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self-care ≠ self-love

Hey y’all!

Ya got Rachel back again with the skinny on something we could all use more of: love. Not just any kind of love though, we’re speaking on self-love.

It’s not often we get to speak deeply about what self-love really looks like. In a society and time where so much emphasis is put on the individual–individual success and expression–ya might think we would be encouraged to talk about it more! I can remember when Tracy first launched Middle Waters, asking me to join her in her Rooted in Self Love training. I responded with an abrupt… “but I already DO love myself!” This was, and is, a truth. But I didn’t mention how hard it could sometimes be to do so.

When I think about what self-love really means for me–how it shows up in my life–it is sustaining myself to persistently interrupt and disrupt self-judgment. Last week, I introduced myself by talking about ways I’ve learned to decolonize my sense of self (hint: we can’t love ourselves until we know ourselves). That socialization into binary thinking later in life became my internal critic, the soundbite “I’m not _____ enough,” a big brick wall to being full. FULL UP in love, respect, admiration, joy, commitment, grace…for myself.

In letting go of either/or, right versus wrong, dichotomous thinking, I was able to see a more complex and full version of me. A version of me I wanted to sit with and get to know. The version of me that allowed me to restart unfinished projects or rebuild damaged relationships without fear. A version that was dreaming again…

Last week, I alluded to a long journey out of that head space (and perhaps into a heart space), but if I’m keeping it completely 100 with y’all, I’ve only just begun. This thing is an ongoing journey.

(Please feel free to take a Glenn Jones R&B love moment for yourself right chea!)

In carrying on, a lesson I’ve learned is to recognize when I may be–SHAMING and BLAMING–myself rather than–RESPECTING and AFFIRMING–myself for a whole multitude of things. The biggest culprit? How I choose to spend my time. I’ll be the first to admit that I ‘should’ on myself. all. the. time. Did I spend enough time with that person? I should carve out more time for that. I didn’t meet that deadline, I should’ve canceled that other event. When I could say–I’m glad I decided to rest, my body needed that. The time I spent with that person was joyful. Is this deadline flexible? I want to spend time reading, playing, eating…

In itself, this process of recognizing self-judgment affirms to me my own accountability in remaining in self-love. And accountability–to myself, my thriving, my passions–feels like true love.

Okay, okay, Rachel. But what does all this have to do with your proposed equation?

self-care ≠ self-love

Let me demonstrate. About five years ago, my husband became interested in finding ways to deepen his connection with the natural world and reduce harm to the environment. After some exploration of his own values and cultural history, he decided that a high-impact area to express this in his daily life was his relationship with food. Over the course of a couple of years, he developed a primarily plant-based diet which became a norm in our household. There are still certain occasions, though, where he chooses to eat meat. In this way, he doesn’t identify strictly as a vegetarian (although this is a word which makes his choices easier for others to understand).

The selection of when and why and how to eat meat seems quite simple, but, I know, is complex and requires deep self-knowledge. His choice is an honoring of perhaps other values important to him, like sharing tradition when celebrating a holiday with our family.

The point is this: both choices, though seemingly at odds, are a deep relationship to his values.

Care is an important expression of love, but it can’t precede it. In knowing and accepting + loving ourselves, we create the dimension where care can exist. Without it, our self-care actions run the risk of upholding colonized beliefs about ourselves.

The concept of self-care has taken on new meaning in our highly Westernized society. Sometimes it is marketed as a way to optimize your life without the stress! (Sometimes it actually does this). Or it could be a new health-conscious product. (Read turmeric, which really, since when is turmeric new?) Or maybe it's “carving out time” for an activity that science says will boost your mood and release those good endorphins.

These activities aren’t bad–we’re walking away from that dichotomy anyway–they just might not serve the true you. They might make you should on yourself. "Oh, I should've gone for my run instead of sleeping longer today." What will deeply serve you is being with yourself, truly, and acting based on what you find there. For example, you might find that the highly individualistic nature of some self-care practices don't feel right. Time away from whatever is causing you stress might only be meaningful if you share it with a community you care for, and that's great!

Self-care is the manifestation of self-love; first knowing and accepting, then acting.

There are some great resources like this and this if you are interested in further exploration of decolonizing self-care. Drop me a comment below & let us know how you show up in honor of yourself! And check back next week-the conversation continues!

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