Whoa, this is a doozie. Is it for you? I have so many talks with women about how difficult it can be to prioritize ourselves. About how we intellectually know what “self care” is and how important (apparently) it is but actually putting into action that knowing is so hard. Becoming not just a surviving woman but a thriving woman seems impossible.
We know we should take good care of ourselves. We know we should believe that we are worthy. Of moving ourselves up from the bottom of the priority list to the top. Worthy of love. Worthy of respect. Worthy of wanting…wanting whatever we want. Worthy of sleeping in. Worthy of feeling everything from ecstasy to jealousy to rage to sadness to lust without apology or judgement. Worthy of putting our feet up and having a cup of tea without feeling guilty. Worthy of saying “no” to something we don’t want to do. Worthy of a back-rub. Worthy of taking a day off to do….anything we want. Worthy of our opinion. Worthy of being listened to. Worthy of that piece of chocolate cake. Worthy of saying “no” to that piece of chocolate cake. Worthy of asking for our hair to be played with, our feet to be massaged, our back to be tickled. Worthy of saying what we want and need in the bedroom.
Worthy of feeling full. Happy. Content. Alive. Loved. Pleasured. At ease.
But how do we start believing that we are worthy if we have this voice that tells us the opposite? That we are selfish if we take time for ourselves. That our opinion isn’t as important as theirs. That no-one really cares about our story. That if it was good enough for our mothers/grandmothers, then it’s good enough for us. That our lover will leave us if we don’t put them first. That our children will be damaged if we don’t give them all of our time and attention. That we will disappoint our parents and our in-laws and our friends if we don’t behave the way they want us to.
How do we start loving ourselves when we have that voice that tells us that we haven’t earned that love yet. That we will be worthy when we are thinner. More beautiful. Smarter. Better. More perfect. Or that we will be worthy when we have it all together at last and can finally stop pushing so hard.
I don’t have the answer for this. (But I do believe that with enough bottles of wine, we can solve anything…)
I’m not sure that there is one answer. I think it’s more likely that every woman must find her own song, her own way, her own magic tool-kit. But I do believe that every woman has the access to a part of her that believes that she is worthy. A part of her that is so deeply loving of herself. But perhaps that part in most of us has been buried under self-doubt, criticism, judgement and all the little ways we deny our truth. Our needs. Our feelings. Our desires.
How do we uncover that part? How do we dig through all of the shit that covers it up, pick it up out of the rubble and hold it up to the light, astonished by the treasure we hold in our hands?
Should you choose to, you will find your way. This is how I did it.
When I started to feel my self become overshadowed by a marriage, a house and children, I became fierce about finding a way to not just survive but to thrive and become the most alive and on fire version of myself ever.
I turned all of my attention and focus to myself and what I needed. And I started off in tiny ways because even then and even to me, putting my needs first seemed forbidden, greedy, selfish and dangerous. And I had no model for what I was doing so I had to move slowly enough that I didn’t freak out. What if everything fell apart? What if I got so happy and selfish that I forgot my family and just ran away one day?!
I started small but it felt big. I made fresh coffee instead of heating the old stuff up. I gave my kids something to snack on while I made myself something really yummy to eat. I hunted down women who could inspire me and support me on this revolution. I said “no” to my kids when they wanted me to play with them. I came to grips with not having perfect dinners and giving the kids eggs and toast for dinner so I could spend that time reading a book, moving or drinking tea. I found like-minded women that I could talk to. I stopped staying up late to watch a movie with my husband (because it was our time together) and went to bed early because that was what I needed. I began to find the things that made me feel good. And I did them. I wrote desire lists. What do I desire? I wrote pleasure lists. What makes me feel good?
Every time I made a decision that was based on what would make me feel good, I built up the skill. And I went from small nourishments (that fresh coffee was a big one for me) to big nourishments (six day retreats).
And I worked at it. I fell. I cried. I crashed. I ate a box of cookies and wanted to give it all up. I got mad. I yelled. I wished I had never started this fucking work in the first place because it was fucking impossible and too hard and easier to just stick with the status-quo and do what everyone else seemed to be doing. I had breakthroughs. I felt guilty. I felt amazing. It was exhausting and too hard to swim upstream somedays and other days, I was so full that it was mind-blowing.
I began to work that nourishment muscle a little bit every day and I got to the point where it began to be not just easier, but just the way it was done.
So to any woman who is struggling between what she wants to do (take care of herself, honour her needs, be gentle and loving with herself and believe that she is worthy) and how hard it is to actually do it, I say, please don’t give up. Please be patient with yourself. If you can remember how long you have been putting yourself at the bottom of the list, realize that changing that pattern will not be quick. It will take time. It will be hard. You will have successes and failures. And you will get better. Stronger. Happier.
And you will begin to believe you are worthy of big things because you are giving yourself the message that you are worthy of small things.
Start easy. Make that fresh coffee. Sit down for 5 minutes. Read a book in the car for that extra 15 minutes instead of running to do an errand. Go to bed early. Make eggs and toast. When someone gives you a choice, choose what you want. Say “no” to things that deplete you. Say “yes” to things that nourish you. Even in the face of disappointing someone else. Write a list of things that make you feel good. Even if you write, “I don’t know what makes me feel good anymore.” Excellent. So that is where you start. Find your own way of beginning to believe that you are worthy. It might look like mine. It might be different. It will be your way.
At any point, ask yourself, “What can I do right now that would make me 5% more comfortable?”
Our families don’t work as well as they could with us depleted and sacrificing our needs for other peoples comfort. Our partnerships don’t thrive. Our businesses don’t become what they could if we are not fulfilled. Our children don’t learn how to fly if we can’t show them what it looks like. Our sons won’t value a woman who stands for her own life if they only see a sacrificing mother. Our little girls won’t find the courage to go after what they want if they learn that a “good woman” puts everyone else’s needs in front of hers.
We need you to be every delicious morsel of what it is to be you. We need you to be well-rested. Healthy. Happy. Strong. We need your voice. We need your joy. We need you to take your dance classes, go on that retreat, go for coffee, write that book, start training for a marathon, take up painting, plan that trip to Italy, discover what your desires and pleasures are, go and see that symphony and go dancing with your girlfriends. We need you to know what you need to be nourished and to ask for it. We need you to ask for time. For space. For less in your life. We need you to set boundaries and to say “no” when you need to and “yes” when it lights you up.
Because when you do that for yourself, you give all of us permission to do the same.
We need you to be fully, gloriously, self-adoringly, perfectly unique and gorgeously nourished YOU.
We need you to save yourself so that you can save us. And so that together we can save the world.