Why “Taking Good Care of Ourselves” Is Not Enough. ~ Suzanne Grenager

Via elephant journal
on Jun 22, 2013
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Photo: Raine Hilton
Photo: Raine Hilton

There is a magic bullet, and it’s called self-love.

Usually it is the sun that draws me outside. This morning it was the rain. It was the sweetest, most gentle downpour we’ve had all spring. I pulled a patio chair up close under the eaves and sat down to soak it in.

This spring has been rife with hard rain. Violent thunderstorms, destructive of the delicate blossoms going hog wild in the front garden, have often driven me deep inside our stone house till they blow over. Their ruthlessness is an all-too-apt metaphor for my own harsh treatment of myself—the pushing, the doubting and the unrest.

This rain is the one I’ve been waiting for.

Gentle as it falls is how I want to be with myself for the rest of my rapidly diminishing life. Why is it so frigging hard? I’m able to be kind to almost everyone else and I do kind things for myself. To others, I probably seem a paragon of self-compassion and self-care.

Relatively speaking, I am.

But relatively speaking is no longer good enough. If I want to be of utmost service to the world (and thank God I do!), it’s time to relax my tenacious grip on myself and my life and treat myself like the goddess I am, and that you, dear readers, also are. And I’ve got to do it from deep inside out, not just from outside in.

I must own and cherish my sacred human Self.

We are divine. We must start treating ourselves with the same impassioned love and respect we would lavish on a Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, should one appear in our midst. Why? Because until we do, we cannot lavish that kind of unconditional love on anybody else.

I lavished love on a guru or two in my day, and it worked! Being a devoted disciple awakened the love in me—not only for the guru—but for myself. One of those gurus of mine did unseemly things, we later learned. The other, from all I could tell, radiated pure love incarnate.

Turns out it didn’t much matter where we disciples directed our love, or how well or badly our gurus behaved. What mattered was the act of bowing down, surrendering our hard-wired heads to our tender hearts, opening the floodgates of love. (One guru said it would work with a rock.)

Whether gurus receive our love or not (and that’s up to them), we devotees become the first beneficiaries of our own awakening hearts. There is no question that, for me, the impassioned bowing, chanting and dancing we did with the gurus were the best of tonics for inducing profound love.

I am not suggesting we need to find a guru—or a religion, or even “God”—to worship if we are to fully appreciate ourselves.

What I am suggesting is that if we want to foment a self-love worthy of our divinity, we’ve got to do a lot more than what we usually think of as “taking good care of ourselves,” however beneficial that may be.

Of course it’s wonderful to give ourselves enough rest, eat right, meditate, practice yoga, exercise, and do whatever else we are moved to do to nurture ourselves from the outside in. But all that is mere trimming around the edges of a consistent and genuinely self-loving life.

For unless we tame our drunken monkey minds till they stop trying to whip us into shape, and until our hearts fly open so they reign supreme, the earth-shaking self-love we long for cannot be ours. Nor can we make the significant difference we are dying to make.

No. If we want to be the kind of lovers—the goddesses and gods—that effect real and lasting transformation in ourselves and in the world, then our love for ourselves, for our rawest humanity and our highest divinity, must be our most ardent desire and first order of business.

It’s a lot to ask of ourselves in a culture that sanctifies the unselfishness of a Mother Teresa, whose life provides a cautionary tale I hope to share here soon. In the meantime, and in the interest of transparency, I am not yet there, not quite ready, it seems, to love and respect myself entirely—and so what?

A profound self-love is where I am headed (or should I say hearted?), no doubt about it. And I have a burgeoning, very encouraging sense of what true love for our dear selves might look like.

I’d like to say more about that here, but I am very eager to hear what you make of my take that self-love is the closest thing we’ve got to a magic bullet.

Please scroll down and share your singular wisdom. It’s a service for the good of us all.

Thank you for being here!


SuzanneSelbyGrenagerBioSuzanne Selby Grenager: A sister seeker, awakener and scribe am I. Off to India before the Beatles, I followed a breadcrumb path from newspaper columnist through Kripalu Yoga teacher to body-mind therapist and transformational life coach. In 2012, I screwed up my seasoned courage, held my well-traveled feet to the fire and published Bare Naked at the Reality Dance, my achingly honest first book about what it takes to wake up, fall in love with ourselves and make the difference we’re born and dying to make. I hope you’ll visit me and my blog.


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Assistant Ed: Renée Picard/Ed: B. Bemel


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18 Responses to “Why “Taking Good Care of Ourselves” Is Not Enough. ~ Suzanne Grenager”

  1. Well done, Suzanne. Enjoyed reading this.

    Bob W. http://bobweisenberg.wordpress.com/

  2. I am so glad to hear that, Bob. Thank you for showing up here again to support my foray into elephant world. Your comments mean a lot to me!

  3. Anna says:

    Thank you for this article! Reading this reminded me of why I like Elephant Journal so much – and need to renew my subscription. It's always a treat to discover another inspirational writer sharing wisdom and experience.

  4. Thank you, dear Anna, for taking time to read my article and let me know it's inspired you to resubscribe to elephant . I am honored! I hope to meet you here again soon, as I continue sharing my passion for helping us all to see, be and appreciate the wonderful souls that we are. Please feel free to jump in and add *your* wisdom and experience any time you're moved.

  5. philomena says:

    Dear Suzanne, I am not in the habit of writing back to an semi open site. However your article prompted me to do so… In recent days there has been a lot of, "what is self love" questions going around my head, questions of do I have "self respect" and what are my boundries for my self. I love many many people, my family, my friends, sometime total strangers when I see them do something in a loving way! Life lessons have thought me compassion, empathy and love for others. I can give it in abundance and it makes me feel so good. So that is my questions, if i feel so good giving it to another then why oh why do I not give it to my self, and feel good about that too. why not treat my self with the same compassion and empathy and Love.. In truth, I do not know how to do so, it feels so wrong. It feels strange, it does not fit, it feels like, putting a shoe on the wrong foot or the wrong size sweater on… something is not right and it unsettles me, makes me figity….. When I do manage a little self love, then my head says "enought of that now, you need to get on with something else" for someone else etc . So how do I deprogramme years of programming to give give to another. How do I turn off the thoughts and converstaions that tell me this not for you, it is for another.
    Ironically I admire people who are kind to themselves and know their boundaries, have respect for themselves.
    Self admirations, now that is another one that does not fit! I cannot see how another sees me, so how do I learn to look inwardly at this person, ME and give me all I can freely give to another.
    The journey is begining, the awarness is switched on. The books are being read and the counselling is happening. Observations has joined the team too, but I think I will need a hammer and chisel to chip away at the programming!
    I am scared, scared of the change it will bring, or the people I love now, that I may loose or my feel I have changed and no longer want to be part of my life. there is fear, it is lurking in the shadows… I need to befriend courage to walk with me on this path.
    I think? when I do find the right fit for me, the self love shoes/ sweater, I will be able to say in a compassionate loving way that in loving my self, I am loving another, to give them the freedom to make a loving choice for them selves. I dont imagine for a moment, I will stop loving others. I am choosing now to learn to love my self, and that loving lesson will, I hope, make me a more loving and compassionate person towards all the people I love in my life. Thank you, Suzanne for your words and thoughts on this subject, I enjoyed reading it and the thoughts it provoked in me and the courage it gave me to respond.

  6. Suzanne says:

    What a touching comment! I'm thrilled you wrote and are embarked on a significant confrontation with the old fear-driven patterns you wisely recognize hold you back from self-love. Of course you are scared. I am too. And you are right some people may not be able to keep up with you as you fall in love with yourself. But never mind! Just as you have been inspired by people who respect themselves, you will be — indeed I'm sure you already *are* — setting an example for those around you who are also eager to grow. You can become their beacon and take heart in the new friendships your further awakening forges. You already know that, I can tell, so I'm here simply to remind you — of the powerful woman you are and of the longing alive in you to become more fully realized.

    You ask profound questions. There are no easy answers to them, except maybe to encourage you to do more and more of what you love, and to be as gentle and patient with yourself as possible. Happily, I have already written other articles about self-love, which I hope to post here soon. At least two of them speak directly to your questions and may even provide answers. I hope you'll let me know. If you want to read them sooner, please head over to my blog (the link is at the end of my bio above) and look in the recent archives for pieces about Radical Self-Acceptance and Mother Teresa! Lastly for now, because my book, "Bare Naked at the Reality Dance," was written precisely to inspire us all to be kind to our holy human selves, I will gladly send you a gift copy if you connect with me through my site. I imagine it would be helpful to you right now.

    With love & support, Suzanne

  7. Jim Dreaver says:

    As always, a beautifully written and honest account of your process, Suzanne!

  8. Jet says:

    Thanks for the reminder of the importance of self-love. I agree that it is most likely the closet action to being described as a magic bullet yet why does that seem so unattainable? We live in a fast paced culture that forces long hard hours of work just to earn a living and it feels there is little left over to feed ourselves in a loving nurturing manner. I'd love to make self-love a priority but it seems to be the last thing I have time for after working all day, taking the dog for a walk, tending to the garden, the house, the homework, the cooking and meals for the following work day, the volunteer work, the elderly neighbor living alone, the calls to siblings & friends and the list goes on. I want to scream at times. How I would love to just lie still and breath deeply or lie on the cool tiled floor silently doing nothing but it doesn't happen often. I'm not sure how one can turn the habits of ignoring self-care into self-love after so long. I know self-love can come in many forms and perhaps it needs to manifest in loving thoughts for myself rather than time-consuming acts. I could whisper "I love you" before I close my eyes at night or cut flowers from the garden and place them by my bed to inhale the pungent scent in my dreams. Baby steps. Small sweet acts. Ok, glad to have some positive thoughts of how to begin the journey of self-love. It's so easy to give all day to others in need and then neglect myself. Its a disservice and I know that I would have even more energy for others if I practice acts of love directed at myself. Thanks again.

  9. Suzanne, you speak the truth. And all the self-care we can muster falls short if not done in a spirit of real self love.

  10. beautywithgrace says:

    Suzanne…. Thank you thank you thank you for this. I have been in a difficult spot personally, figuring out how to be happy, crying randomly, trying to control my thought for positive, blah blah blah. This was the reminder I needed. This is where I start. Nothing outside of myself, no person will ever make me happy. All I can do is treat myself like the goddess I am. I definitely want to read more of what you have to say 🙂

    Thank you.

  11. Thanks, Jim. You are very generous to say that here. And thank you especially for your early and consistent encouragement of my writing. Coming from the spiritual writer that you, too, are, it has been enormously helpful.

  12. Jet — I love, love, love how you "journaled" yourself so quickly around to finding your own answers to turning self-neglect into self-care. It's a wonderful sign, I think, that you are oh-so-ready to take at least those baby steps you refer to. Whispering "I love you" and cutting flowers to sweeten your dreams are beautiful acts of self-love. Will you commit to doing at least two such deeds every day? I'd love to hear about your progress if you'd want to stop over at my website and write me via the Connect page — or, hey, right here where everyone can benefit is good too!

    And since you seem to write easily with good results, why not add a few minutes of journaling about your movement toward self-love — just like you did so successfully here — maybe right before bed? One other suggestion is for you to consider making "you" time a priority over a few of the to-do's in that long list you laid out — say a week-long experiment to see if you're right when you say that neglecting yourself is a "disservice" to others. Thank you so much for your rich sharing, and do please come back to raise your voice here again. You've added much value to the conversation!

  13. Amen, sister! And as I am sure you, an ardent seeker and yogini know, for most of us it's a whole lot easier said than done. So may we come together here, and wherever we are moved to show up, to tell our truths and inspire each other on the Way. Thanks for speaking yours.

  14. Wow, Grace! I am deeply moved by your beautiful words of surrender to the goddess you absolutely are. I'm getting chills — and it's a hot day in Pennsylvania — so no question in my mind (and body 🙂 that something powerful is happening with you. I feel really honored that my words could serve as a catalyst for what sounds like the start of a powerful transformation.

    I am so glad you want to read more of my writing, as I plan to share lots of it here as soon as I can.. But in the meantime, I invite you to hop over to my website (the link is in my bio, above). There, you can check out blog posts, let me read to you and, if you like, download whole sections of my book, "Bare Naked at the Reality Dance," for free. And don't hesitate to connect with me there, so I can offer you more support. Meanwhile, thank you so much for letting me know I am making the difference I am dying to make!

  15. Hildy says:

    Another day and I woke up way to early, wondering how I would muster the courage to get through another day. I'm far from being a writer. I don't know how to express myself here but I've got to reach out for some guidance. I've been trying hard to practice self love and I have moments when I see a bit of light. Today is not one of them. i found your words beautiful and very inspiring though. I will read them again and take heart that maybe I can get myself to a better place. I wish we would have a "soft rain" here also.

  16. arlene says:

    wow…years in therapy brought my therapist to this bold declaration a month ago…that i needed my #1 commitment to be to myself…loving, of course…. because i spent all my life loving/serving others as the way of earning their love and my own sense of value, and trying to avoid the vicious punishments that followed my failures to be good enough…i must say that very much of the love i expressed is/was genuine…very like adoration that has erupted in worship in religious and natural settings…but the crux of my life journey now must be loving myself because no one else can give me value but me…this sounds like i'm still far out on the outskirts of "from deep inside out, not just from outside in." hahaha, probably just beginning from the outside in…but that's ok…it's a better place than even a month ago…

    "For unless we tame our drunken monkey minds till they stop trying to whip us into shape, and until our hearts fly open so they reign supreme…..then our love for ourselves, for our rawest humanity and our highest divinity, must be our most ardent desire and first order of business." this is what my therapist finally got me to see…took years to walk with me to this moment…first commitment must be to myself, stop the "fixing" from the outside in to earn love/value…i totally understand, and have practiced, the love of holding a baby with no other agenda than rejoicing in its existence and celebrating the miracle that it is…and i have wept with wonder and marvel at the universe that is divinity or that it is the evolving expression of divinity, of which i am a part and whose spark and dna i carry….your article pulled the advice and my experiences together so that i understand a few of the next steps i can take! after that therapy session i was very confused about how i was supposed to do that task that was beyond my understanding… <3 <3 <3 thank you 🙂

  17. Dear, dear Hildy, I am so happy you reached out, and I must tell you that you absolutely know how to express yourself–beautifully, as a matter of fact. I was deeply heartened to learn my words inspired you and I'd like the chance to inspire you more. Would you want to read other posts and/or let me read to you from my book? Either way, why not connect with me over at suzannegrenager.com so I can support you in self-love via email. In the meantime, I dearly hope this day brings you more light than yesterday. I can feel how much you deserve and are ready for that. All blessings to you!

  18. What a powerful statement, Arlene! It sounds to me as if you are a lot farther along than you *think* you are in learning to love yourself from deep inside out. Anyone with as much love as you seem to have expressed for others — and for the "universe in it many divine manifestations — is bound to be extraordinarily full of love herself. You sound amazing! What a privilege for me to have been a catalyst for your new understanding of how to integrate your life experience and learnings from therapy in the interest, finally, of listening to and loving yourself above all else. I send huge support and would be delighted to hear more from you about this epiphany unfolding — either as another comment here or privately via the Connect page at my website. Thank you for your inspiring words.