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November 19, 2019

The Real Message Behind the “Self-Care” Movement

A healthy sense of self is vital to our pursuit of happiness. Our sense of self – or lack thereof- often determines our quality of life.

This is the main theme of the new age trend revolving around “self-care”, which is essentially about making choices that maintain a strong sense of self and uphold our sense of well-being.

When we occupy a potent sense of self, (to know, love & honor ourselves), the more capable we are of maintaining strong boundaries, the more we stay true to ourselves and our values, the more confident we are, the more likely we are to fulfill our dreams, the less we allow others needs to superimpose our own and the happier we are overall. And when we are content in spirit, we are typically healthy physically as well and at peace mentally.

When we lack a sense of self, the weaker our boundaries are, the more we give, the less we take, the less space we allow ourselves to take up, the dimmer our light and voice is, the more lost or misunderstood we may feel, and the more likely we are to stray from our authentic path. A lack of integrity within us often leads to lackluster personal relationships and experiences.

The weaker our boundaries are, the more we give of ourselves freely without bounds, and can tend to be taken from, taken advantage of and also, the more likely we are to over-give and over-work ourselves which has it’s own set of consequences, usually involving feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and worthlessness. (Not yet being fully aware of our inherent worth and subsequent purpose.)

We lose track of where we end and others begin.

Lacking a sense of self-worth (and/or a lack of self-love or self acknowledgement), can leave us feeling scattered, indecisive, unappreciated and worse, depleted, exhausted, depressed or lost; lacking significance. This opens us up for potentials of imbalanced and even unhealthy relationships and/or less than ideal life experiences.

When we lack a strong sense of self, we often attract dynamics in relationships that involve our identity and worth being wrapped up in others and/or our level of productivity.

Our worth is then projected outside of us rather than inside of us, which is where our true worth resides. 

I realize, in hindsight, that most of my troubles in life and in my past relationships have been due to my own lack of a sense of self.

I met my first love at 12 years old, 7th grade. Just as I was beginning to learn who I was and who I wanted to be as a person, I became very involved in a significant “romantic” relationship. I had never had such strong feelings for another person and it was overpowering for me, especially at such a young age. I was transfixed and in awe (of love). I became whatever I needed to be for this person to stay in my life and all my interests, curiosities and explorations of life became recolved around one person and maintaining the attachment to this person.

Who I was becoming became about somebody else, someone outside of me and this meant that I relied on this person to feel worthwhile, to feel whole, to matter. I didn’t feel complete without this person because my identity had been misplaced outside of myself.

My sense of integrity was threatened because I wasn’t (living for) me, I was (living for) him.

This relationship ended in my early 20’s but a decade of my life, my entire youth and adolescence was given away and it’s because I consistently sought meaning outside of myself in something or someone else. And my focus was on becoming what I needed to be for that relationship rather than becoming/realizing ME.

During my formative years I never really got a true grasp on who I was and when I lost this particular relationship, I felt like I lost me, and I kind of did, for a while. College culture had me searching for myself in all the wrong places, booze and boys. I certainly wasn’t going to find myself there.

My next major relationship was the father of my firstborn son. He swept me off my feet and I stayed suspended in the air in an ungrounded fantasy – that was partially a living hell – for years – he was emotionally unstable, hostile and somewhat abusive. He was young and had no clue how to manage a relationship or be a decent human being. But now I understand that he was learning (who he was) too.

But not knowing who I was or what I truly wanted, Life was showing me through that experience exactly what I didn’t want. It took me years to realize this relationship was NOT true to ME. But I hadn’t known prior to this, I had to LIVE THIS OUT to figure out who I was, and what I wanted by seeing what I didn’t want.

Once I had my firstborn son, I woke up.

I realized I had lost my self (my sense of identity and self-love/worth), and this was allowing toxic experiences to continually play out in my life. (I think this may be why relationships end following having children, it awakens a mother to dynamics no longer serving her or working in her life).

Although motherhood is often so very much focused on others, it is also a path toward self-awareness and self- mastery. 

My son awakened me to parts of me I had forgotten. His existence helped me open my eyes and see what was happening so that I could make positive changes honoring my true desires and values.

As any mother does, I still became wholly and entirely devoted to and enchanted by my son. The bond between mother and child can be so powerful and consuming.

But motherhood’s intentions are pure. It is a major catalyst at expediting our growth and development as human beings, so it is intended to teach us to be better people, which often leads us back to ourselves anyway BUT this can be a very challenging feat when we are consumed by the needs, wants, desires and aspirations of an entire family.

To this day, my affection and devotion to my children often takes me over so I have to remain diligently conscious of how much of myself I am giving, if it’s gotten to a point where I feel like I am a robot solely alive to meet everyone’s needs or demands, I must take a step back and see where I have fallen off path. This is an opportunity to return to S/self, to find some version of balance between me and another, in that moment and ongoing.

~I may ask myself: Where and how can I return to S/self? What are my unmet needs? How can I meet them? What do I really want out of today/my life? How can I do that today/everyday? 

When the overwhelmed feelings arise OR feelings of lifelessness or apathy, Return to Self. 

What excites you or inspires you? What renews your spirit and brings you to Life?!

This is how you nourish or ascertain your sense of self; By knowing what makes you feel inspired, purposeful and alive, happy and fulfilled, and staying true to that in your every day actions and choices, no matter what.

Also, more importantly, when we recognize and acknowledge our Self beyond this Earthly realm, beyond what is tangible, our Spirit- self, we can feel more sustained within ourselves. We realize we are eternal. We can feel more “real”, less temporary, less disposable. We feel worthwhile even when life doesn’t go our way. This translates into our physical experiences and our responses to them; how we feel & manage ourselves on a day to day basis.

When we are aware/awake to our inherent worth, as a Life, as a Soul/Spirit of Creation/God/Source, we are fulfilled, and connected in a way that brings Life and sustains Life for ourselves and others, even when life is less than perfect, we know we are empowered and capable.

We aren’t easily swayed or drained by needs or wants of others. Our identity is firm, we are sure of ourselves.

Once we establish a centeredness of self and balance between self and others, we are healthy, vibrant and often experience a healthy and vibrant life.

And so it seems that the secret to a happy and fulfilling life is knowing & loving yourself, embracing who you are and making choices that reflect this sense of integrity, which overflows into all your relationships and experiences, thus also serving the greater good.

This is what the modern trend of self-care is all about, maintaining the integrity of the self first and foremost in order to offer our best to the world around us.

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