One of my fab TeachNow students wrote me after Sunday’s post:

Could you explain what you mean when you wrote, “to serve clients and students more fully rather than, as self-care sometimes has, given me an excuse to collapse and hide, to give up?” Because I’ve been wondering about this whole self care thing, as I’ve been looking after myself, instead of everyone around me, I’ve found myself not wanting to do anything for ANYONE, for ages now! What’s the balance between [healthy] self care, shadow comforts, time monsters, self-accusations of laziness and lost-along-the-way dreams? Whilst I love tending myself, I also don’t want to feel so protective of my energy forever…

Many thanks. Love, Emily

What a great question! Where is the balance indeed?

When we first discover self-care — by which I mean anything that truly replenishes us and returns us to ourselves — we naturally get a little intense about it. A tad reactive to other people’s needs. I remember a friend saying of her husband and son (who very much lived in the same house), “Why can’t they just appear on the weekends?” This is normal and it’s helpful to remind ourselves, “I won’t ever leave myself again.” Before you may have thrown yourself under the bus for everybody and their Guinea pig. But now you get to choose.

And when you do have to take care of others, you get to choose your boundaries and how you react. Always.

That’s where the balance lives, Emily. In the art of choosing. Not in getting it right or making everybody happy (as if!) but by standing smack in the middle of your life and saying, “Yes to this. No to that.” It’s thrilling and terrifying, because you won’t “get it right” and what you want constantly evolves. Learning to choose is a core skill in becoming whole.

It’s when we use self-care as an excuse not to choose but rather to swaddle ourselves in lavender-scented, organic cotton wool with a swoon and “I just can’t handle this” that we lose our way. As if we were fragile creatures who lack the grit to shape our lives. Self-care then becomes a cave and a story that we can’t handle what life brings. Which is a lie. We are handling it – we aren’t dead yet!

Which is not to say self-care is about self-improvement or being stern with yourself. That’s not choosing either. Honestly, what you do for self-care doesn’t really matter (unless it’s an addiction, that’s a different story). What matters is being in a relationship with yourself and not buying the story that you’re fragile or need the perfect conditions to thrive.

Healthy self-care revives our lost-along-the-way dreams until there is little difference between working on our dreams, loving our people, going to the gym, and lying on the sofa watching Doc Martin. It all becomes one chosen whole.

Emily, tell me how that lands.

Love,

Jen

P.S. I’m using self-care to thrive & dig deep. How about you? (Click to Tweet)