It sounds so simple, right? So obvious.
Of course! You feel really run-down, tired and overwhelmed….so you’re told to take time to look after your own needs. You maybe attend a class, run a bath, make a healthy dinner, meditate.
And, in fact, I’ve been a huge advocate of self-care in my time. A lot of the work I do can only take place when someone realises that they need to take care of themselves!
The Problem with Self-Care
But there’s a crucial piece of the puzzle we’re missing here and I think it’s the reason so many people are a little uneasy with or even resistant to the idea of self-care.
Self-care is just that – all about you looking after you. Individual people in their individual homes, looking after their own individual needs.
It seems to suspiciously feed into the status quo.
By placing all the responsibility on each of us to take care of ourselves, the bigger reasons we’re feeling so tired and overwhelmed can continue to tick along nicely. Unquestioned.
Nobody has to down tools and help us.
Nothing has to change – in our homes or wider society. We just need to add one more thing to our to-do list.
And for those of us who who are already overwhelmed by multiple demands on our energy, we really don’t need to be told that on top of everything else, we are also fully responsible for our own nurturing!
Your Real Need
Because what most of us need is to be cared for by another human (preferably more than one!). To feel seen, heard and understood. To know that someone has our back and will be there to hold us up when we can no longer keep doing it for ourselves. To feel connected to our communities and know that we matter and belong.
Part of my healing from illness and life’s traumas has been allowing other people to take care of me. Of letting go of the need to prove I can do everything by myself (because why on earth should I have to?) and allowing myself to be minded. To be comforted when I needed it and shown I was loved.
It isn’t easy to do. Because one of our society’s great myths is that we should be able to cope all by ourselves. That any struggle is a personal failing and we really need to pull ourselves together.
No Lone Rangers
But we are not meant to be lone rangers. We are all deeply interconnected. Your happiness equals my happiness. I cannot be truly healed in isolation. The health of our families, communities and society affects us…and vice versa.
What if going to a yoga class is great…but it would be so much nicer if we could really get to know the others there? Who are they? Can we support each other?
What if baby and toddler groups are a great way of getting out of the house when you’re a mother…but if you never get to talk honestly about your true experiences, then you feel just as alone as when you arrived?
Green smoothies might be nutritious…but maybe the nourishment we really need is to be allowed rest and time out.
Self-care is important, yes. But what if community care is our real, deep need?
It’s the thing we are most deprived of. Any yet, the key to our health and happiness.
P.S. If you’re a mother, or know one, I’m holding my next gorgeous ‘Gather‘ event for mums. They’re a way to connect face-to-face with other like-minded mothers in your community and to receive the rest, support and honest conversation so many of us are craving. Let’s rebuild our village 🙂
Gather – for Mothers: Sunday 20th May, Union Cafe, Mount Merrion, County Dublin
More reading on the incredible links between health and community:
‘The Mystery of the Rosetan People’ – Huff Post