The most SELFLESS thing you can do is SELF-CARE. Can you digest this? Take it in? Most of my clients have a really hard time with this one (myself included). They will often say, ” but that’s totally selfish!” My religion taught me to “turn the other cheek.” My parents told me to “suck it up! “or “shouldn’t we all aspire to be the martyr?”
When we don’t take care of ourselves, we lose ourselves in others. We might know what everyone wants for their birthday, what they like and don’t like, their favorite meal, etc. etc. , but we have no idea who we are, what we like and what brings us passion. We just know that everyone else seems to be sailing happily along life and whether we like to admit it or not, we are walking resentment. After all we planned the most amazing birthday party for them and they completely ignored ours. Not even a card!
My clients often hear me say, “resentment is a gift (even though it doesn’t feel that way) because it is telling us that we are not taking care of ourselves and/or not speaking our truth. I know resentment well. Here is just one example of how I have embodied the martyr. Our son had many rough nights when he was an infant. When these nights happened I would metaphorically put on my crown of thorns and spend hours soothing him. I was completely sleep deprived. I felt guilty asking for help. We adopted him and I had spent years waiting for him in my heart. “I should be appreciative of this time. This time is should be sacred, ” I would say to myself. My husband had raised five children from his first marriage (now grown) and so I didn’t want to “bother him” (I know, crazy!). In the morning my husband would whistle his way down the stairs looking refreshed and alert. In my head I would be screaming, ” Must be nice to sleep in!” And many other evil thoughts. I would then drag my metaphorical cross around the house ignoring him, making passive aggressive remarks, etc. etc. When I finally mustered up the courage to say something he replied with, “why didn’t you wake me up. I can certainly help out and give you a break. I honestly don’t hear you guys when you are up.” All of the sudden, my husband became cute again and I realized that no one in our family, including myself, benefited from this lack of self care (in this case asking for help). I once heard a woman say, “get off the cross, we need the wood!” How many of us nail ourselves to the cross expecting that we will reach heaven that much faster?
We only have a certain amount of energy reserve. If we are constantly putting out energy and not replenishing (self-care) we will burn out. Just like a car will eventually run out of gas if we don’t pull over and fuel up. If we are giving on empty no one benefits (think of the nuns who slapped your hands with a ruler in school)(talking about the burned out martyr!). If we are giving on a full tank everyone benefits. We are that much happier, vibrant, authentic and connected to our core self.
By inviting all of you (myself included) to engage in self-care I am asking you to be rebels in our American Culture. Self-care is still seen as selfish in some networks. Especially if you have established yourself as the almighty martyr in your circle of family, friends and community. They might be saying, “Now who is going to organize the family reunions?” “Who is going to take care of Mom and Dad?” “Who is going pay my bills?” Those who resist your new self-care regime might just be forced to look in to the mirror and take personal responsibility. And sometimes that ain’t so pretty. Stay strong, understand you are rocking the boat (people fear change!) and know that in the end the world will be that much more blessed because you are honoring yourself.