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Feature story #1 by Jennifer Perry, an article published on Elephant Journal, about love family and raising children! May it be of benefit!
“Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first; then we can give from our surplus, our abundance.” – Jennifer Louden
I have spent many years putting the needs of others before the needs of myself. Instead of staying home on a Friday night, I would go to a party that I did not really want to be at.
Instead of spending a day at the local park reading a book and nurturing my mind, I would be sitting on a trampoline, coddling a friend as she complained about being unhappy, and offering advice that would never be taken.
Instead of going to a yoga class at a studio that I love, I would be rushing to dinner with an acquaintance, which was sure to be filled with conversations about their favorite subject—their life.
Instead of getting a good night’s sleep, I would leave my phone on and answer the “emergency” phone calls at 2 AM from friends who needed me to come pick them up from the local bar, simply because they did not want to be bothered with calling a taxi or an Uber.
Every time I gave up or compromised something I wanted to do myself for the benefit of something else, I ended up feeling drained, exhausted, and depleted. I was often filled with anxiety, which brought with it the usual racing thoughts and moments of utter despair. I often felt like my world could come crashing down at any moment, even under the weight of something as light as a feather. But instead of acknowledging that I was hurting, I would distract myself in whatever ways I could to avoid dealing with my feelings and experiences. I diverted my attention from myself by focusing on others.
Hurt people always hurt other people, and I was unknowingly and unintentionally projecting my own anger and pain onto my undeserving loved ones. I had a short temper and I did not take constructive criticism well. No one likes to be told they are in the wrong, but I would respond with bitterness and anger, feeling as if I were being personally attacked. (I was never being attacked, by the way…my loved ones were simply offering me that advice that I myself was not taking.)
My time was consumed with showing up for, and serving everyone but myself, wanting to make them happy. I used to pour my heart and soul into friendships and relationships, thinking, “…if I love them hard enough, I can take away all of their pain.” I did not realize it then, but what I was hoping for, subconsciously, was a reciprocal care. I wanted someone to pour their heart and soul into me, in the hopes that someone else would take away MY pain.
When I DID try to stay home or take some time for myself, I felt very selfish, because someone else needed me. (I mean, how could I POSSIBLY turn my back on someone else and their needs?! *insert sarcasm here*.) I felt such little love for myself that I did not believe I deserved even small moments of self-care.
I spent so many years trying to be a role model for others, wanting to be an example for others “less fortunate” than me, showing them what “happiness” looked like. I know now that this incredibly twisted way of thinking was really my own desire to prove to myself, and the world, that I was happy…because I wasn’t. I was not even just okay. Instead of doing the work and really getting honest with myself about my strengths AND weaknesses, (which can be really hard work!), I was attempting to take the easy way out. I had an “I’ll show them,” attitude that was bitter and ugly.
Then, two years ago, my system of being came crashing down. I began dating a man who preyed off of my empathy. He was verbally and emotionally cruel to me, but I had become so weary and exhausted, desperately trying to heal the pain of others with what I referred to as my “unconditional love,” I was unable to recognize his manipulation and abuse.
Unfortunately, it took the bottom dropping out for me to finally realize that something was horribly wrong, and the day that I did not recognize the woman I saw looking back at me in my mirror, I knew I had to break my habit. I didn’t like the person I had become; I was habitually putting everyone else in my life first, and completely neglecting my own needs.
Everyone knows that habits are difficult to break. But, when we replace one habit with a better one, the results are always worth it! I came across a simple phrase in an article once that really stuck with me:
“Anything and everything we experience in our own, individual self, reverberates. It expands outwards. It effects our environment, our workplace, our family, and our friends.” This simple concept speaks volumes; what we really share with those around us is the reflection of our inner-selves. We cannot expect to make others happy if we ourselves are not happy. We cannot expect others to feel love from us, if we do not feel love for our own self. It was impossible for me to give that “unconditional love” to everyone in my life because I did not love myself!
Self-love, in my opinion, begins with self-care, which can take on many forms. My personal definition of self-care involves yoga, meditation and mindfulness, reading things that fill me up and make my heart swell, spending time alone and with loved-ones, and working in my yard. In the name of self-care, I have ended friendships and relationships that no longer serve me, while remaining grateful for the lessons each of them has taught me. I no longer worry that I am being selfish or feel guilty for taking some time for myself. I am giving more of myself now than I was before, because I am giving true, authentic love to myself and to those around me! It’s not selfish; it is necessary! I was trying to serve others love from a dried-up well; now I serve love from my abundance and surplus!
Today, I am proud to say that I have broken my habit; I no longer give so much of myself to others that I am unable to give those same gifts of love and appreciation to myself. I have forgiven myself for the error in my previous ways, for I recognize that I simply did not recognize what I was doing. My inner-state is now one of love, kindness and high-quality care. I am effortlessly sharing those parts of myself to everyone around me, simply by showing up for myself. I am now able to fully be there for those who I love in my life. Now, when I want to go to yoga class, I go to yoga. When I want to go to dinner with a beloved friend, I go to dinner. I enjoy mutual conversations with people who respect and love me, just as much as I do them. The Law of Attraction teaches us that “like attracts like.” Practicing self-care has changed my life. Every day is better than the one before. I have learned to appreciate the simple things. I am attracting wonderful opportunities and relationships into my life now, and I am attracting more of what energizes me instead of what drains me. Instead of being exhausted and depleted, I am energetic, happier than I have EVER been, and I LOVE LIFE!
My Challenge for You Take inventory of your life and of how you really feel, deep down. If you recognize that you yourself are giving too much of anything away, or are just simply not taking care of yourself as well as you could, I challenge you to take some time for yourself and to start a self-care practice. Don’t wait until the bottom drops out or your world comes crashing down. Start NOW. Be patient with yourself. Start small if you have to. Rome was not built in a day. But however you do it, do it with intention and do it with self-love in mind! Below, I have provided some examples of activities you can try! Good luck! 15 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Care Immediately 1.Take a walk. Spend 20 minutes just listening to the birds chirping and admiring the way the leaves blow in the wind. 2.Spend an evening at home with your favorite blanket, a cup of hot tea, and Netflix. 3.Check out your local library, and check out that book you’ve been dying to read. Spend the next few hours at your favorite coffee shop enjoying it! 4.Light some candles, turn on a relaxing Spotify playlist, and take a hot bath. 5.TURN YOUR CELL PHONE OFF! Disconnect, even if it’s only for an hour or two at a time. 6.Look into taking a class at a local yoga studio. (Never done yoga? You don’t have to be “flexible” to do it, and most studios offer classes for beginners!) 7.Start a journal. 8.Look in the mirror and tell yourself, aloud, FIVE things that you like about yourself. 9.Go to bed early; give yourself at least 8 hours of sleep. 10.Meditate. (Never done it? There are lots of websites that offer free guided meditations; just do a quick Google search, get comfy, and you’ll be meditating in no time!) 11.Cook yourself a healthy meal, complete with veggies and fruit! (YUM!) 12.Order takeout and indulge! 13.Clean and organize. 14.Drink lots of water. Hydration is important! 15.Instead of immediately reaching for your cell phone in the morning to check your Facebook and Instagram accounts, do some gentle stretching. Spend 2 minutes jumping on a trampoline before your morning cup of coffee and shower. NOTE: If you’re not familiar with rebounding, reading about it here: http://wellnessmama.com/13915/rebounding-benefits/