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The Difference Between Self-Care and Self-Advocacy

September 26, 2018

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In celebration of my newest manifesto, I wanted to take the time to chat a bit about the difference between self-care and self-advocacy. I haven’t at all given up on the idea of self-care – in fact, to the contrary!

My aim is to elevate self-care: to make it more effective, more dangerous, and more vibrant. But in order to do that, I need to acknowledge the limits of self-care and talk about self-advocacy a bit.

Self-Advocacy isn’t the opposite of self-care; it’s where self-care leaves off.

It is like self-care’s sassy big sister – finishing her sentences and taking risks that self-care wouldn’t take.

Sound fun?

Let’s dive in and chat about the key differences between self-care and self-advocacy.

What it looks like

Self-Care: Occasionally treating yourself to things, foods, or activities that feel good — especially after completing a big project.

Self-Advocacy: Intentionally and regularly curating your life to incorporate practices that make you feel whole and empowered.

What it sounds like

Self-Care: “I care.”

Self-Advocacy: “May that caring create change, healing and well-being.”

What it feels like

Self-Care: A much needed break — a salve to put on top of what feels painful in daily life.

Self-Advocacy: A full well of resources that come from within that allows you to meet whatever comes.

What it is

Self-Care: Compassionate presence with yourself in any moment.

Self-Advocacy: Embodied, devoted advocacy for your own freedom and well-being.

What it does

Self-Care: Offers us the healing and recovery we need, so we can dive back into what matters.

Self-Advocacy: Creates a way of living that feels internally aligned, so we can stay present with what matters.

Problem vs. Solution

We know we need self-care. The problem is how to make it happen.

Self-Advocacy gives us the tools to take the same fierce action for ourselves that we do for others, so we can live lives that feel sacred.



The Art of Self-Advocacy

February 21, 2018

Self-care can have its limits. What's beyond self-care? The art of self-advocacy and being our own best allies. Read the article and get a free self-care worksheet! >> www.christytending.com

I get all my best ideas in the shower. The other morning, standing under the hot water, lingering in the steam, I started thinking about self-care (as I do).

I thought about the courage it takes to love ourselves enough to take good care of ourselves. In a world that often tries to teach us that we are disposable, caring for ourselves can seem radical.

Every act of self-care is a declaration that we are worthy and deserving and enough. Every act of self-care is an act of fierce compassion.

And yet, self-care has its limits.

I know this because I’ve been bumping up against these limits lately.

On the outside, I’m doing all the things I “should.” I eat healthy food that makes my body feel good. I have a movement practice and get time outdoors each day. And I spend time with my animals. I go to writing class. Each day, I take a long, very hot shower. Every few weeks, I get a massage.

I’m checking all the boxes.

And yet…

Something has still felt a bit off.

Because (and this is today’s big shiny lesson):

External practices cannot address what is internally misaligned.

Put another way? Sometimes, the only way to change your life is to change your life.

What I know after working with hundreds of students (and being on this journey for ages myself) is that sometimes we have to get scrappy. We have to become our own best advocates. While self-care and self-compassion are remarkably powerful, self-advocacy – the act of speaking the truth of our lives and our needs – is the scary, but really juicy stuff.

And as this phrase popped into my head, standing under the shower the other morning, I knew. This is the what’s next in my life and in my work.

Self-advocacy doesn’t necessarily look like self-care. It isn’t something you’d necessarily put on Instagram. Because while self-care is beautiful, and that seed of care is necessary, it’s just the beginning.

The art of self-advocacy means boldly declaring what we need in order to feel whole and well and like ourselves.

It means putting on our grown-up pants and doing what is necessary on our own behalf: like having those uncomfortable (yet honest) conversations, stating clear boundaries, and no longer tolerating what is not healthy for us. This isn’t something many of us are taught.

It can feel frightening to say, “This isn’t working.” Or, “I’m not okay.” To say that out loud can feel like a major leap. I know it can feel scary to declare what we truly need, define what is personally sacred, and not settle for what looks good from the outside.

It feels like drawing a line in the sand. Once we do that, there’s no going back.

But when we get to that line – when we stand on that precipice…

The only thing we can do is venture out into the wilderness of our hearts.

We boldly step off the beaten path in search of a life that feels sacred: not as a veneer, but at its core.

And that uncertain terrain? That’s where things get really interesting.

My word for 2018: Golden

November 20, 2017

My word for 2018- Golden. Self-care tips and self-care practices for the new year. Plus sign up for the free self-care mini-course here! >> www.christytending.com

Past words of the year:

2015: Sacred Focus
2016: Fly
2017: Trust

When I sat down to choose a word for 2017, it was about what I knew I needed. No matter what, I knew that 2017 was going to bring a lot of changes. I wanted to be ready, and to have a word that would be an ally in that journey.

For 2017, I chose Trust.

At the time, I wrote:

When this word popped into my head, it was out of necessity. It was out of a deep craving for something solid and true and steadfast.

That sounds about right.

I wrote about trusting myself, trusting my wisdom and knowing (which evolved into my course on intuition), trusting the process, and becoming trustworthy. I wrote:

For me, trust is the choice to step into an experience of my own power.

And, honestly, Trust has been perfect. I have had to make some decisions that scared me. I have had to release things that I’d been holding onto tightly. Perhaps most notably, I became a parent.

(This has been both the greatest act and most profound process of learning to trust ever.)

Trust has served me well.

For 2018, I have something different in mind. It’s no longer about what I need, but about what I deeply crave. What I want is to stand in the light of what I’ve created. I want soft warmth, with glittering strands of magic woven through each day. I’ve spent the last few years in full-tilt hustle, in many ways. It’s been sacred and focused, but now I’m ready to bask in the goodness I’ve created.

I’m a little afraid to admit it, but I’m also ready for abundance in ways I haven’t experienced before.

What sums all of this up?

My word for 2018 is Golden.

It’s the quality of light before dusk, when everything is bathed in that soft glow. It’s the quiet of sitting in my glider with my sleeping kiddo in my lap, knowing that it’s the only place I have to be. It is sacred abundance; thoughtful, elegant simplicity; and wise, grounded brilliance.

I find the experience of Golden:

…sitting in silent meditation

…on luxuriously long walks on appointment-free afternoons

…when I open my closet and love the clothes in which I’m getting dressed (and don’t see the clutter of things that don’t fit/suit me, for whatever reason)

…in the act of holding space as a mentor, teacher, and healer and when I dare to own my expertise

…using all of the sacred tools I have at my disposal: tarot cards, stones, animal allies, plants, yoga asana and philosophy, poetry, meditation photography, and writing.

…when I show up with respect and devotion for whatever practice I’m in at the moment.

…doing one thing well at a time.

It feels like slow, light-drenched, devoted, and abundant.

It smells like butter and vanilla and lavender. Maybe it sounds like traditional Appalachian folk songs or 70’s funk (both mainstays of my current favorite Spotify playlist I’ve made). Its colors are gold (obviously), but also mink-grey, burnt umber, turquoise, and that plum-color of dusk. It feels like softness in all forms (but maybe especially cashmere?) and sunshine on my skin and sliding into a hot epsom salt bath. It tastes like turmeric tea and berry sauce.

How I’m taking action to bring more Golden to my life in 2018:

  • Asking for and receiving help. Some of my favorite help is childcare, supportive partnership, friendship, food, a sounding board, thoughtful feedback, and regular massages.
  • Bringing myself back to devotional practice. Right now, that’s my weekly writing class, meditation practice, my climate justice collective, and the work you see here.
  • Taking work-free family days, to tend to my home and spend time with my loves, without the sensation that there’s anything work related I’m “supposed” to be doing on those days.
  • Bringing older pieces of work into new, evolved forms. Making the experience of studying with me more luxurious, lush, and sacred-feeling. Putting more pauses into the work, so that my students can truly savor each bit.

What this means for you:

I’ll only be running Sacred Focus once in 2018. I’ll be closing Hella Metta on December 15th, and only opening it for registration twice next year. Your Magical Intuition will be coming back in late spring. I’m working on a brand-new, year-long program to debut in the second half of next year. (Stay tuned for that!)


I’m excited for all of the potential here for all the Golden has to offer. I’m ready for the rest, softness, brilliance, and fullness it has to offer. Mostly, I’m ready to stand in the light.

Want to join me? The best place to start is with my free self-care course, The Tiny Little Self-Care Class. Grab your seat!

My word for 2017: Trust

December 21, 2016

I love choosing a word for the year.

Last year, I wrote about the word Fly as my word of the year. Since then, I’ve taken it to heart. Taking flight. Feathering my nest. Allowing myself to soar: to create, to take on new leadership roles, and to step into the unknown.

This year, I’ve chosen a new word. It’s one that meets my heart where it is now, and creates space for what I wish for the year to come.

This year, I choose Trust.

Allowing myself to trust – and more about my word for the year. Click here for free self-care resources! >> www.christytending.com

When this word popped into my head, it was out of necessity. It was out of a deep craving for something solid and true and steadfast. Here’s how I’m calling trust into my life this upcoming year:

To trust in myself:

In this coming year, I choose to trust myself. I place an active faith in myself and my ability to step into all of the roles I’ll inhabit. In 2017, I’ll be taking on some grand new challenges. My trust is not that everything will go smoothly, or that I will be perfect.

Instead, I trust myself to keep my word, stay compassionate, and do my best. That’s all any of us can do really. I choose to remember that I, myself, am a safe space and a good ally in my own healing and life.

To trust my wisdom and knowing:

After nearly 15 years of practicing yoga and meditation, and after devoting myself to self-care now for 10 years, I have some wisdom. I am a wise caretaker for my own body and being. In the coming year, I commit to believing myself and in that wisdom.

My boundaries are sacred, because I know myself well enough to set skillful ones. My needs are not selfish, but the wise and incredibly human longing for connection and healing. None of this is arbitrary. It comes from my hard-won experience and the sincere wisdom of being my own best expert.

To be trustworthy:

Much of what I’ve said so far relates to how I will choose to trust.

But a big piece of this commitment is that I want to be trustworthy in return.

I choose to speak kindly. My word will be my bond. I will show up in a spirit of service and generosity. More than anything, I want to be someone on whom others can rely. I want to provide a safe space, through my presence, for the beings in my life.

This year, I will be a force for fierce compassion and for trustworthiness.

Browse the free self-care resource garden for workbooks, journals, planners, practice guides and more >> www.christytending.com


To trust the process:

Nothing is ever final. There is no “done,” really.

I choose to trust the ellipsis of life and to be present with that which is unfinished.

Life is a process.

We are all works in progress.

I choose to trust that and be present with that, rather than shrinking from it or trying to cover it over.

To walk into the unknown in courage:

By choosing trust, I step into the flow of life willingly. There is much that is unknown. In these turbulent times, and in my own life. None of us can see around corners. Rather than hiding from it or trying to armor myself against it, I choose it.

I trust that I am safe and loved and held. Courage will be my cloak as I step into this new phase of life, as a healer, as an activist, and as a human.

To experience grace:

None of us is ever alone.

I have a remarkable community and family of beings surrounding me. Sometimes, it can be difficult to surrender and to experience the immensity of that. Being loved requires vulnerability. This year, I choose to allow myself to be loved, held, and supported – to experience grace – with a sense of trust.

This is mercy. It is interconnection. This experience is why we are here.

For me, trust is the choice to step into an experience of my own power.

Browse the free self-care resource garden for workbooks, journals, planners, practice guides and more >> www.christytending.com

My Word for 2016: Fly

January 2, 2016


I love choosing a word for the year. Last year, it was a phrase: Sacred Focus.

For 2016, I was having a hard time choosing. Ease? Light? Courage? Nothing seemed to fully encapsulate what I’m bringing with me into this new year. What I’m shedding. What my intentions are.

But on December 31st, I was sitting on a beach in Mexico with some of my dearest people. For a long time, I watched the pelicans swooping into the ocean, catching fish. I watched the frigatebirds coasting along the currents of the breeze. I watched the terns darting about, playing with one another. I just watched…


And as it happens when I am out in the world and quiet, something struck me. Every bird on that beach was doing exactly what it was born to do. FLY.

What that meant for each bird was different. Sometimes, flying does take courage. Sometimes, flying is as easeful as can be. But it’s what those birds are meant to do. In their very bird essence, they just… fly.

Now, people, before we get carried away, let’s remember:

Those birds absolutely fell on their faces the first time they tried to fly.

“Fly” is not all sparkly grace and fabulous plumage. It takes courage. It’s a practice. One day, it might be just like breathing, but today, it takes our whole hearts to leave that nest. It takes a few tries (or 100 tries) to get it right.

Your flock is here. The view will be worth it. You just have to give it one more shot. One day, those wings will open. They’ll learn what they’re for.

So, what does this have to do with you?

How does it relate to self-care? To what you’ll be seeing here? To what I am hoping to offer you?

“Fly” means a commitment on my part to:

Model ease.

If I am writing to you about self-care, you better believe that’s what I’m doing behind the scenes. I will show you how to make space for grace and ease. That means taking things off our plates. It means speaking kindly to ourselves.

It’s not all flapping my heart out to fly as hard as you can. It’s also finding those updrafts. It’s finding the little currents that will let you coast for a little while. Let it be easeful, if it can’t be easy.

Do what I’m born to do.

I am born to write, heal and create sacred space. Bring more compassion, patience and love into this world. Facilitate transformation, hold grief and joy. Build others up. Leave this world better than I found it. Reveal that it is possible. (Whatever that it is.)

That’s what I have to offer. That’s how I’ll spend 2016. No faking. No fooling.

Be fearless around failure.

The first few times we try to fly, it may look a bit more like falling. But I promise, I will not hold back what I have to say or make myself small because I’m afraid. I promise to claim my voice in order to make space for yours. I will protect my heart fiercely. And, if you grace me with your presence here, I will protect that gift for the sacred vote of trust it is.

But I fierce love means going out on a limb, even if our legs wobble below us. Perfectionism is a waste of time.

The sky is waiting. Let’s fly.

PS: Want more real-life practices to help you hold onto self-care the whole year through? Join my free self-care workshops.

My Word for 2015: Sacred Focus

November 2, 2015


Toward the end of 2014, I was feeling pretty out of sorts. I felt overwhelmed by pretty much everything, but couldn’t stop committing to things. I was awash in online programs, far too many projects and working to process some intense grief. I was an unfulfilled dabbler, a castaway on an island of overcommitment.

In the midst of this phase of doing All the Programs, I found Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word mini-course. Susannah, in case you don’t know her, is a magically gentle soul and a magnificent artist. (I don’t know her personally, but her heart shines through in everything she does.)

So, I did the Word of the Year program, and discovered Sacred Focus as my word (or phrase) of the year. There it was, waiting for me, as though I’d emerged from the forest of confusion into a beautiful clearing.

Sacred. Focus.

This phrase combined the two of the things I was missing most: inspiration and intimacy. Sacred not just about less, but about better. It’s about choosing well, so that we can fulfill each commitment fully, as though it is sacred. It’s about empowered editing. I wanted that sense of both intimacy and inspiration back. I wanted less clutter in my life and schedule. And I wanted to feel alive in my daily life. I realized that the only true way to claim those was to:

Choose less and choose better.

I didn’t just want to be more effective. I didn’t just want to have fewer commitments. I wanted to feel the holiness of my work and life through my choices and in my calendar. I wanted to smile when I saw how I got to spend my time, and I wanted to feel motivated to do those things as well as I possibly could.

Well, gentle reader, if I told you this was a smashing success right off the bat, I would be a total liar. I’ve spent years paring down my life: culling, editing. I’m not a minimalist, yet, but I’ve become more and more selective.

It surprised me to struggle with this so much.

I didn’t realize how much, I, advocate for all things self-care, was still running myself ragged and spreading myself too thin. I was pretty shocked when I found myself with, in fact, even less time than before. Because I had made commitments before my word of the year chose me.

It’s just not what we choose in each moment, it’s what we choose to layer that soon catches up with us.

So, I started backing out slowly. Pulling back on projects, attending fewer meetings, setting aside evenings for little except dinner and knitting. I hit ignore on Facebook invites; I cancelled all of my streaming media accounts; I turned down invitations that didn’t feel like a “hell yes.” I even stopped doing the “nice” things for myself that had started to feel like an obligation: getting my nails done.

With that newfound breathing room, I’ve had the space to figure out what is actually a priority for me.

These can change: they’re sacred, not set in stone. But keeping them in mind makes sure that I’m prioritizing them, rather than the new shiny thing. Right now, I’m focused on my partner and our family*; building my business and my yoga practice; climate justice organizing; making art; and cooking at home. That’s it. Obviously, I do other things. I have other obligations – but when I’m constructing my schedule, those come first. They are what bring me joy and meaning. What I’m grounded in my Sacred Focus, the rest falls away.

No guilt, no shame, no shoulds, no regrets.

When I reflect on what i’ve done in a day, it includes most of what’s in the scope of my Sacred Focus. Not all of it necessarily, but there’s decidedly more of what I want, and less of what I don’t. It’s taken me nearly a year, but I now feel this in my bones: inspiration, and a passion to keep creating; and intimacy, and a deep kinship with myself and my life.

P.S. Flaking Out is not Self-Care and How to Craft a Year of Self-Care

*This includes our partnership, our biological families, our closest friends, and our cats, Dorothy & Harriet.