I interviewed a diverse group of over 100 women for my book, The Gift of Presence: A Mindfulness Guide for Women. No matter their ages and stages, from Istanbul to Santa Monica, from 23 to 90 years of age—when I asked about self care, here’s what I heard repeatedly:
“I’m not even on my own to-do list,”
“I could never put myself first—I’m not that person,” or
“I haven’t learned that yet.”
Sound familiar? You are not alone. When I was consumed raising our two then young children, working full-time, keeping up with clients across the world and family in four time zones, and dealing with the day to day admin of just being a human, I rarely took any time for myself —family, work or something else always came first.
I recall one evening after a long day at work, when I was getting a bit impatient as the resistance to bedtime from our two children children seemed especially relentless. At one point they said I needed to go for a swim. I was surprised by their suggestion, but after reflecting for a moment, I realized that they were right -–they were offering great advice! In fact, I hadn’t exercised nor paid any attention to my own well-being in over two weeks; the importance of self-care became clear that night.
Self-care isn’t only about our physical well-being. It also concerns our mental, social and spiritual well-being. Mental involves our emotions and thinking, social means our relationships, and spiritual means our sense of meaning and connection in life. Self-care is about being a supportive, encouraging, patient friend to ourselves, just as we so readily are to others. In other words, being what I like to call a “dear dear” to yourself.
We tend to blame and be hard on ourselves, especially when things go wrong. We sometimes regret what we did or did not say or do—replaying the scenario countless times in our minds. We get caught in our “woulda, coulda, shouldas.” These are all examples of situations in which it would be great to have a best friend right alongside of us for support and encouragement. It turns out we do – it’s within each one of us.
If only we could be more present more often to befriend rather than berate ourselves. That’s the gift of presence—we become our own support team.
Seemingly small steps toward self-care infused throughout our days can make a big difference in our lives, starting right now.