Over the past weeks, I’ve been sharing the self-care untruths that keep us blocked in our self-care and feeling stuck in our ability to care for the world. It’s been a thrill to debunk the common self-care misconceptions that: 1) you have to fix yourself before you can help others, and 2) your self-care should always feel good.
These culturally-affirmed ideas about self-care not only keep us from feeling authentic in our lives, but they also ensure we are too stressed to believe we can create a just, equitable world for all.
This week, I am sharing the last untruth in this series. After I unveil it, I’ll spend the next week launching into the self-care that DOES work - not just for us, but for the beautiful society we can work to create.
To receive these tried-and-true, visionary self-care secrets, make sure you are signed up for my free webinar “Turning Self-Care into Visionary Leadership” on September 24th from 3-4pm EST. No worries if you can’t be live! After, you’ll receive the recording + the self-care secrets + Q&A with some of my favorite women visionary leaders. This is the self-care that’s taken me decades to learn and has built a powerful community of visionary women leaders!
(If you don’t sign up, make sure to open my Wednesday email next week. It’s the ONLY chance you’ll have to sign up for the Beautiful Life Collective for a very special pilot price!)
The last self-care untruth I’m unpacking is: you have to do your self-care all alone.
This untruth has been a particularly hard one for me to unlearn. I grew up with the idea that I - and I alone - had to make things happen in my life. I thought asking for help made me appear weak and that it was my responsibility to make sure everyone else was okay. Further, I believed there was only a set amount of goodness to go around. If someone else was succeeding it must be because I was failing.
Like all coping mechanisms, this hyper-individualism worked until it didn’t anymore. Sure, I felt exhausted by the people-pleasing, insecure about my life choices and frustrated by my inability to escape the poisonous energy of jealousy, but by the time I was in my 30’s, I had also used this individualism to build a fairly successful-looking life for everyone around me to admire. I practiced yoga and became a yoga teacher. As my teaching grew, I led international retreats and created a six-figure coaching business. I carefully decorated my apartment, made sure my clothes were fashionable and got my nails done every two weeks. I even went on self-discovery trips to places as far as the Amazon so the shaman there could help me figure myself out.
I want to note that none of these actions are negative in themselves. However, I focused on cultivating my exterior as a way to avoid the painful emotions still buried inside of me. I didn’t understand at the time, but looking back, I see how much energy I extended to avoid facing this deep layer of self-care.
Then, three years ago, I was on a small retreat for women entrepreneurs in Topanga Canyon, CA when another participant approached me. After listening to me share about my business struggles - the over-responsibility, the people-pleasing, the inability to set boundaries - she asked if I had grown up in a family with alcoholism. To her, these sounded like the common character defenses that come from growing up around addiction. She mentioned the idea of going to a support group for people living with the effects of addiction.
At first I felt defensive - sure, there had been addictive behavior, but I was pretty sure that it hadn’t affected me - but the more I sat with her suggestion, the more sense it made. Slowly, I began to connect the dots that maybe my problems weren’t just because I was a defective person. Maybe my personal pain was coming from a more common problem.
Back at home, I researched the meetings near me. On a bright Sunday afternoon, I parked my car in quiet neighborhood and searched out the entrance to a church basement. It was a small meeting, but as each person shared his or her experience, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of my emotions. All at once, anger, sadness, and fear rose up in my body. I didn’t know why I was feeling so much, but I knew I had to come back again to figure out why.
For the next few years, I kept showing up and looking deeper inside. Through trial-and-error, I found the meetings that felt inspiring, and the people that seemed safe enough to trust. Little by little, I shared my real experience with the group and let them support me as painful emotions rose up so they could be healed.
Throughout it all, I’ve been resistance to the process. The part of me that wants to do my self-care all by myself is constantly offended by the idea that I can’t do this inner work alone. And yet, the wise part of me knows that I simply cannot practice this kind of deep self-care as a solo traveller. Not only is it too hard to come out of denial by myself, but it’s also too scary to transform alone.
And oh, how I have transformed! As I used this group support to work through my intimacy fears - and there were many - my life has dramatically changed. I met my ride-or-die partner, became a mother to a delightful child, and finally feel like I belong to a wonderful community of people who support my self-care. Instead of being jealous of other’s accomplishments, I feel inspired by the people around me because I know we are all helping each other succeed.
As I often say, facing myself - really letting myself be seen - within a community has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It totally sucks except that it’s given me everything I’ve ever wanted.
Most importantly, I’m learning translate this personal healing as fuel to create a more beautiful world for all. I’m coming out of my denial that our society works for everyone (and this is such a hard one for white people whom our society really does benefit), and understanding that my well-being is wrapped up in the well-being of all people, especially those who are most marginalized.
I sense I’m not alone in believing I have to do everything by myself. Hyper-individualism is such driving force in our society. Not only does it push us all harder to produce, but it also keeps us divided from each other. If we are so focused on our individual successes - and threatened by the successes of others - then we are too overextended to see how we diminish our personal power when we separate ourselves off from others.
Further, I believe this hyper-individualism is what creates a society fueled by structural racism. When personal success is the only goal, we become willing to overlook the suffering of others if it means we can keep up appearances and stay comfortable. We can begin to undo this dysfunctional thinking and our unjust structures by coming together as a community based in collective self-care. Not only does this help us effectively heal as individuals, but it gives us back the energy and focus we need to heal our broken world.
Because truly, I don't think any of us really want to spend more time worrying about our thighs getting bigger. I don’t think we want lose sleep obsessing over self-destructive relationships or a toxic work culture. In our hearts, we don’t want to feel divided from the people around us by jealousy. I think we are ready to move, together, into the bigger and more important issues we face as a world.
Of course, we need to practice self-care - the most authentic, righteous self-care there is - along the way. It’s only with self-care that we can realize we are the visionary leaders we have been waiting for.
Want to learn this visionary self-care? Sign up for the free “Turning Self-Care into Visionary Leadership” webinar and watch for registration opening for the Beautiful Life Collective next week (and closing very soon after!).
Until then, much love to you and to our whole community!