Updated: Nov 29, 2018
There is so much magic that happens when self-compassion begins to lead life.
While I've always been motivated to be more loving to others, I rarely turned that same gentle energy inward, towards myself. This was sustainable. I could trudge through and offer what I thought was love and support to those around me, while letting my inner critic run my inner dialogue. There was such a large gap between how I loved others and how I loved myself, and my parts. This was sustainable... until motherhood.
Motherhood scooped all of 'me' out... a light way to say it gutted me, but in a really beautiful and trans-formative process. In order for survival, never mind the idea of thriving, I could no longer put everyone and everything ahead of myself. We hear all these messages about self-care, and 'self-care isn't selfish,' take time for yourself, 'happy wife, happy life'. So interestingly enough the road signs that got me to this path were stealthily hidden under the concept of doing 'self-care' so that my family will feel great. At this point in my journey, I needed that external motivation for me to place value on it.
I quickly discovered that the self-care marketed to us by society was a total sham. Go on vacation, get a pedicure, cut your hair, wine night-mom's night out. These are great and I'm not knocking any of those 'self-care' modalities. But I am knocking society for telling us that is how we care for ourSELVES. Externally focused 'self-care' lives exactly there, on the outside. Which means it's fleeting. I remember sitting in the pedicure chair watching the manicurist's face twist in distortion at my dry, tired, running calloused feet and wondering what I was doing. I spent the next hour thinking about my baby, ultimately making me feel anxious. Checking my phone every thirty seconds and then shaming myself for not 'relaxing' or 'enjoying' my 'self-care' experience. Even on occasion, I did enjoy the pedicure and was able to relax, but then there always seemed to be a letdown. I only felt cared for in that chair, and the only aspect that lasted beyond that hour were my shellac toenails. Painted toes are cute and they might make me smile when they catch my eye, but they sure as hell don't help me find my peace at an increased rate when life hits the fan.... which happens about 5-10 times an hour.
So what is self-care? I believe that self-care is any activity that facilitates self-compassion and
self-acceptance. Practices that help to create space for self-understanding and inner transformation. Meditation, yoga, psychotherapy, writing in a journal, long walks outside, staring at the sunsets in wonderment, eating foods filled with life and sunshine, reducing the toxins in my environment, caring for and loving my body the same way I care and love my babies' bodies. These practices were changing me. They were shifting my focus from outside to inside. What I found was that the practices that focused on my inner world, were practices that I carried with me and they absolutely help me find my inner peace at a much faster rate when life hits the fan. Life is always going to find a fan to hit, but how we react is the game changer.
My inner dialogue is kind and understanding and humorous. I find myself laughing at my knee jerk reaction to balk back when someone tells me to eat food. I understand that hours at a table gagging on canned veggies, followed by adolescent and young adult binge and purging at an attempt to have some control, to a long path of trying to understand food and my body means that when I'm told 'eat, Danielle' a very old, outdated internal program wakes up and says 'Oh! do I get to come back into your focus?' No, wild food monster, you do not. In a conscious and awake state, I can acknowledge the rabbit trail that happens when this program gets switched on, laugh and switch that sucker back off. Knowing this creates space for me to feel self-compassion when I feel my cheeks flush red with a flash of anger (aka fear). Knowing my inner world helps me to more gracefully(not all of the time, but more than before) navigate my interaction with the outer world.
Something else shifted too. Remember that 'external motivation' that initiated my self-love journey? While it is no longer the intention behind my practice, the external world and my relationships with others has deepened and filled with more richness. By having self-compassion, I am able to access a quality of love I couldn't even imagine five years ago. What I thought was love that I was offering others was a fraction of what this BIG love is. By recognizing the divinity in me, I now see the divine in all other aspects of life. Ahhh, namaste.
I feel it is a higher truth that you cannot love others in excess of the love you have for yourself. It's impossible. So if you are needing external motivation to start exploring your inner world... then let the uncomfortable feeling that comes with the statement 'you cannot love your children(or fill in what works, husband, parents, shelter dog, the Earth etc) more than you love yourself'... settle in. If this resonates, then perhaps its time for you to remember you are whole, perfect and exactly where you should be at this very moment in time. I see you and you're doing great. <3