Self-Care Untruth #1: You Have to Fix Yourself to Fix the World

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Hello Dears,

First thing:  As part of the Beautiful Life Collective launch later this month, I’m offering a free webinar called “Turning Self-Care into Visionary Leadership” on Monday, September 24th from 3-4pm EST. (If you can’t make it live, I will email you the link right after and you'll have 48 hours to watch/listen!)  As you learn more about your individual self-care leadership approach, you’ll discover the best way to work through your self-care blocks and how to show up as a leader who is ready to create inspired change in our world. Sign up here!

Bonus: Sign up for the webinar and be the first to receive the free “What’s Your Self-Care Leadership Type?” quiz next week!  (Over the next few weeks, if you register, you’ll also get bonus self-care routines, leadership resources, and inspiring self-care Q&As with some of my favorite women leaders.)

And now, today…

When I was growing up, I’d sometimes wander away from the other kids on the playground.  As I set myself apart, back behind the swings, I’d get lost in such deep pockets of regret.  Even as young as 7 years old, I’d trace my life backward and spiral into feelings of intense brokenness.

Why didn’t I feel happier?
I guess that’s because I don’t have enough friends….
Why don’t I have more friends?
I think it’s because I am fat…. (I learned to compulsively eat to numb my feelings when I was young, and I grew up in a culture that saw me as overweight and therefore, less worthy)
Why am I fat?
I think it’s because my parents got divorced and I feel sad and I don’t know how to control that.
Why did my parents get divorced?
They say it’s not my fault, but I think it still might be.

No matter which way I’d trace it back, it would always lead to the idea that something was really wrong with me.  A voice in my head assured me it was my fault that I felt so lonely and defective.

As an adult who has spent decades learning how to care for herself, I know now what I was doing as a young girl, alone on the playground.  The factors that shaped my life - dysfunctional family patterns such as alcoholism and mental illness - felt so dangerously out of my control, so it seemed much easier to blame myself for the difficult emotions I experienced.  

So, I internalized the problems that I couldn’t solve. I drove my shame, anxiety and depression inward, and kept them behind locked doors inside my heart.  I thought that if I worked harder to lose weight, make friends and create a more perfect exterior, I would be set free from the sadness that sat heavily on my chest. This is how my own brand of perfectionism was born, and it fueled my life for a long time.

As I got older, I learned to funnel this perfectionism into my schoolwork, my relationships and even my career.  On some levels, I got what I desired. I figured out how to lose weight, found some professional success, and cultivated a thriving social network.

On the outside I had it all.  But inside, something was still missing.  I still felt deeply alone and yearned for a relief that I couldn’t quite name.  As much as I talked about self-care, there was still a very deep, powerful layer of self-care that called to me.

Then, as I talked about in my missive from last week, two things happened in late 2016 and 2017 that changed my life forever.  After I experienced them, I couldn’t unsee what I now understood.

I saw that I had a responsibility to change our world.  If I didn’t use my power and privilege to stand up for the communities that are more vulnerable than my own, I was part of the problem.  More than being thin, more than being successful and more than even being happy, I wanted justice for everyone.

It was a disorienting moment to readjust so many priorities at once.  However, the one thing I knew I wasn’t going to give up in the name of justice was my self-care.  I looked at other chaotic activist movements and the overextended visionary leaders who had burned out fighting for justice. I knew that self-care could be my fuel, my comfort and my compass as I figured out this new path.  

So, I’ve been changing the direction of my work at Beautiful Life Self-Care.  I signed up for workshops and classes led by women of color who generously taught me what was blocked by  my own privilege. I participated in conversations about self-care and racism. I am creating an accessible, affordable collective that will  help others become visionary leaders who are firmly grounded in self-care (sign-up is coming soon!).

What I’ve done is just the beginning.  So much more is needed, from me and from others.  These steps don’t make me a good person, but these efforts do help me stay in line with my values and get warmer, warmer, warmer toward the world I want to hand over to future generations.

Throughout my journey of understanding self-care, I’ve learned an essential truth.  It’s the truth I want to go back and whisper to my sweet, aching younger self. I want to tell her that she is not broken, but our world is.  The dysfunction I experienced in my family was an example of the greater dysfunctional power dynamics in society that foster racism, sexism, classism and other forms of isolation, addiction and hatred (be it of self or others) throughout the world.

I want to tell her she is not alone in her hurting, and that rather, her pain is a powerful portal that will give her the strength and compassion to help others who are also hurting.

Mostly, I want to tell her that it’s only in service that we are set free.  Our problems of anxiety, shame, depression are just that: OUR problems. We don’t have to suffer individually any longer.  We don’t have to ignore harsh realities or hide behind shiny exteriors in the hopes others think we are ok. We can be honest about our struggles, gain resilience from each other and reach out to serve others.  

In short, we don’t have to fix ourselves to fix the world.  Now, our self-care is ready to go behind the self. We will turn our self-care into leadership that creates a more just and beautiful world for all.

Ahhhh….deep exhalation.  

(And interestingly enough, since embracing this path, I’ve noticed that my loneliness has changed into more feelings of connection, my body image anxieties have softened a bit, and my professional fears have subsided in surprising ways.  Is showing up for social justice connected to my own personal relief? I can’t say for sure, but I want to explore it more!)

Now, let’s get going!  Where do you feel broken?  Are you willing to consider that perhaps 1) You are just fine, and that 2) Your relief will come as you stand up for the world that supports all people?

Over the next month, I’m going to share a couple more of my most powerful self-care breakthroughs.  Not only have they transformed my own life, but I’ve watched hundreds of clients use these new self-care perspectives to step into greater leadership roles in their own families, work groups and communities.

Do these messages of socially aware self-care resonate with you?  If so, I think you’re going to love the Beautiful Life Collective, my new self-care cooperative of women visionaries who believe self-care can save the world.  It starts October 1st! Join the waitlist here.

Until then, I wish you unprecedented self-care and an ignited imagination about how that can help us care for all.  This is our time. We are moving forward, together, with care. Isn’t it so beautiful and exciting and so deeply needed?

With care,
Gracy