to feel good. It forces you to evaluate every single relationship and make a decision about the inner workings of that relationship. Self-love engages a deeper, and truer, version of who you are at your core. When tended correctly, self-love will allow you to bring forth your most authentic self, because while you might fear rejection, it'll be temporary because you will know who you are, what you stand for, and why you are here.
Self-care can lead to self-love. Taking time to begin chipping away at the years and layers of hiding will help you find the strength to love yourself...or to love yourself again. Avoiding true self-care will only continue to keep your true self hidden. When you can't speak up for yourself, you aren't showing love. When you can't accept less than perfect, you aren't showing love. When you allow mistreatment from others and yourself, you aren't showing love. When all you think you need is a routine in self-care, you aren't showing love.
Self-care is easy. Self-love is a challenge, but when you practice both and you begin to fill your days with both, you will find that place in the middle where self-care and self-love are in balance. Your ego is silenced. Your fears are controlled by you, rather than controlling. Facing trauma and difficult situations becomes easier because you recognize your worth. You become gentler to others and yourself, because you know how much being compassionate can make a difference.
Now, don't get confused. Self-care and self-love take time and work; like I said a few lines up, they require commitment. You have to be prepared to commit to yourself. You have to allow yourself this opportunity for growth and vulnerability. You owe it to yourself to find the place in the middle of the Venn Diagram, the place where you can feel a state of calm and rest and peace. A place where you are free to express yourself, where you are free to give and receive love, and where you can accept yourself and others for who they are. The work is ongoing, there is no point in time when you're done working on your "self." We are human beings, and nothing is so easy.
When you take the time, and you continue the work, it becomes natural and your abilities to navigate this part of your life DOES become easier. The more time you take to fill your metaphorical cup first, the more you can pour from your cup and help others, and I DO believe that most of us just want to help make the world a better place, but it has to start with YOU.
My own journey through self-care and into self-love has been turbulent, but the growth and acceptance I've experienced keep me moving. Taking the time daily helps my sanity. Making sure I'm healthy, getting rest, taking care of my body, reading, and meditating makes it easier for me to accept the things that I used to think were wrong with me. I have been able to create and hold boundaries for healthier relationships with others. I have actually created time - like quantum physics - because I don't feel so run down that I shut myself off from everything else. I don't "check out" every day anymore - in fact, it's quite the opposite, I take time to check in with myself. And I've found the inner trust that I needed to make bold moves and big steps in the direction of MY dreams and what I believe I'm called to do on Earth.
You don't have to be on a spiritual journey to foster your self-care and love. You only need to be on a journey to give a shit about yourself and believe that you deserve and are worthy of love. But listen, it won't come from anyone or anywhere else! If you don't care, nobody else will, because you set the tone. When you start showing yourself care and love, others will show it to you too AND they'll be able to receive it from you and themselves.
There is so much to say about this topic, I could probably write several pieces on each alone (care, love, and the balance), but I'll end here for now. I'll give you some time to chew on this and introspect for a moment. Maybe even make your own Venn Diagram and fill it in with the ways that you show yourself care and love every single day. Or, how you can start.
Maybe I'll share more in days or weeks to come. Maybe I'll expand my self-care group to deep dive into these more challenging topics. Whatever I do, it'll be done with love, for myself and for all of you.
Love and Light,