Check out the August issue of Badassery Magazine to find my newest article: Four Ways to Fiercely Love Yourself: The Problem with the Self-Care Trend!
A few years ago, my life was so stressful and it seemed like everything was going wrong, but I didn’t want to just give up. I looked around and saw only miserable people around me and interacting with me, and I just knew there had to be another way to live.
I started knitting as a mindful activity, even though I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. I was desperate, and I thought maybe knitting would be my salvation.
Over the last few years, my life has changed radically for the better, and it all stems from loving myself enough to make a change.
In the newest issue of Badassery, I chat about how we all want to be incredible and bad ass women and the key pieces we’re missing. Click here for the issue, and check me out on page 48 – or read on below.
We know we need to take care of ourselves more than we actually do. We see these strong, powerful women on screen, and we desperately want to be them. We want to command a presence, to demand respect, to run our business and our lives – and we want to look damn good doing it. Self-care is incredibly important because it teaches us to continue to grow and evolve into better versions of ourselves, into who we want to be. However, the self-care movement has become a trend that glosses over the real issues. Half of the articles on self-care are for those who with some form of depression who can barely function, with encouraging reminders to drink water and avoid foods you’re allergic to, while the remainder basically encourage some form of indulgent escapism, by having drinks with friends, splurging on pedicures, or eating dessert.
Don’t get me wrong, I would never discourage any of the above, especially dessert, but confusing self-care with consumerism is dangerous. Actual self-care is about love and acceptance of where you are in the moment, good or bad. It is less about treating yourself and more about mothering yourself. It is a daily process that is not only integral to have a functioning society, but in short, actual self-care will help you build a life you don’t need to escape from.
Growing up, my parents wanted to me to be a strong, independent woman. I took speech and debate classes, and I’m more than comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. I took martial arts lessons for years, and I still know how to defend myself. I went to church multiple times a week, and now I try to understand, empathize with, and have compassion for everyone I come across. And because I was raised with many feminist values, I love who I am and how I look, and I have no problems eating rich foods and ordering dessert afterwards. I have always had the confidence to move through the world and take on my dreams.
But these things aren’t a recipe for success. There’s one element missing.
My 20s were a lot of fun, but I also had a lot of stumbles. I found myself in job after job that I hated with bosses that loved to yell and demoralize their workers. I finally broke free and became a freelancer, which is when I found myself in a live-in relationship with an abusive alcoholic. Of course I knew better, but knowing I deserved better is much different than acting as if I deserved better. As my personal life began deteriorating, so did my health. I had to quit my job because I couldn’t walk; I could barely keep my eyes open. Eventually I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and medicated, which helped. Eventually I decided to go back home and visit my parents for a few months while I rested.
Just because I’m highly educated and know better, doesn’t mean I can stand up to a scary manager when I’m being unfairly treated. Just because I know how to successfully defend myself doesn’t mean that I’m going to fight back when my ex would slam me around during a fight. Just because warning signs are right in front of us, doesn’t mean we heed them.
The idea of self care is trendy. A simple google search will yield endless ways we can treat ourselves. But really, self care is about self love. Why did I find myself in controlling and abusive situations in my 20s? Because I cared more about them than I cared about myself.
In getting caught up in a guise of love and compassion, I hurt myself far more than I ever intended. Every concession I’ve ever agreed to, every temper tantrum I’ve quelled, every delicate ego I’ve stepped around meant that I compromised myself.
This may seem like an unnecessary escalation. After all, how can it be harmful to compromise, especially when you care about another person? One of my favorite qualities about myself is that I can see goodness in everyone. I encourage everyone I meet to follow their dreams, to live up to their potential, and I have always prided myself on being able to get along with everyone, but a lifetime of acquiescing to little things leads to bigger things, like falling into an abusive relationship without even realizing it.
There are so many cliches about self-care, but I wish I was taught that I had to save myself first because drowning people drown people. I let myself be dragged under numerous times because maybe, just maybe, this time my boyfriend, my friend, my coworker would get it right.
Look at the women in your life. Hopefully you know a lot of strong, badass women. But every strong, badass woman I know now has stories just like mine, if not worse. When we talk to our friends, when we raise our daughters, let’s encourage them to be selfish. Be an example for them. Show them how selfishness can be a good thing. Show them that when you share your feelings, when you take that trip, when you leave fear behind and take a chance, that it’s always a good thing.
Always remember that today is a new day. You are a new person. You are never alone, and everything is going to be okay. Say no if you want. Say yes, if you’d prefer. Don’t disrespect your heart by hearing what it needs and giving it something else. Start living your life on your terms today. And then start again tomorrow.
Need a few ideas to start? These steps helped me get through hard times. I did them during the good times as well, and that’s how the good times get extended. Happiness and selfishness is a skill.
- Meditate. Find Your Center. Be mindful. Live in the now. Whatever you want to call it, give your mind a break. I tend to over-analyze situations, and my brain is great at connecting the dots. This is wonderful for puzzles, but not so great for moving on from a bad situation. When I take 10-15 minutes each day to meditate and not think, it doesn’t mean my brain stops working or that I’m trying to escape. It just means that I need a rest from my brain’s constant processing. It is my daily meditation that keeps me calm and happy and actually allows me to think better and be better. If you’re new to meditation, I highly recommend the app Headspace. Its creator, Andy Peddicome recently tweeted, “We assume it’s the world around us that causes the feeling of busy-ness in our life, but if we look closely, we will often see it’s the movement of our mind.”
- Process Your Emotions. Negative emotions are not only okay to have, but they’re good. They let you know when something is wrong. Maybe you shouldn’t lash out in anger, and maybe you shouldn’t plot revenge and live in your bitterness for the next 40 years of your life, but anger and bitterness are important for processing and moving on. The faster you embrace them, the easier it is to find your happy vibes and be more secure there. Here are a few of my favorite ways to process negative emotions:
- Drop the story and focus and feel the pain in your chest, in your stomach, wherever. As you focus on the pain, it will get very intense, and then it will just dissolve.
- Grab a journal and write 3 pages in stream of consciousness style – anything that comes to mind gets written down. Don’t read it when you’re done. Throw it away.
- Make art. Cook. Dance. Read. Hike. Find a mindful activity you love and get lost in it for a little while.
- Appreciate. I like to keep a small notepad next to me when I’m at my desk where I make a list each day of things to appreciate. When those memories pop up that caused me to ruminate on something negative or create the perfect comeback for a fight that happened 3 months ago, I’ll look down at my list and remember that today, right now, I have so much to appreciate and love. Life is happening all around us in this moment, whether we realize it or not. By appreciating everything, whether it’s as big as a new client or as small as realizing you still have cheese in your fridge, you begin to actively take part in it.
- Trust Yourself. You know what you’re doing and what you need to do, and if you feel that you need to consult with someone first, it’s because you’re suppressing your internal truth. Stop seeking external validation in your life, whether it’s in your business or in your relationships. When you feel something, speak your truth. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes when you do want to do something. As a recovering people pleaser, this was the hardest thing for me to do. I wanted to be liked, and I want people to have a favorable impression of me. I love when my friend and family are happy, and I love when I can help them be happy, I would quietly suck up my hesitations and eat food that wasn’t as good, explore cities and places I didn’t really care about, and even date men who were really wrong for me because maybe, just maybe, they knew something I didn’t. Maybe I would come around. But I didn’t. I can’t always please other people and please myself at the same time, and that’s okay.