You know how people (wise people perhaps) seem to always say that you have to take care of yourself and that you can’t give what you don’t have? You know what I’m talking about. Usually, then, they will talk about the importance of putting on your own oxygen mask so you can help others get theirs on.
Well, let me tell you a little secret.
I didn’t believe them.
Not one bit.
I used to think that self-care was for other people. It was a good idea in theory, and it was certainly something I would recommend to anyone else. It’s actually something I would probably insist would be essential to anyone wanting to live a well-balanced life.
But it wasn’t for me.
If I’m going to be really honest, I might say that perhaps it has something to do with self-esteem. Perhaps I never really believed I deserved time for myself or anything for myself. I guess I believed that I just had to give it all away because I didn’t deserve to have any of it in the first place.
I can’t justify that thinking because really there is no logic behind it.
I remember the day actually that I first started to believe that maybe I should take care of myself and allow space for myself. It was probably about ten years ago. Out of the blue it hit me that I was spending my life helping other people. I was loudly and emphatically proclaiming that all people deserve respect. I prided myself on this belief. I believed this more than anything.
Yet I excluded myself.
Once I realized that, I realized that something needed to change. I realized that if I was going to center my life around the idea that humanity was created in love by a God who loves us enough to die for us, that I would have to include myself in that humanity. That to exclude myself from that humanity was actually a bit prideful and arrogant. After all, who was I to say that I was set aside as the evil stain on humanity?
So I went about the slow process of changing those harmful beliefs.
Even ten years later, I sometimes still butt up against something that shows me how far I still have to go. A moment will come up where I take care of myself in a way that I haven’t in years (if ever,) and I will realize just how much I have denied myself. And I have denied myself simply because I didn’t believe I deserved the care that I believe should be afforded to everyone. I didn’t believe I deserved to be treated as a real person. I guess I didn’t really even believe that I deserved to exist in the most fundamental of ways.
This is an easy trap, especially for mothers to fall into. After all, motherhood requires endless selfless acts. And it’s easy to get lost in those gifts we give.
But what I’m starting to realize is that to truly dedicate yourself to a life of pouring yourself out, you need be full too. It must come from a place of strength, and it must come from at least an attempt at wholeness.
Because if we aren’t full ourselves, we aren’t really giving. We are allowing ourselves to be taken from.
It’s important to remember that because giving generates feelings of abundance and love, while allowing ourselves to be taken from just leads us to feel depleted and empty and resentful.
I still have a long way to go. I still have dozens of ways I dehumanize myself. And I probably don’t even realize half of them. But I’m open and I’m trying, and more than anything I would urge you all to do the same.
Make yourselves whole. Treat yourselves well. Remember just how very loved you are.
And from that place of wholeness and love, go out into the world and paint it with your love. Let your sacrifices shine. Make this a more beautiful place to live.
Because it is a beautiful world, and we are beautiful people.
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