I’m no stranger to women’s groups and book clubs that discuss books written by and for women about the perception of “being a woman.” I’ve been doing this work long enough that it often starts to sound recycled, or at least a new verse to a familiar song.
Furthermore, I’ve come to feel like the notion of “self-care” has been taken over by upper middle class white women who want some “me time.” And while I’m a HUGE advocate of me time, I don’t really think that self-care should be about escaping my life. It just feels a bit shallow.
Rethinking Self-Care as a Lifestyle
If we disregard self-care as an escape or a luxury, what else is there?
In Christine Valters Paintner’s book The Wisdom of the Body: A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness For Women, she draws a connection that struck me to my core. She proposes crafting a lifestyle of self-care.
This lifestyle, however, isn’t the vision of manicures, bubble baths, and massages that popular media wants to sell us as self-care.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Rooted in humility, Paintner proposes a completely new idea of self-care.
Humility is about remembering our earthiness and our human limitations.
She begins by explaining that humility is derived from the word humus, meaning EARTH. To live with a spirit of humility is not about being subservient; rather, it is about being well-grounded.
Basically, none of us are Superwoman. Because we are human, we have limitations. None of us is special. Quit trying to pretend you aren’t bound by your humanity!
When we keep pushing and trying to do more an more, we create stress and anxiety. This affects both our physical health and our mental health– not to mention the way we interact with others.
Accept your limitations because….
Honoring our limits as creatures can be deeply liberating.
When we realize we have limitations, we are freed from the type of thinking that gets us into that Superwoman mindset in the first place. When we acknowledge that we don’t HAVE to do everything, there’s suddenly space to make decisions about what we WANT to do.
When we become active participants in our lives, we can embrace the opportunities put before us. We live with eyes wide open, rather than feeling like we’re just going through the motions every day. We allow ourselves to explore creativity as self-care and nourish our body, mind, and spirit.
How many of us plow through the daily to-do list, unwilling to leave anything undone because others might see us as incapable or unworthy?
Giving up our demanding inner perfectionism can be freeing.
Releasing ourselves from inner perfectionism opens up possibilities of trying new things just for fun. We’re also open to allowing our authentic self to come out to play. When we live our lives as our best, most imperfect selves, our humanity allows us to create strong connection with others.
And most significantly….
Humility reminds us that we are called not to be all things to all people but to nurture our unique gifts and to recognize that self-care is good stewardship of those gifts.
Whoa. Go back and read that one again. It’s HUGE.
Self-care is stewardship of our gifts? How does that work exactly?
If we take the time to nurture ourselves and our gifts, then we are best prepared to be of service to the world. Conversely, when we neglect what we really need, we are always working a less-than-optimal position.
Here’s the really great part: in order to practice deep, meaningful self-care, we need help.
Remembering our humility encourages us to ask for help. In doing so, we invite others to share their gifts with us. When we receive, we create a sense of community that binds us together.
This new idea of self-care is a way to honor my human limitations and savor my connection to others.
If we celebrate the fact that we cannot do everything ourselves rather than see it as a point of personal failure, we allow ourselves to authentically and fully participate in the community of humanity.
What a gift!
NOTE: Bolded phrases are from Christine Valters Paintner’s book The Wisdom of the Body: A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness For Women. I highly recommend it for a thoughtful, guided adventure into your relationship with your physical self.
Karen Shopoff Rooff is a certified health coach and women’s wellness coach. The Well Balanced Women blog is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please discuss your health issues with a licensed medical practitioner.
Self-care is something I’ve had to really work at over the last several years. I think as women, we are raised to be selfless and to take care of others before we take care of ourselves and that’s simply not healthy, emotionally or physically. It’s a hard balance to find for sure, but so necessary. Thanks for reminding me to take care of myself today!
Hey there, Kristi, You’re right! There’s a lot of rewiring we have to do to allow ourselves to understand that our taking care of ourselves should be Step One and not Step Whenever. Hope you have a well-balanced day!
Such a good article. Love the perspective so much!
Thanks, Sheryl. Be good to yourself today!