Tag Archives: Self Care

Doing It All In Spite of Your Self

Image by Peter Lomas from Pixabay 

Many years ago, as a wife and mother of three young daughters, with aging parents living next door, I awoke one morning to the normal sounds of my daughters getting ready for school. Instead of getting out of bed, I uncharacteristically pulled the covers up under my chin, giving in to my desire to ignore the call of yet another busy day.

My husband worked rotating shifts; he was on the early watch that day. With a 45 minute commute, he was up and out of the door before dawn, having made his own breakfast. It was the one indulgence I’d claimed from the beginning of our marriage. I’ve never minded rising early, but my brain doesn’t fully engage for an hour or more. Trying to make breakfast is comical at best, sometimes even dangerous . . . cooking with gas. Tea and quiet contemplation are more my style.

This day, I begged off getting breakfast for the girls and overseeing their morning rush, saying I maybe had a cold coming on. I had that tell tale achey and fatigued feeling, despite having slept through the night.

The girls ate cold cereal and got themselves out the house and down the driveway to the school bus. Eventually, I had to get up and into my day, but when I tried, my back seized in pain, paralyzing me in place. Living on our little hobby farm, with large garden, a small menagerie of livestock and heating our home entirely with wood, any number of daily chores may have been the cause of my pain.

Even the slightest movement was excruciating. Anybody whose ever had back pain realizes very soon how much of our movement is supported by the back—it hurts even to breath. All I could manage was to roll to the edge of the bed and drop to the floor. I crawled on my hands and knees to the phone, to call my mother for help.

At the ER, a breif exam and X-rays revealed nothing more than severe spasm of the major muscles in my back (oh is that all?), and a bit of spinal misalignment. I was fitted with a soft support brace and scheduled for physical therapy. It ended up being months of therapy—six before the pain wasn’t a constant companion and nearly a year before doing even light work didn’t cause a flare-up.

It was that incident that started my journey to self care. I was the “backbone” of our family. I kept everything running, kept everybody on schedule, provided comfort and nurturing for my growing family and companionship for my aging parents. I worked out of the house part-time, but was home when my children were home. I cooked, cleaned and was responsible for most household maintenance as my husband work hours were long and demanding.

I didn’t just “have it all” as they promised young women of the day, I was doing it all . . . all by myself. I didn’t realize exactly how ego driven my need to be needed was.

The Natural Remedy Book for Women, by Dian Stein, introduced me to the idea that our body’s dis-ease is often the best clue to where we are suffering imbalances in our life. It sometimes takes a little detective work. For example, the skin is a barrier for the body, hinting that unexplained skin conditions could be the symptom of poor emotional boundaries. Chronic sore throats or difficulty swallowing may indicate feeling unable to speak freely or to call out untruths as you see them (a lot to swallow).

For years, even before my marriage, I was the fixer, the family mediator, the one jumping in wherever I saw the need to smooth things over, or maintain harmony. I was carrying the load, physically and emotionally, for too many who were willing to let me. And who would blame them? I was filling all the space, patching all the cracks before anybody had a chance to see them.

I didn’t know how to step back and leave enough room for others to step in. When my back gave out on me, I had no other choice.

It would be even more years before I awoke to the ways of witchery, and still more before I delved into my shadow work, where I would begin to understand that my desire to make others happy is a desire for their appreciation. I am a praise junky, no doubt because my parents showed love through expressing appreciation, whether for a job well done, a story or joke well told, a kindness given—any notable action or accomplishment. A high achiever, I became an expert at cultivating heaps of praise.

My default for receiving love is co-dependent, basing my sense of worth on what others tell me is valuable to them. I’ve learned to resist my first impulses to jump in and save the day, but it’s like fighting any addiction—my craving for acknowledgment and appreciation is always gnawing at me. Before I offer help, I have to ask myself if I’m doing it only for the praise I might get, and would I still do it if I knew for certain there would be no pay-off.

I once cooked meals for a woman after she’d done me serious harm that effectively ended our relationship. Her husband was dying of cancer. She was working full time and couldn’t quit her job. She’d asked among her friends and family if somebody could make meals that she could easily reheat at the end of her long days.

Nobody else responded to her need for this small comfort, so for several months I cooked a week’s worth of meals at a time, arranging for a mutual friend to deliver them to her. It was one thing she needed that I was capable of giving. If there were never a single word of thanks, I knew, without questions how much those meals would be appreciated.

I’ve also learned there are healthier ways to channel my penchant for trouble shooting, as I did when working as an events coordinator—there’s always at least one fire that needs dousing at every event. And there are far more enjoyable ways to receive accolades, like performing in community theater for one.

My mother used to say I’d cut off my nose to spite my face. As a headstrong and persistent teenager, I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. I spent a good part of my life, bending over backwards, doing cartwheels and handsprings, trying to get people to do the same for me. It’s taken me a long time to figure out I could put all that energy into giving myself what I need, instead of begging others for crumbs.

You don’t have to love yourself before others can or will love you; but if you don’t love yourself at least as much as you expect others to love you, there will be an emptiness in your heart that remains unfilled.


Self-Love or Self-Care

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Is there a difference?

September is Self-Care Awareness month. The observance was added to the national calendar in 2017. This year, quick internet search turns up numerous 30-day challenges for both self-care and self-love this month, but are the two interchangeable?

Not really. When you approach health and wellness from a mind, body, spirit model, self caring behaviors are more about outward actions and the realm of the physical world and our body. Whereas self loving behaviors are more internal, working in the realm of emotions, or the intersection of our thoughts and feelings and therefore of the mind and spirit.

It’s possible to give yourself excellent self-care without self-love. I’m sure we all know at least one person who fits this description—successful, powerful, well-off, never settling for less than the best of everything—nothing is too good for them, and nothing is ever enough. They are caught in a frantic pursuit of always need to achieve more and have more.

On the other hand, can you love yourself without self-caring behaviors? I don’t believe it’s possible, not if you truly love yourself.

As adults, we often we often equate self-care and self-love to parenting ourselves. A parent can certainly provide for all the physical care and comforts a child needs, while still being emotionally distant or cold—but not necessarily cruel or hurtful.

Yet, it’s impossible for an emotionally loving parent to neglect their child’s need for care and happiness. So much so that some parents indulge their children, finding it hard to set limits (possibly setting the stage for the adult described above).

Certainly, when talking about the human mind and emotions, there are as many variations of the so-called norm, as their are people. For the sake of argument, and disregarding aberrant behaviors, I think it’s safe to say that self-care, without self-love is only half the equation.

Decades ago, when I first began writing as the MAD Goddess, focusing on self-care in midlife and beyond, my pet peeve was the market driven push to equate self-care, especially for women, with high-priced self-indulgence (it was one reason my alter ego manifested a MAD Goddess—another that it was shorthand for Middle AgeD).

The U.S. marketing machine is a powerful influencer. Mention self-care today and it conjures the image of pampering and indulgence of every kind, whether high-cost or do-it-yourself. While these treats might be a well-deserved gift to yourself, they tend to be more of a bandaid, or a glamour, than any kind of true self-care.

Image by Kai Miano from Pixabay 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that women (at least of my generation and those previous) struggle with true self-care more so than their male counterparts. Men tend to put a higher priority on claiming time for their leisure pursuits, whether it’s an entire morning for a golfing foursome, or just 20-minutes of solitude to read the news.

There’s no arguing that a massage, a mani-pedi, a facial, a warm bubble bath, or slathering on a luxury skin serum, are all enjoyable, relaxing experiences, and help reduce stress. But this kind of self-care is short term at best, not to mention cost prohibitive for many. Further, the popular marketing hook, “because you’re worth it,” sends the toxic message that those who can’t pay the high price point, are not worth it—undeserving of even self-worth.

True self-care begins with self-love. It begins with asking yourself what you need for a more balanced, satisfying and healthy life, and then listening to the answers. It requires attentive care to your, physical, financial, intellectual and emotional health and wellness. It’s about doing what’s best for you even if, or especially when, others won’t.

I think one mistake we make is expecting self-love to be easy. Being loved feels great, right? What could be so hard about giving that to yourself? One reason is believing that love doesn’t count if it comes from yourself. Think about that for a moment. If the loving care you give to others is good for them, why isn’t it just as good for you?

Another reason is that love isn’t just something you say, or feel. Love is what you do, it requires actions that are sometimes an effort. In fact, there are times that loving somebody can be downright hard work.

How much of your loving behavior for family and friends requires effort? A good deal of it, I bet. How much are you requiring from them? If you find yourself thinking or saying it’s easier to just do it myself, to go without, or to put up with it, eventually you’ll be doing it all, getting nothing, and putting up with everything.

Is it really easier to do all the housework yourself because your spouse, or roommate, or kid doesn’t do it right? Hell yes – for them! And don’t think they don’t know that.

When you fall into bed, exhausted every night, does it really feel easier on you to let your kids’ bedtimes slide, rather than setting expectations and doing the work of establishing routines and enforcing boundaries so that you could have an hour or so of quiet time every evening?

Are you making and taking opportunities to love your self, or are you always putting others needs ahead of yours? We frown on the selfish narcissist always putting themselves first, but honestly, is it any worse than the opposite extreme—the self anointed martyr perpetually sacrificing themselves on the altar of service to others?

With the exception of your own parents (maybe, if you were lucky to get good ones), given normal life circumstances, nobody is going to make your needs a priority if you don’t.


Self-Care*Self-Love 30 Day Challenge

September is national Self-Care month. See my thoughts on the intersection of Self-Care and Self-Love and then join in the challenge. In what ways can you give yourself at least as much love as you give to others, and honor your need for self-care?

Follow along here for a new challenge posted each day.
Or follow me on Instagram @mad_goddess1 &
On Twitter @SimpleWitchery

Share your responses on social media using #SimpleSelfCare and #MADGoddess

September 1 ~ In what ways do you claim time and space for your #selfcare

September 2 ~ We aren’t what we eat, but food fuels our function. In what simple way can you incorporate healthy eating into your daily meals?

September 3 ~ Toot your own horn, bang your own drum, throw yourself a parade. Celebrate your awesome self! Share your favorite song to pump you up!

September 4 ~ Water is Life. Show us how you love your healthy body by staying hydrated. Share a pic of your favorite water, water bottle, etc.

September 5 ~ Feed your soul. Bring the beauty of the outdoors in. Do you have a green thumb for house plants? Do you gather fresh flowers to fill vases? Do you have a jar of pretty rocks or seas shells? Show us how you incorporate nature elements into your indoor space.

September 6 ~ Engage in your chosen community. TGIF. Fridays and Fall mean one thing – high school football. Take in a game, cheer on your home team, enjoy a cup of steaming cocoa on a crisp night under the lights.

Crowds aren’t exactly your cup of tea? Seek out smaller, safer community connections, like a book or hobby club, Invite your friends for a pot luck, or just beverages and conversation. If mobility, social anxiety or other concerns are in play, spend some time with your trusted online communities.

September 7 ~ Feed your mind. Learn something new today, work a crossword puzzle, or solve a Suduko. Visit your local public library, they offer so much more than books, like vents, classes, visual art exhibits and more. Or take in a local museum.

September 8 ~ The Holy No. How often to you find yourself talked into something you really didn’t want to do? Don’t offer lame excuses, just say no like you mean it. Explanations not necessary.

September 9 ~ Feed your spirit. Visit an art museum, a botanical garden, a planetarium or other place of beauty and inspiration.

September 10 ~ It’s okay to make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. You likely forgive your loved ones without being asked. Forgive yourself in the same measure.

September 11 ~ Your self worth does not depend on how much you do for others.

September 12 ~ Give yourself time out when you need it. Take a short break to do absolutely nothing. You might find it difficult at first, with everything that needs to be done running through your mind. Send it to voice mail, listen later.

September 13 ~ Move your body. Regular physical movement is maybe the most important factor in overall health. Even for those immobilized by injury or disease, physical therapy is considered vital. So move your can, or what you can, while you can.

Septemer 14 ~ Believe in yourself. Be your own cheerleader. Give yourself a pep talk. A little encouragement goes a long way.

September 15 ~ Get the sleep your body, mind and psyche need. You might think that’s 8-hours a night, but you’d be wrong. Turns out there is no research to support that number; it’s become part of the American culture because of . . . you guessed it, marketing. For most adults, anywhere from 6 up to 9 hours of sleep supports good health, while the average falls at 6.5 to 7 hours.

If you are or have raised children, you are well aware of how too little sleep affects their behaviors; they can be cranky, whiny, argumentative, inattentive, unable to concentrate and just plain difficult. Lack of sleep has the same effects on adults, though perhaps less noticeable to observers because we have developed impulse control. Whether you mask the effects of poor sleep or not, you still feel them, and they are telling you . . . get more sleep!

September16 ~ Do the things you enjoy, alone or with others.

September 17 ~ Just listen. We live in the age of opinion. Everybody has always had one, but not everybody always shared them. The 24/7 “so called news” networks have made an art of forming opinions on everything, and we’re following suit, maybe even feeling obligated to weigh in lest we appear apathetic. Whether giving or getting, it’s exhausting! You don’t have to have an opinion on everything—give it rest.

September 18 ~ Feed Your Spirit. Take a moment morning and evening for grounding and centering. There are numerous methods for doing this, including mundane, magical, and religious. Each evening, recall at least one thing your are grateful for. Before bed, imagine yourself disconnecting from activities and events of the day. Visualize a thread or cord connecting you to each, feel your relaxation deepen as you see the connections going dark, knowing you can turn them back on when you wake.

September 19 ~ A Breath of Fresh Air. Give your house or apartment of breath of fresh air on a breezy day. Open all the windows and doors and let the wind blow through your space. My mother used to do this every Saturday, even during the sub-zero winters in northern Wisconsin. Science now indicates this is the best way to rid your hom e of winter cold and flu viruses.

September 20 ~ Go soak yourself! True self care is about so much more than warm baths, wine and candles, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still indulge. Give your bath a detoxing boost by with Epsom’s salt, lavender and (or) mint essential oil, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide—for amounts and details read Ritual Bath for Purification. This combo is believed to help draw out toxins (skip the wine and drink and glass of water with lemon), and balance pH levels. When you’re done, wrap yourself in a robe and lie down (bed, sofa, recliner); feel what it means to be totally relaxed.

September 21 ~ Give yourself a day off. Life can be pretty hectic. With everything that has to be done, you can end up working, at you job, at home, taking care of family and meeting other obligations, all the time. For working adults, days off often mean catching up at home. Your mind and body need to rest. Schedule regular time, once a day, once a week, or one weekend a month, for nothing but leisure.

September 22 ~Something’s Gotta Give. If taking that day off leaves you thinking you’ll just have twice as much to do the next day, chances are you’re doing too much. Take inventory of everything you’re doing. Are there things that can be simplified? Are there ways to be more efficient? Is there anything you can let go?

September 23 ~ Just stop doing it all! How much are you doing for others that they could be doing for themselves? Are you a pleaser, a fixer . . . a door mat? Let’s face it, very few people are going to turn down an offer to lighten their load. And very few will return the favor. Generosity, kindness and a willingness to help others are all admirable qualities, but if you’re feeling stretched too thin, hoping and waiting for others to step in and help you, or just step up and help themselves, you’re probably doing too much for others and not enough for yourself.

September 24 ~ Ask for help. Sometimes there are just too many responsibilities one person can handle. Single parent, going to school, working full or part-time? Long commute taking up several hours of your day? Having to work more than one job? It’s okay to accept help. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

September 25~ Energetic Cord Cutting. We have energetic ties to all the people in our lives. The energy flows to and from, like the broadband connection we use for downloading and uploading through internet. Our connection to family and loved ones carries a heavier load back and forth. When the energy is good, it’s good for us. When the energy becomes negative, distressing, hurtful, it’s not so good for us. But we can control the bandwidth—we can open it wide, narrow it down, or cut it off, completely.

September 26 ~ Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish. Speaking of bandwidth—pull the plug on social media that’s causing you to stress out. Clean up your feed, cut your online time in half, or disconnect completely for regular periods of time. Your stress levels will go down.

September 27 ~ Indulge. Give yourself a treat, take yourself on a special date (or arrange one with a friend or loved one), buy that book you’ve been dying to read (and you’re 200 back on the library reserve list), or the certain art supply you’ve been drooling over. Eat dessert, take the trip, buy the shoes. Every now and then, break your rules.

September 28 ~ Volunteer. So many charities, service agencies, and community events require the help of volunteers. Do a good deed by lending your expertise, skill or helping hands. You’ll make social and/or professional connections while improving your community.

September 29 ~ Grow. Make a commitment to personal development. Take up a hobby, learn a new language, take dancing lessons, polish your public presentation skills (Toastmaster is a great way to master public speaking and it’s free!). If your live near a university, check out their community ed programs. Learn something new for a better you.

September 30 ~ Celebrate Your Accomplishments! You’v completed a month of self care, that’s cause for celebration. When you fail to celebrate accomplishments, you train your brain to diminish your efforts. Make a habit of celebrating — milestones, accomplishments, and small victories—especially the small victories.


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