It was the close of a long day. The elevator was full by the time we stopped on the 5th floor, but the two women pushed their way in just the same. They immediately faced forward, and while staring ahead as if in a trance, the first woman said, "Do you ever feel like between work, family and other commitments, you are taking care of everyone but yourself." The second woman continued her gaze and with defeated tone replied, yep, every day, but I warrior on.
Wow, I thought to myself, I knew this story. As women we often overcommit and over-perform. We exhaust ourselves in making sure everyone is happy and end our day with long drawn out pauses stating, "there isn’t enough time in the day”, And for many, myself once included, the only time we give ourselves permission to be center or pampered is on special occasions such as Mother's Day or birthdays.
I’ve always worked, but my joy came in raising my children. They were my purpose. However, having a strong work ethic, I never settled for the status quo in the quality and effort I gave to my job. Being dedicated to both, meant, for the most part, I didn’t factor myself into the equation of my own life. It wasn't because I didn't love or value myself (I did) but because I was so immersed in the process of assuring I was doing my best with the things I was responsible for, my own desires seemed something that could wait - should wait.
My children are now grown, and I’ve had the opportunity to reflect back on my life, and I’ve come to believe something different. Although I think - and I’ve been told - that I was a great mom, I believe I would have been a better wife, mom, and person, had I learned and exercised the act of self-care on a regular basis.
Most of us think of self-care in the physical sense, a spa day, your favorite yoga class, etc. And while these things are important - and certainly a treat - self-care is so much greater an endeavor - it's physical, emotional, and spiritual.
In pondering what it means to "sustain" my body, spirit, and mind, I turned to Merriam Webster. The contrast of the two definitions was incredibly revealing and created a platform for questioning.
1. To undergo or suffer
synonyms: undergo, experience, suffer, endure
2. To strengthen or support
synonyms: comfort, help, assist, encourage, support, give strength to
To undergo or suffer - I believe women know this intimately. We push our way through when we're sick, tired, or in the midst of trials. We ignore cues from our body and our brain and we warrior on, often causing ourselves injury. We wear our resilience like a badge of courage; we live in a state of enduring life.
To strengthen or support - To sustain your life by comforting and encouraging your body and spirit; physically and mentally. To gift yourself the elements that will strengthen and support your existence-the one person you spend your entire life getting to know and honored to grow.
When you look at the two definitions, ask yourself which you subscribe to and why?
It’s not really a question about IF we can endure - we know we can! It’s about understanding which definition honors the gift of our life. When we nurture ourselves, we fuel our lives. This doesn’t mean we should not continue to love, care, and serve others, as these things feed us as well; it merely means that we need to give ourselves the same attention and care. It is unrealistic to think we are resilient to break down. If we do not fuel our source, we will not have the energy, physical or emotional foundation to give to those we love.
If you’re still reading, join me in this challenge…
Find some quiet time without interruption, grab a piece of paper and pen and for the next few minutes think about yourself. Take a honest and straightforward inventory on a scale of 1-10 and rate these things to see how much value you place in your own well-being and how much energy you are investing in you. The results may help us to learn why we struggle to feel happy, fulfilled, or replenished.
Your Physical Well Being
Evaluate your overall health, your energy, and how well you feel physically. Are you doing the activities your love? Are you feeding your body food it can use? Are you active and engaged? Are you making lifestyle choices that make you feel good about yourself? Do you feel younger than your years? Alive?
Your Mental/Emotional Well Being
Your mental stimulation; are you learning and growing? Do you think kind thoughts to and about yourself? Are you grateful? Do you feel excited about life and feel like there is time for hobbies and things that nurture you? Are you willing to take that time? Do you wonder?
Your Spiritual Well Being
This would be your connection to a higher power, feeling alive, grateful, confident, peaceful, and that your life has purpose. God, Spirit, Universe, however, you call it…is there something greater than you that gives you strength? Do you celebrate life? Do you see the little things? Do you spend time reflecting on gratitude? Do you know peace?
Now take a look at your results. Be truthful…you deserve no less. Based on what you find, you will know best what area(s) of your life need the most attention, what you're doing well, and what you are ready to explore. Pick one or two things and go for it! If your calendar dictates your day, pencil - no, pen yourself in. Make your personal time sacred. Make a commitment to push through the uncomfortableness and choose to seek delight in the act of new experiences. Learn the art of loving yourself and treating your life with the same care you give others.
Today I celebrate you…you should too.