November 5, 2015

When Self-Care Comes Knocking

Susana Fernandez/Flickr

I don’t wear makeup often, but I can tell you this—putting it on would be much easier if it hadn’t been purchased in 1999.

Today the last milimeter of my favorite eyeliner broke off of the plastic pencil. I thought about trying to use the nub that remained, but I was afraid I’d walk out of the house looking like I’d been socked in the eye. I settled on using my second favorite.

My mascara is dry and caked-up on the applicator. I have to lick my fingers and yank the black clumps out of my eyelashes after I put it on. My eyeshadows are worn down to tiny flecks and dust particles. But the kicker is this—maybe two years ago, one of my children took it upon themselves to give my eyeshadow brush a haircut and I’ve been using it this way—stubby and scratchy—ever since.

As I sat there this morning, looking at my tattered little makeup bag, I found myself thinking about why I don’t have nicer and newer makeup. What prevents me from taking care of myself in this way?

I’m not suggesting we all run to the store and start spending lavish amounts of money on ourselves. I don’t look at self-care as self-indulgence or being excessive. I see it more as paying attention to ourselves and how we care for ourselves as a whole person.

Maybe my crummy old makeup didn’t really bother me because I don’t wear it often. Or maybe, and I think this is the more honest reason, it did bother me but I just dismissed it because it was easier to overlook than actually take the time to buy a new one.

Choosing to take care of ourselves in little and big ways requires time, energy and the conviction that we are worth the investment.

If self-care were my baby, I’d swaddle her newborn-self into a soft hand-knit blanket. Wrapping her snug and secure. I’d cradle her in my arms and gently sway her from side to side while whispering promises of care and unconditional love into the soft folds of her elfin-ear. I’d be reluctant to put her down at night and I’d sleep with her beside me. Close to my heart so she could feel its beating. A rhythmic reminder that I am here. I will always care for her.

I’d listen for her stirrings and needs. Watching to see when she was hungry. Anticipating her cries and cues before the crescendo. I’d pay attention to my newborn. I’d bathe her. I’d diaper her. I’d bring her out into the world to celebrate her arrival—this being who is completely reliant upon others for her well-being.

Without an attentive adult to care for her, she will not thrive. With blatant neglect she could die. Self-care needs nurturing throughout a lifetime. I would continue to care for self-care in new ways as our relationship evolved and each of us changed.

I am her mother and she needs me forever no matter how old we each become. She will need me to see her and celebrate her always. I need this too.

Self-care shows up in so many ways, knocking on our door. The more I foster my relationship with her, the more I marvel at how frequently I ignore her. I’m really starting to wonder how easy it is to neglect her.

If I look at self-care in the context of how I look at caring for other people, my relationship with self-care has to shift.

Essentially this means taking care of myself on several layers. Feeling when I’m hungry and taking the time to eat a real meal. Seeking companionship and asking for help when I need it. Taking time alone when I need that too. Resting when I’m tired. Being still if I need to settle myself and moving my body when I need to move. There are so many ways to tend to ourselves if we truly pay attention.

Being in a relationship with self-care looks like attentive listening. Paying attention to her means responding even when we are weary and tired—as we do with the newborn—waking for the 100th time in the night to tend to her. Wearily calling out in a soft murmur, “What do you need? How can I help? I hear you. I am here.”

Our wise inner voices have so much to say; we must take time to shush all of the babble that runs in the background.

It’s paramount that we continually ask ourselves, “What do I need?” “What do I want?” Telling ourselves, “I am here.” We then need to commit to following through and actually stepping-up and being there for ourselves.

With attention and care babies thrive. With thoughtful nurturing, relationships flourish and people live more authentic lives.

The most important relationship—the one we need to tend to the most—is the one we have with ourselves.


Author: Jessica Malionek

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Susana Fernandez/Flickr

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