I was recently at a dinner party and found myself in a corner with a heart surgeon discussing the concept of self-care. Like many in healthcare, she saw self-care as something you “should do” for your physical health (exercise, eat well, get enough sleep), but that’s where it ends. She became curious when I shared that I define self-care as the art of attuning and responding to your needs and desires, moment to moment. You could see the wheels turning as she contemplated my definition.
Pick up an onion and hold it in your palm. For me, self-care would be the outer layer, then a few layers deeper, you’ll find self-acceptance (as you learn to accept yourself warts and all), then self-compassion, and then a few layers beyond that you arrive at the holy grail: self-love. I see self-care as the first doorway we go through to begin to truly accept who we are, and ultimately, to begin to love ourselves.
What does self-care mean to you? Some of my workshop attendees have said: self-caremeans practicing self-forgiveness; releasing guilt and believing I deserve to have my needs met; learning to cultivate self-compassion; breathing and listening to my body; remembering to laugh and find joy in everyday life; connecting with and expressing my authentic self; being fully “me” (not who others want me to be) and sometimes it’s moving mountains to get bed by 9:30 p.m.!
The art and practice of self-care has been central to my work-life balance programs since 1999 and it has had a profound and lasting change on how I live. I wish my son (who is in his second year of middle school) could take Self-Care 101 where he could learn the art and science of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self-care–along with Pre-Algebra and Creative Writing! Can you imagine a world where everyone–both adolescents and adults–interacted from a full-cup rather than an empty one?
There are many, many benefits to making self-renewal a priority (read more). For me, practicing self-care (and ultimately learning to embrace self-acceptance and self-love) has helped me to:
• be more easy-going and to learn to “go with the flow”
• see that little things stay little (my son not picking up his dirty socks) and don’t become front page news
• have more space around my thoughts and become more present (more responsive, less reactive)
• be kinder and more compassionate (whether it’s with a waitress, family member or business partner)
• connect more deeply to the sacred and the spiritual aspects of everyday life
• react less and Live Inside Out more (read more)
• sense my connection to everything around me and how interwoven we all are
But most importantly, this practice has helped me know that even when everything and everyone around me seems to be falling apart, I can still OK with myself on the inside. And ultimately, this underlying, unwavering sense of peace and well-being is what we’re all seeking, isn’t it?
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teacher/author and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Offering speaking, custom workshops,
training, books/telecourses and individual coaching focusing on self-renewal for women, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-care groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 13 year-old son. More on her background here.