Recently in one of my groups, I asked them to think about and share their “Rules for Loving Myself.” There were pauses, a few sheepish smiles, a few “Oh sh#@, I don’t even know where to start” looks, and one very perplexed face in the group.
As we dove into sharing our thoughts about what would make a rule for loving the self, it became clear that there is confusion around this idea. It stems from the concept of self care.
Obviously how we define self care is very individual. But I found that my people were conflating self care and their rules for loving themselves. We don’t know differently.
As one of my uber-smart clients was sharing her very steady and practiced ways of taking care of herself such as getting massages, taking time for hot baths, reading for pleasure, fun time with her kids, and ballroom dancing, she also mentioned slowing down.
I paused her there. I then walked through with her how she has a well-developed set of self-care practices that she regularly follows through with, and that’s fantastic! But, I told her, they are not the rules of loving yourself. This gave her pause.
As she stepped back from the self-care practices and considered the question again, she observed that her life was continually running. A full schedule every day, always so many things to do, even her down-time had a plan.
She considered that what she felt she was always needing was to slow down. To move through her hours in her day with more presence and awareness of her life. “I guess I would say a rule for loving myself would be to slow my life down to be more present in experiencing it.”
In a session with another client, I was trying to break through her ultra-type-A mindset regarding self-care. In her case, she would self-care the hell out of herself in order to keep on her million-dollar schedule, keep her clients needing her, and stay crucially important to those she served.
As I kept trying to work through the problems in this approach to self-care, I suddenly blurted out, “Self care means living a life you absolutely love, right now!”
That was it! That was the true essence of self care. It didn’t mean I couldn’t go at breakneck speed sometimes. And yes, it might mean massages, lunch dates, time in nature, chocolate cake or bubble baths… BUT, self-care was not those things.
Self care meant showing up to my life straight-on to make it a life I loved, in all the ways, right now. Loving my life now, was–is–loving myself now. The point of self-care is to love myself.
How am I doing? Am I loving myself? Am I loving myself through this life I am living right now, today? Not tomorrow or this week–just today.
And this brings me back to the Rules of Loving Myself.
What are those guides like precious guardrails on the side of my daily highway, that make sure I don’t head off on a well-intentioned side-road that ends up working against me?
Or put another way, what are those absolutes for loving me exactly as I am right now, that I must make sure are clear to me? That are there informing my choices both large and small each day?
Ok, yes, Carmell, but could you give me some examples?
I’d be happy to. Just remember that your rules for loving yourself can’t connect you to ‘my strength,’ they must connect you to your own strength inside. They must feel powerful to you–not just sound powerful.
Some of mine are:
RULE #1 Nobody gets to have a negative opinion of me that is greater than my positive opinion of myself.
RULE #2 I am perfect and whole exactly as I am.
RULE #3 Everything is art. I must always be creating.
RULE #4 My time is how I experience my consciousness–it is the most precious thing I have. I give myself space in my daily life in order to consciously experience my time.
But be aware, yours could go a completely different direction. I came to my rules by coming to know myself.
Who am I? I am not my goals, my accomplishments, or my past. I am not what others think or expect. I am not my work or my family. Who I am is not somebody’s partner or parent or child. Nor am I my intelligence, my spiritual beliefs, my service to others, my philanthropy or my financial position.
So who am I?
It is my journey to answer this question that has brought me to the rules I’ve just shared and many more, that guide the precious highway of my life.
But I can give you a solid clue that will start you off with a bang.
Discover more and more of what you wholly and totally love in your life, and live it.
Living a life that you deeply love every day will bring you more directly to know who you are inside yourself–the eclectic, unique, beautiful, brilliant funny, powerful soul that you are.
So instead of trying to do self-care, focus instead on discovering what you love–and live it consistently every day.
Then ask what your own rules are for living this life that you love so much. From those ideas, ask how they translate into the rules of loving yourself.
Write them down. They matter very much. Because you matter very much.
Don’t lose a moment more of your life to what you don’t love.
That is Self Care, indeed.