Wednesday Missive: Is Your Self-Care Working? Here Are A Few Ways To Tell

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Hello, hello again!

I hope it’s a nice Wednesday for you.  This week still finds me in the swirl of house-buying.  I’m way too in the process to have any real insights right now, but expect self-care resources for moving and/or buying a house in the near future.

Within all the movement, I’ve been thinking about the different ways to view self-care.  The dominant culture tells us that self-care borders on frivolous. It’s equated with pampering and over-indulging.  You know, it’s the “don’t bother me with the world’s problems, I’m getting a massage” attitude that makes self-care look, well, pretty selfish.

Although I think we all need moments to really indulge ourselves, these pampering-focused actions never feel much like real self-care to me.  The self-care that I practice and teach to others often feels like the opposite of over-indulging. And the end result is not selfish, but I think rather, the true secret to creating a different way of being in the world.

Still, it’s so easy to confuse over-indulgence and self-care.  Even I have a hard time telling the difference sometimes, especially when I’m feeling stressed out.  

How do you know your self-care is working?  Here are a few ways to tell:

Your self-care is working when you...

  • Wake up feeling inspired about your day

  • Engage in less mindless, numbing behavior

  • Take more time to enjoy the small stuff (birds chirping, a sweet lady on the bus, iced tea)

  • Feel a full range of emotions (from joy to anger to grief)

  • Value your creativity and give yourself time to make things, even if they are goofy

  • Feel less inclined to give others advice

  • Worry less about the things you can’t control

  • Take more action on the things you can

  • Forgive yourself for past and present mistakes

  • Listen to your intuition and trust your inner process

  • Set real boundaries (and feel your life change as a result)

  • Ask for more support (and know this is a strong act)

  • Share your vulnerable feelings with people you trust

  • Don’t share your vulnerable feelings with people you don’t trust

  • Listen to others in a deeper way, even when you don’t agree with them

  • Are more inclined to cooperate than compete (less jealousy!)

  • Enjoy your relationships more

  • Feel a sense of belonging in a supportive community

  • Realize you have enough and purchase less stuff you don’t really need

  • Realize you have so much that you want to give back to others

  • Take action to give back to others (less procrastination!)

  • Inspire others to give back in a joyful way

  • Have the capacity to understand white privilege and systematic inequality, and show up to support racial justice (this one is for the white people out there)

  • Gain the courage to educate others about white privilege, systematic inequalities and how to support racial justice in a compassionate way

  • Understand that your life force is valuable and that you have a real purpose

  • Realize self-care is a process and that it doesn’t have to be perfect to work

  • Know to keep coming back to self-care when you feel tired, lost or numb


Wooo, that’s a pretty big list, right?  Please don’t get overwhelmed if you aren’t able to check all those boxes.  I don’t know anyone who can check all those boxes at the same time.

Practicing real self-care is a process, one that takes patience, self-awareness and a good sense of humor.  We’ll spend the rest of our lives learning it, which is ok, because we’ll enjoy those lives in the process.

The important thing is to figure out if you’re headed in the right direction.  Remember that children’s game “hot” or “cold”? When you go for a self-care action, ask yourself: “Am I getting warmer?” (going toward the metrics on this list) or “colder” (feel more alone, afraid, and cut off from the world)?

We don’t have to understand self-care perfectly for it to work wonders in our own lives and in the world.  We just have to keep taking little inspired steps in the right direction. We just have to keep getting “warmer” and helping others to do the same.

Sending out this message, even though it’s pretty imperfect, feels a bit warmer, as does drinking a cup of mint sun tea while I do it.  Knowing you are reading this right now brightens it all up even more.

I feel the warmth spreading, something beautiful and emergent incubating within it, and how lovely it is that we can all be part of this radiance.

With care,


Self-Care Inspiration

Save the date for Thrive DC’s Do More 24 celebration!  On May 17-18, please consider donating to Thrive DC, a wonderful organization where I have volunteered for almost the past decade (and now am on the board).  Just $26 provides over 30 hot showers for DC’s homeless population. If you are avaialble, come to the free party from 6:30-8:30pm at the Wonder Bread Factory in Washington, DC.  I’ll be there and would love to see you!

A few articles that inspired my self-care this week:

Momastary’s Glennon Doyle is educating white women

The anti-bourgeois joy of eating from a bowl rather than a plate

The new lynching memorial is opening white America’s eyes

Seeing the hard parts of life can help you love the world even more

One woman’s unabashed desire to be very rich