A couple of weeks ago I participated in a big conference for creative female business owners. The invitation to speak at the event’s Saturday night Gala was one of the main reasons why I cut my Asian trip short and came back to Poland two and a half months early. Today I’d like to share something that happened on Sunday, the event’s Women Circles and Self-care Manifesto day.
The idea of self-care is so important that it became the theme of our morning women’s circle. Girls holding the circles asked us a couple of questions: “What does self-care mean to you?”, “What do you do to take care of yourself on a daily basis?” and “If self-care were your priority in life, what would you be doing more of?”. I was so surprised by the things I learnt from this exercise that they’re still somewhere at the back of my head; so fascinated with what came up that I’d like to share some of it with you right now.
Before I start, what comes to mind first when you hear about self-care?
It seems to me that the so-called beauty industry has captured this concept so skilfully that for a lot of people, self-care will immediately bring to mind such things as expensive cosmetics, massages, visits to the hair stylist’s or a beautician’s, getting your mani-pedi done or having a toned, waxed body. To me, a woman who takkes care of herself was always immediately linked with a woman who takes care of her appearance: she was elegant and graceful, had impeccable hair and make up, and wore tasteful jewelry. In short, she was everything I’ve never associated myself with.
What’s interesting, however, is that when I was asked about my definition of self-care, what poured out of me went in a completely different direction. These are my answers, in the order of appearance:
Giving myself time
Being in nature
Laughter, dance, music
Not using harmful substances
(in cosmetics, food, stimulants)
Nursing my relationships
Listening to my heart
Honesty with myself and others
Courage to be with what is
Not holding grudges
Creating for creation’s sake
Taking care of others
Inner permission for the presence of my desires
Lack of self-judgement
Protecting the environment
Letting go of inner pressures and imagined obligations
The above-compiled list of self-care astonished even me!
Even more so, because when asked the second question (“How do you take care of yourself?”) I blanked out for a while, not knowing what to add. After all, hadn’t I just named all of those things? After a moment of consideration, I also wrote down things I enjoyed, like massages, sauna, following my dreams, reading books or eating my mom’s tomato soup, but it turned out there wasn’t much for me to add. It was an incredible discovery that showed me two things: 1. how different my definition of self-care was to what I’d imagined it would be; and 2. according to it, I’m actually a very deeply self-cared for woman.
It was a total revelation, because the past two years of my life are coloured with rather dark and murky emotional hues of sadness, pain, suffering, confusion, loneliness, anger, irritation, the lack of hope and direction. And yet, when looked at closely, those emotions were able to leave my system only because I had: slowed down and given myself the time and permission needed to experience that which was present in me (though at times I’d be frustrated with how long it was taking); instead of doing and working, I was spending time at my parents’ summer house, wandering the nearby meadows in search of flowers for my garlands; I made sure to eat well and work on repairing my strained relationships; I searched for the courage to look at the less pleasant and enjoyable parts of my personality and talk about them out loud, as well as apologise to those I’d hurt; I painted ‘not knowing’ how to paint, I wrote without publishing, I read unambitious books; I volunteered for projects that were important to me and used every opportunity I could to visit the Białowieża Forest1; I kept on reminding myself to simply breathe and not stress out.
Those two questions helped me realise that allowing myself to completely fall apart, loose my old self in the thickets of painful experiences and emotions, not work or engage my energy in anything apart from the things that were bringing me relief and comfort, was an incredible expression of self-love and self-care. Wow.
Similarly, it was self-love and self-care that pushed me to make the very difficult decision of leaving my boyfriend behind in Sri Lanka, saying goodbye to rice fields and, with close to no notice, coming back to Poland. To the winter I was missing, to the snow I was dreaming about, to doing the work I craved. To meeting women I knew and had yet to meet, to marching with the Civil March For Aleppo (that I co-organise), to being with friends and family.
Just like after coming back to Poland, it was self-care that empowered me to make another uneasy decision, this time not to join the Civil March For Aleppo long-term. Instead, I chose to stay in Poland and work on my personal projects, as well as look after my body, sorely forgotten during the past month of craziness.
The third question, “If self-care were your priority in life, what would you be doing more of?” brought another surprise: I’d go into therapy. Something that’s been on my mind for a while now – and something that’s still considered an uncomfortable, unwanted and disgraceful thing – turned out to be one of the most highly anticipated and desired ways of my self-caring for 2017.
Another thing that came up, and that took me off guard just as much as all the previous ones, was this: I want and need more glitter in my life! I felt it the moment I laid my eyes upon a small notebook we were handed out in the beginning of the circle, in all its gold and shimmery glory. This concept got me so emotional I actually got teary-eyed… More glitter, as in more ease, more dance, more surrounding myself with beauty, more fun with the way I look, more fun in general.
Leisure, ease and fun that have been absent in my life, as I was coming to terms with my newly-discovered understanding of the world and my place in it. Attitudes and experiences thoroughly missed at a time when I was carrying all the troubles of the world on my shoulders, bending under the weight and urgency of problems we’re facing and will be faced with in the future.
My main takeaways from that Sunday morning women’s circle:
to further my self-care in 2017, I’ll go into therapy and sprinkle my life with glitter.
What about you?
What does self-care mean to you?
What do you do to take care of yourself on a daily basis?
If self-care were your priority in life, what would you be doing more of?
- Europe’s most ancient forest, under constant attack and violation at the hands of the Polish Ministry of Environment. ↩