What stirs at the mention of “self-care”? What pictures come to mind? The concept of self-care is presently all over social media, specifically targeted toward women. Go to a women’s retreat, and it will likely be in the headline of a breakout session. Listen in on a group of moms and you may find them lamenting over the absence of self-care or the determination to “do better”. It is a buzz word in the women’s community at large, but why? And to what purpose?
The dictionary describes self-care as “the regular practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being”.
Let’s break down this definition a little bit. The “regular practice” of self-care implies this isn’t a haphazard thing to be pursued at leisure and when time readily permits. Rather, it suggests self-care is a discipline. This practice needs to be woven into the very fabric of our everyday lives. It requires us to take an “active role” in refilling ourselves that we might pour into the things bringing meaning and purpose to our lives. When self-care invokes emotions of frustration and begins an inward dialogue telling me it is out of reach, I realize I have set other things as a higher priority rather than operate from a spirit of intention and discipline.
I love the inclusion of the word “protecting” in the definition of self-care. It reminds me first that self-care has an inherit value and therefore my well-being is worth the fight. Part of protecting self-care is enforcing boundaries. It feels as if there is a voice whispering to women that we have to do it all, all the time, and with perfection. Do you hear it? Giving into that voice seems easier than the vulnerability and effort of a “no”, but continually saying “yes” comes at a great price. Each time we push out an insincere yes, we lose a piece of ourselves in the process.
Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others…Only when we believe, deep down, that we are enough can we say “Enough!” Brené Brown
Protecting our well-being also takes a tribe. When an elephant is about to begin labor, her tribe of female elephants will gather around her to protect her from predators as she brings new life into the world. What a beautiful picture of the need we have as women to be protected by each other in our most vulnerable moments. I am so thankful to be tethered to a community of women who challenge me to dig deeper and push forward in becoming the type of woman I want my daughters to follow.
I believe self-care is a common topic in women’s circles because the superficial pursuit of self-care has given women who are thirsty for purpose a hollow “treat” to tie them over. The world often pushes us into the shallow end of self-care. But we were not made for the shallow but for the deep where life is found. If someone wanted to tear down your purpose, wouldn’t distraction be the perfect ploy? Not too obvious but subtle and deceptively nonchalant.
So often the pursuit of self-care brings me to a crossroads: to check out or to press in. I am strongly tempted by the quick fix in this busy, tiring season of young motherhood. The Netflix binge. The wine and chocolate. Buying the new mudcloth pillow I don’t need. There is nothing wrong with these avenues of self-care at times. However, self-care is not just wine and a bubble bath. It is mustering the discipline to press right into the hard. To do the very things which compel us to confront our gravest fears and our greatest limitations. It is digging into the darkest, hardest part of our heart to break free. If you want to see an example of pressing in to gain freedom, look no further than Taryn’s post last month. It is protecting our own well-being to gain the energy and the life we so long to bring to those around us.
“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” -Brené Brown
I know this seems intense. I know what it is to need a break and a deep breath. There are days when I need to relax and have absolutely no expectations of myself. Times where a latte and shopping trip are in order. When I speak of checking out, I refer more to those aimless, unintentional bouts of life that come and seem to steal pieces of who we are. We set no intention to life, no pursuit of goals and growth and begin drifting into the shallow.
I feel like I am currently pulling myself, my heart, out of a shallow season. Midnight feedings, cold cups of coffee, and keeping my head above water with all of the transition and adjustment that comes from having 3 babies in 5 years made it hard to have the energy to grow. And it’s OK! We all have those seasons in our lives. But if we stay too long, if we put our own growth and well-being on the back burner for too long, we begin to lose sight of ourselves. In this season, I have been drifting. But with His strength, I am slowly, intentionally wading back into the deep one discipline at a time.
For the beauty of walking with God is we only need muster the strength and discipline to invite Him to walk into the hard moments with us. I am learning my own strength only brings weariness and drives me back to the shallow. But pressing into His strength leads to breakthrough. God will meet us there and show us that depth is where life happens. Then we will drink deeply and walk away satisfied.