Self care is about upgrading your self image.
Self care is about believing in yourself and your purpose in life, even when you are 'surfing the suck.' When your work is piled up and everyone else has called in sick, and you are hours from sleep. Being connected with the nobility of your mission in life will keep you going. It will give you the resolve to ask for the help you need when you need it. People will hear you because nobody wants to stop someone who is on a serious mission. We want to support you.
Always, always as you do this, take some nice slow, deep breaths.
The first step is to connect with yourself and to love that person you're connecting with. This month, Ive been doing a daily practice of doing some mirror work. Louise Hay wrote extensively about it. It’s a powerful exercise to be able to look yourself in the eyes and tell yourself, “I love you. I respect you. Please forgive me. Thank you.” Try it for 5 minutes a day. I triple dog dare you.
One thing I have come to know for certain is that into each life, some terrible things will inevitably happen. None of us are immune. Some people get a lot more accumulation than others, but we are none of us immune. Some people can go through true hell and back and they're still very lovely people. Others can break a nail and they feel doomed. What seems to make a huge difference is attitude.
In his book on Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote that "Everything can be taken away from you but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
When I was in college, I had a very dear friend. She was one of those people who could light up a room with a wry comment and a puff of her clove cigarette. She passed away about 15 years ago and I often wonder what she would be doing with her many talents if she were still walking amongst us. What brought us to our friendship was that she had kind and mischievous eyes. She was a talented poet and writer. She had a keen sense of humor and a truly kind heart. She was a hard worker, and she was inspiring. While we were in college, she and a group of friends put up poetry and pieces of writing about women all over campus. For years, those pieces of paper could be found on faculty bulletin boards.
During our senior year, she attempted suicide after suffering an assault that led to memories of abuses she suffered as a child. Her world came crashing in on her from every direction and she lost hope. She lost a sense of her own brilliance.
She sought help, and it arrived in the form of a therapist who encouraged her to journal about what had happened. She joined a group of survivors. It became her identity. She ate, slept, dreamed, wrote, and thought about every horrific thing that had happened to her and her siblings. Moshe Feldenkrais taught that we act in accordance with our self image. Her self image had shattered, and was replaced with the identity of hopeless victim. There were suicide attempts, and there was addiction.
There was the painful day that she confessed having been caught trying to pass a forged script for opioids. She spent the night in jail with a prostitute on the bench next to her placing her head in her lap, sobbing. She lost her medical transcriptionist job.
The most current literature on addiction is teaching us that the opposite of addiction is connection.
Fortunately, my dear friend managed to connect with that part of her that was strong. She got a better therapist. We talked at length about how what she really needed when all of those horrible memories came to haunt her. She needed to be connected to her strong, authentic self. She needed to be connected to her mission in life. She resolved to become that kind of therapist. We made a pact that we would bring hope to people who saw themselves as broken.
Sadly, her body was not strong enough to weather the storm and she passed away before she could enter graduate school. Her experience lit a fire in me, however, and she strengthened my resolve to be a therapist who would help people to shine a light on their gifts, heal the scars, and suck the marrow out of life.
Everything I have learned in the intervening years points to the same urgent issue: We need meaning in our lives. We need to have a reason why we get out of bed every morning. This notion is what helped Victor Frankl survive a Nazi concentration camp and live on to write several books including Man’s Search for Meaning. In that book he described falling to his knees with a racking cough and a soldier beating him with a rifle butt. He rose to his feet by imagining the reception of a standing ovation as he concluded a speech about his ideas about the importance of having a purpose in life and for taking responsibility for one's own life.
There are four things we need to thrive:
1. We need an individual sense of purpose. We need to know our “why.” Why am I here? What am I willing to be a stand for? What matters to me so much that I’m willing to defend it? What's your raison d'être (reason for existing?). Peace Pilgrim said it well when she said, “If only you could see the whole picture, if you knew the whole story, you would realize that no problem ever comes to you that does not have a purpose in your life, that cannot contribute to your inner growth. When you perceive this, you will recognize that problems are opportunities in disguise. If you did not face problems, you would just drift through life. It is through solving problems in accordance with the highest light we have that inner growth is attained.” Sometimes your purpose in life was the seed germinated in some problem you have faced in your life. Milton Erickson recognized it as the solution being inside the problem.
2. We need an individual sense of capacity. Once we’ve unearthed our mission in life, we need to harness a belief in our ability to do it. I love Ralph Waldo Emerson’s call to belief when he said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” I also like what Eleanor Roosevelt said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
3. We need to connect with a group with a shared common purpose. Once we’ve made a healthy connection with ourselves, or as we endeavor to do so, we also need to be a part of a group with a common cause. The best groups are those who are working for something. They are working to create something, or lift people up, or teach. Eckhart Tolle wisely advised that causes succeed when they are working toward something positive. Causes that are named to fight something or someone are doomed to failure. If you choose a group, choose one that has a constructive common cause. Be discerning. If a cause has words like Anti, or Against, or wants to put an end to a thing, group or individual, beware. It means this group has failed to take the time to agree upon a common cause. When you have only identified what you are fighting against as a group, it is inevitable that the group will become splintered, fractured, and ineffectual.
4. We need a sense of belonging to a group that has capacity. Your group needs to have a belief in what you are doing, as well as the belief that you can succeed. The group has a common, positive vision that is so clear and compelling that everyone is working from the same blueprint. You're all paddling in the same direction. Even if it's in shit creek, you all have agreed upon the way through to better waters. Herein lies the importance of knowing what you are for. When you have only identified what you are fighting against as a group, it is inevitable that the group will become splintered, fractured, and ineffectual.
So what is your why? What is your raison d'être? The good news is that we all have one. The good news is that at the core of each of our beings is an indestructible source that knows our why. Our values. That thing we hold dearest. Now is a good time to connect with it, know it, and nurture it.
Can you define it? Did you have a why when you were shorter than you are now? What lights you up?
Next question: Who are your people? Find the people who have the same hallucinations you have. You can rally each other when the going gets tough. Maybe you can get that mani/pedi together and have a good long chat about what you hope to accomplish in this lifetime of yours.
“Every action we take is a vote for the person we want to become.” ~ James Clear
|There are no victims. Only Volunteers.|
Recently, I was told that a student graduating the Social Work program I attended had remarked that she had no idea how oppressed she was until she had attended the program. Contrastingly, I recently participated in an intenSati session where the leader, a woman of color, said, "I see you, fear! And you know what? I don't have time for you, Boo-boo, I have things to do!"
Who would you rather hang out with as you planned your future?