There’s been a major cultural shift in the last few years; have you recognized it? It’s the “self care” movement that has branched from and over-shadowed the “self help” movement of the 1990s and 2000s.
While the latter encouraged personal growth through direct action and work, its successor is about taking care of oneself through doing less, taking personal time, focusing inward. I’m personally having a hard time getting on board with this philosophy; it’s contrary to my approach of most aspects of my life and maybe some of you might be like this, too.
Approached from a perspective of logic, self care makes sense.
I’m an avid runner, weight lifter, and tennis player. I’ve been a certified fitness instructor and I coach a home school cross country team. I KNOW the importance of stretching and rest days (and yes, even massages and pedicures- running wreaks havoc on one’s soles!), and I always encourage others to take these actions.
But I am terrible at doing so myself. These actions are the “self care” of fitness adherents, and even though I know they’ll benefit my overall fitness and protect me from injury, I delay and dismiss them. I’m ok with punishing my body, but easily push aside protecting it, often dismissing it as a form of pampering.
And it’s not just with the physical me that I allow this attitude to dominate.
I also tend to be hard on myself psychologically. It’s that awful deadly sin, the most deadly sin, of pride that reigns supreme once again. Self care is a good thing meant for others who deserve recuperation from serving and caring for others; not me who struggles to control feelings of resentment over intrusions, schedule changes, and requests for more of my time.
Enter the Holy Spirit.
As I sat in Mass in a parish in Dayton, Ohio while visiting my son over family weekend at his university, the priest said something enlightening in his homily. Now, I can’t even remember exactly what it was that he said, but the Holy Spirit treated it as a prompt and whispered in my ear, “Love your neighbor as yourself…as you love yourself, so should you love your neighbor.”
“But,” I realized, “I don’t love myself. Not really.”
I’m actually filled with quite a bit of self loathing. I’ve always chalked it up to the curse of being a Type A perfectionist- I am more aware of my short-comings and failings than of any achievements of successes. I just can’t see what’s to love.
But to do as I am called to do- to first love God with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my strength, AND to love my neighbor as myself, I am going to have to learn to love myself. I am going to have to learn to care about myself, care for myself, and in fact, do some “self-care”.
Now, as much as I’m tempted to turn this bit of enlightenment into a holy push toward the spa for a me-day, the self-care I (and those of you who may be like me!) need to pursue is of a spiritual nature. The daily dedicated time to prayer that I’ve been promising to put in my schedule but have ignored doing so, is my first step. I’ll start small (10-15 minutes) and work on building up to an hour.
Time alone with our Lord in adoration is my second step. Again, I’ll start small with an hour a month, and work toward making it a weekly event.
The third step for me will be to commit to monthly Confession, with my family in tow, working up to weekly visits. Too often, I stumble upon a need to make life changes and I set the bar too high trying to accomplish too much all at once. I don’t want that to happen yet again, because I can’t help but think that if I’m able to love myself, it will allow me to love those around me exponentially more.
There may just be something to this “self-care” after all, but I think I’m going to call it “soul-care” instead.