The Transformative Power of Self-Care

You can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and you will not find that person anywhere.
—Anonymous

Growing up the oldest of seven children (five boys and two girls), I remember breakfast at our house being extremely hectic.

My harried mom was scrambling to make lunches, my dad was running around looking for tennis shoes, and invariably one of the seven of us was in the kitchen cooking peanut butter oatmeal, rice flour pineapple muffins, or some other strange concoction (in our family we were heartily encouraged to become masterful at “life skills”—this philosophy encouraged lots of cooking experiments but invariably led to mayhem in the kitchen!).

One morning, my nine-year-old brother, Kert (now a macrobiotic chef), decided to whip up some pecan waffles. As I reached over to the waffle maker to help myself to breakfast, I bumped the edge of the hot grill and burned my elbow. I must have been 10 years old at the time.

I don’t remember if I mentioned the accident to my parents, but hours later I was sitting in my classroom at school, trying to ignore the pain from a small, brown, bubbly-looking burn on my elbow.

Rather than go and get a teacher for help or a bandage, I simply suffered, thinking silently, it’s not really important enough to bother anyone.

This is my earliest recollection of realizing that self-care was not something that was promoted or taught in my family (even though my parents were medical professionals!). It was definitely something I had to learn.

Maybe when you think of self-care, you have visions of pedicures and facials. Indeed, physical self-care is a big part of the overall picture. But eliminating critical thinking, not overscheduling, releasing the need to be perfect, hiring a babysitter for dates with your partner or yourself, saying no, refusing to do things out of guilt, and giving yourself much-needed rest and downtime to refuel are also integral to total self-care.

Self-care is about nurturing yourself on all levels—physical, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—so you can live, love, and parent optimally.

Visiting with my friend Megan, mom to Mateo, three, and Alea, one, I listened as she shared how frustrated she was feeling. Exhausted from staying up into 2:00 am the night before to do laundry, she had skipped breakfast and lunch, was surviving on nothing but coffee, and had been beating herself up all day about not getting a homemade meal over to her neighbor, who had recently lost her father. My heart ached for Megan. Most of us would never imagine denying our children sleep or nourishment, being judgmental of them, or allowing them to ignore their emotional needs.

Yet, as mothers, we do this to ourselves on a daily basis.

The same love, gentle care, and compassion we offer so generously to our little ones should be extended to ourselves as well. We teach our children about self-worth and honoring one’s value through our actions, not our words. Modeling self-love and self-acceptance is the most effective way to have a powerful impact on a child’s self-esteem and how they view themselves.

Why Self-Care?

What are some reasons that self-care is important and how do we benefit by making time for self-renewal?

  • By filling our cups first, we tend to feel more generous and can avoid building resentments toward others who demand our energy and time.
  • Nurturing ourselves makes us naturally feel more loving, which makes us better friends, partners, parents, and more fun to be around!
  • Making our self-care a priority is one of the best ways to validate and honor our own worth, which naturally enhances true confidence and self-esteem.
  • Taking care of ourselves on all levels (physically/mentally/emotionally/spiritually) helps us feel alive and whole, able to function at our best and do all the things we want to do.
  • By taking time to care for yourselves, we renew and restore our energy supply and create energy reserves so we’re able to weather unforeseen challenges more easily.
  • Practicing self-care and being loving and gentle toward ourselves helps us to be more present and calm, so we can respond wisely, intuitively and effectively to a variety of circumstances.
  • Honoring and nurturing our essence provides us with opportunities to experience profound spiritual and personal growth.
  • Owning our personal power (realizing our potential) is our birthright. Self-care, self-love, and self-acceptance are wonderful avenues for reaching this goal.
  • When you feel good on the inside, you look good on the outside. Nurturing your essence—inside and out—promotes overall well-being and a sense of vitality.

For me, having grown up with a mother who suffered from depression and struggled constantly with issues around self-worth and self-esteem, I am motivated to make self-care an important part of my life so I can model this behavior for my son. I want him to see the value of total self-care and how it can positively impact how he feels about himself and others.

Self-care is not about pampering. It’s about owning your personal power. It’s about self-worth and honoring the person you are.

After you taste the benefits of focusing on your self-care, you will begin to schedule time for self-nurturing just like you schedule doctor or dentist appointments. You’ll discover that it is integral to your emotional survival and that you are wiser and more effective in all areas of your life when you take time to fill your cup first!

Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally recognized life-balance coach and president of Career Strategists. This article is adapted from her book The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life.

© 2008, Balanced Living Press. Reprinted with permission.

Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally recognized transformational coach, catalyst, speaker and author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal.

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