I talk to people a lot about self-care. I ask people at parties what’s inspiring them about their work. I ask my friends how they’re taking care of themselves. I want to know how you’re looking after yourself. I want to know what the barriers are to looking after yourself.
I want to know how I can help.
I’m listening. I’m absorbing what I hear. From you, from the people in my life. From these conversations that go beyond, “How are you?” and “What do you do?”
I’m sure this is true for every industry or area of work, but I hear the same refrains over and over when it comes to self-care. It never ceases to amaze me how similar we are to one another. We all struggle, and it’s often for the same reasons.
I hear something like:
“Oh yeah, I’m planning on taking a self-care day when this is over.”
“I don’t really do self-care. I’m so busy.”
“Yeah, I’m totally into self-care. I’m taking myself on vacation in a couple of months.”
Hearing this breaks my heart into pieces.
Because, as the lady in the infomercial always said: “There’s gotta be a better way!”
When I say that I get it, I hope you believe me, because I have been in the trenches. Trying to make work happen. Getting that project off the ground, up against insurmountable odds. Bringing a new vision for the world into the world.
That it’s tough is why we need self-care. “Tough” is not the reason why we can’t make self-care happen.
In the middle of the tough stuff is the place where it is both scariest and most crucial that we love ourselves fiercely.
It’s not once the tough stuff is over. It’s not once we’ve earned something. It’s right here and now. It’s through the tough moments, the struggle, the heartbreak.
It’s important that we don’t just grin and bear it only to treat ourselves with love and respect later. It’s important that in our most trying moments, we offer ourselves just a glimmer of that love and respect.
I’m not talking about bubble baths or chocolates (although I’m in no position to tell you not to eat chocolate when shit gets real). I’m talking about one vulnerable moment at a time where we say to ourselves: “I see you. I see how hard things are right now. And you’re not done. But I love and respect you.”
Even when we think we haven’t earned it.
There is nothing to earn: true self-care is unconditional.
Self-care must be unconditional. We don’t need to meet any sort of requirements in order to be completely deserving. We can just be.
We can meet zero of society’s expectations for us, and still, we are worthy of that love.
And those words I described up there? That gift of love and self-respect in the moment?
That’s what lovingkindness meditation is all about.
It’s not flowery. It’s simply offering, an unconditional wish for ourselves to be well, to be free, to be filled with a sense of our own preciousness. It can be done in this moment here, and in the next, and in the one after that.
We can meet ourselves, exactly as we are, over and over again, with kindness, with wishes for wellbeing.