Updated: Nov 22, 2021
This might be a term you see too often and now tune out entirely or maybe the thought of it is completely beyond your grasp. It's true; so many of us have become so consumed by our lives, our responsibilities, our roles that we have lost ourselves completely. We fail to prioritize ourselves and really feel a bit offended at the suggestion that we do so because it is simply beyond our capability right now, so we continue in the habits we believe help us survive and just get through the day. We lack self-compassion. We fail to honor our needs, maybe we can't even identify them anymore.
Feeling needed by others can certainly be fulfilling, that is to a point when it isn't anymore, but now you've wrapped your identity up in taking care of everyone else that now it seems the only right thing to do is to continue doing so; you're such a good person, right? If you identify with this, you are robbing yourself of your own life.
This was me just a few years ago, mother of six children each having their own challenges, most challenged by autism, just like their father. I was homeschooling them in effort to meet their individual needs, while also managing several midwifery and functional medicine clinics. I attended far too many births each month, sat on way too many committees, and carried far too much weight on my shoulders. I felt I couldn't compromise on any of these responsibilities because there were so few options - none, in fact, that I could see. Until I just froze completely and struggled to even leave my home. I needed reprieve.
I had no time for myself. The reality was that while I had a successful midwifery career and was developing a well respected reputation, I had no idea who I was as a person. I was passionately protecting the rights and needs of the women I served, and my little ones in a world that has yet to embrace autism, that I hadn't any awareness of my own needs and rights. I was growing bitter, overwhelmingly exhausted, and at times, quite angry. I was hurt and lonely.
After closing my practice and turning in a bit, I had to face the reality that too many of my relationships were one-way. In fact, I couldn't identify many which weren't exclusively about me giving, yet I kept them in my life because they made me feel safe. I didn't know who I was without them or what I wanted. I was a good girl, doing the right thing, for the right reasons, and getting the life sucked out of me.
Today, after years of therapy, years of building new relationships, and again returning to practice, I know that this reality is true for so many people. It's what we don't talk about. It's what we don't even let ourselves recognize. Instead, we write a reality we are willing to accept. Today I so often hear people say the all-too-familiar phrase, "After this next thing, we will be golden." We live on this concept that once we address this one area, that everything will be fine, yet we bury ourselves in this fallacy.
What if I were to challenge you to consider that maybe what you need is not in fact, self-care or more time or a higher priority in your life, but in fact, extreme self-care. I propose that you need to take this self-care concept to an entirely new level - a level which might make you feel as if you're a smidge arrogant, even selfish. Our culture, particularly within the Christian church, might even view this level of self-care as radical action towards improving one's life, but I am okay with that. Engaging in daily habits which allow you to maintain this new standard of living helps you become a better you which is a tenant in all major world religions. It isn't enough to take the weekend off from helping others and enjoy some downtime or committing to a private bath with sea salts each week, or even hitting the spa for a massage. I want you to schedule time for yourself, in your calendar, every single day for six months.
I want you to look at your relationships and objectively identify which ones are two-way, filling your cup as well as theirs. Step closer to those who are smart, self-aware, and investing in you and away from those who have become parasites. Eliminate clutter from your life. Discover soul-nourishing work and make your home your sanctuary. Create financial freedom so you have choices in how you want to live your life. Eliminate obligations. Say yes because you want to say yes, and have confidence in the root of those desires. Make pleasure a priority - leave work in the middle of the day to get out into nature, enjoy pampering regularly, develop habits that make you truly happy and feel nurtured, listen to music you love, order fresh flowers for yourself and for your office, sip your favorite wine, dance.
Does this sound overly idealistic, absurd? If you want a truly great life, start with having an open mind. If you are fine with mundane, even overwhelm, maybe even angry outbursts, keep doing your thing. If you're ready to step into a higher vision for your life, join us. Our members enjoy discussions about exactly this every Wednesday at noon. We take lunch together and hold each other accountable to extreme self-care. Join our monthly book club or take one of our yoga classes to learn more about self-care, and start building a community of like-minded individuals. Schedule a history and physical with Dr. Layne so we can help you get on a path to optimal wellness and lifelong vitality. We are walking the walk with you.