I have struggled many many years with self-care. I hated that term and maybe you do, too. It’s just so… responsible and boring. It sounds like doctors visits and moisturizing my legs, a facial beauty routine to avoid aging. It tastes like Brussels Sprouts (sorry for those who like them… gross). Sounds like “the most annoying sound in the world” from Dumb and Dumber. And is about as engaging of an idea as watching for geological changes in the walls of the Grand Canyon. And all of this makes me want to pluck my eyeballs out. UGH self-care.
It comes from old story I have from growing up that self-care is about vanity. It’s shallow and about facades, not the things inside that truly matter. My story is centered around making the outside of yourself acceptable to the outside world, to fit in, to be approved of.
When someone told me that I “should” do this, or “shouldn’t” do that, or “that’s not how we do things” I revolted. Rebelled. Resisted. Nearly any word that begins with ‘re’ fits in here. So when told I should take care better care of my body (and all that encompasses) I threw an internal temper tantrum and said “Go ahead. Make me.” And there may have been a “fuck off” in there as well.
Talk about oppositional.
Either way, that was the behavior I carried into my grown-up years, the one built upon “I won’t do what you want me to even if it’s to my own detriment.”
So when my first business mentor said “You have a responsibility to your business and those that rely on your business to take good care of yourself” I had an existential crisis of sorts.
He was saying the things I hated most and was challenging a story that had shaped much of my life and identity. And this was (is) a man I deeply admire, look up to, and desperately want to be like when I grow up. And he was picking at my weakest and most stubborn spot all at once.
After all I’ve poured into my business, built purely by me through sweat, tears, sleepless nights, anxiety-filled days, and sheer mental triathlons, don’t tell me that that I have a responsibility to anything I didn’t determine was my responsibility ON. MY. OWN. Do not talk to me about my health and bring the thing I know I’ve sacrificed into focus in terms of my professional success. Don’t tell me I’m irresponsible. I’ve taken on more responsibility for what I bring to the world than most people ever will.
Do. Not. Shame. Me.
Hear the temper tantrum? It’s far more impressive in my head.
As we humans do, when we feel attacked we get defensive. So me and my brains got defensive and dug our heels in deeper and doubled down on refusing to listen to good, loving advice.
Assigning a shaming mechanism like “responsibility” to self-care (which should be seen as love) is the best way to keep people like me from doing the good thing. And that’s precisely how I proceeded, in resistance.
That is until I couldn’t anymore. Until my body finally screamed at me to pay attention to it and wouldn’t budge another inch until I stopped and did so. I’ll elaborate on that story somewhere in the future, I’m still not ready to share. But the lesson isn’t in how that story played out…
The lesson is in the mental shift that happened because of my sweet, amazing, talented, beautiful, weird, cherished friend, Sarah.
I don’t know where our conversation came from or how it evolved to this (what you’ll read in two seconds) but it somehow did, and I’m so grateful.
She told me about the day she looked at her legs, wrapped her arms around them, and told them how much she loved them. She told me how she had never loved them and had treated them poorly in the past. But she came to realize that despite what nastiness she mentally threw at them, they still carried her faithfully every day. They served her even when she didn’t appreciate them. They were there for her taking her places when she simply hated them.
So she stopped and instead chose to give them gratitude.
That got me thinking…
What if we viewed self-care as gratitude rather than a responsibility?Kara andretta
No joke, this shift changed ALL THE THINGS.
Self-care as gratitude, not responsibility. It seem like a silly playing around with words, but words create stories, stories have meaning, and meanings shape your identity.
Words matter, peeps!
The word “responsibility” irks me BIG. It’s laden with shame and judgment, with accountability (another word I greatly dislike). Those words drip with “You’re not capable of doing good things on your own so something else has to force you to submit and do it.”
Gratitude is a powerful perspective. It’s a powerful act – a loving act.
And when I finally looked at the body that was screaming to be acknowledged after decades of neglect, I could only muster “Thank you, you incredible creature.” with tears in my eyes.
This body had fought soooooo hard and long and triumphantly despite me supplying little-to-no help. It has battled through things I didn’t even know were going on and let me do the cool things I do and pursue the amazing opportunities that have come my way. It has responded to challenges like a warrior.
And I spent most of my time hating it.
Then it struck me through some story work I’m doing… Maybe self-care isn’t about responsibility. And maybe it’s not about vanity or shame or obligation.
Self-care is about gratitude.
It’s a thank you for all my body has done thus far. Taking care of it for HAVING taken care fo me; giving it the break and support it very much deserves for the years of service and dedication to my surviving and thriving.
There are people on this earth I have soul-deep gratitude for and even a week ago I might have been able to accurately say that I would be willing to do more for them than for my own body in terms of giving back.
How freaking crazy is that?!?!?
Well, no more obligation around self-care. No more responsibility around health.
Gratitude is far easier for any brain to operate from. Yours and mine.
Your body has carried you to this exact moment in time. Be grateful to it. 🙂