I don’t think I can scroll through social media for more than two minutes without seeing some sort of post about self care. Sometimes I read things like Be patient with yourself and I roll my eyes, and other times I see You are allowed to eat three donuts and I feel like nobody gets me like that person gets me.

Self care has twenty million posts on Instagram. Twenty million posts to encourage people that they are worthy. Worthy of rest or happiness or love or attention or respect or health. What does it say about our world that so many people need a reminder that they are worthy? What does it say about me that I sometimes need that reminder?

I know that self care is about wellness, and that there are millions of people out there that need real help and a real plan to care for themselves properly. Self care is critically important for them. My experience with the term self care is in a more buzzword kind of way – like a special password that tells me someone is going to spend time in a way that makes them feel good. A pedicure. A round of golf. A bubble bath.

Those are all nice things but it seems like we should be striving to live lives where we don’t get to the point of needing a fix of some sort for a few hours. Self care in that buzzword-scenario seems like filling potholes instead of figuring out how to make better roads. Shouldn’t we practice self care proactively, as a lifestyle, instead of occasionally fitting it in after a build-up of seemingly overwhelming things?

It comes down to three things, I think:

  • shedding Mom guilt
  • balance
  • getting real people in our village

And actually, I think maybe the number one thing we can do to practice self care is in that third bullet – it’s in surrounding ourselves with people who love us enough to be real with us and tell us the truth. If we treat others like we want to be treated, live lives we can be proud of, and live in a balanced, healthy way mentally and physically and spiritually we should not need pothole-type-self care. But because we’re not perfect and we make mistakes and sometimes we stray onto paths that aren’t the best for us, it’s critically important that we have people around us who will not accept our bullshit and who will call us out on our bullshit.

We need balance and truth in our lives in order for self care to really be a way of life.

We tend to hide our dysfunction. Simply, we don’t want to be embarrassed or ashamed. But it’s in our moments and situations of dysfunction that it’s absolutely critical that the people around us be people we have chosen carefully and purposefully – that they be those people who we knew would be able to say to us that’s such BS, or you’re lying to yourself, or you need to take care of yourself, or that’s not right, or you’re hurting yourself/others. And on top of that, dysfunction, if it must be or is revealed, will then seek other dysfunction instead of truth – above all else because it craves approval and it craves cohorts. Dysfunction wants others to say with their words or behavior that what’s happening is OK.

Healthy people – our purposefully chosen village around us who practice actual love – will call out our dysfunction. It’s other dysfunction that tells us our bad path or our poor choices or our hiding is OK. Healthy encourages focus, while dysfunction encourages distraction. Healthy encourages responsibility, while dysfunction encourages avoidance. Healthy encourages help, while dysfunction encourages further isolation.

In my circles right now, self care is mostly a password that allows moms to take a small amount of time “off” from focusing on our children, which is how we spend the vast majority of our time, and instead spend an hour on a pedicure or taking a Sunday afternoon nap. It’s the occasional prescription for a life filled with busy-ness.

My life is filled with busy-ness, and I actually like that the vast majority of the time. Also, it’s necessary right now. This is a period in my life where I’m a working Mom of two children who are at stages where they can get themselves a simple meal but they can’t yet drive. Where they need an engaged Momma to make sure they are on the right path each day, and to make sure that their hormones aren’t an excuse for not practicing kindness, and that they get up and appropriately dressed and out of the house on time, that they don’t blow up the microwave, that they get to appointments and gymnastics and swim and chorus and youth group and play dates and football games.

I also want the girls to look back on their childhoods and remember that their Mom didn’t just have guidelines and rules, but that she played – that she splashed in the ocean even though we all had regular clothes on, that she let them put crazy makeup all over her face, and that she sang Lizzo when the car windows were rolled down.

This is a relatively short period of my overall life and I have to use this time so wisely. I realized this week that in this time the girls need to also see me model balance and self care. They need to learn it as a way of life and they’ll do that in part by watching me. It’s not enough to get pedicures together, which we just all like to do. We have to talk about the importance of down time, we have to take afternoons to rest together, we have to practice gratitude together, we have to help each other choose our village carefully, and we have to talk openly about when we’re overwhelmed. We have to bravely and purposefully be real with others, and bravely and purposefully surround ourselves with people who will be real with us.

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