By Mary Cucarola – 7/15/21

“Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.” ~Katie Reed

You can’t fix another person. You can advocate for them, but you can’t save them. Sometimes they make it and sometimes they don’t. They may end up in recovery, active addiction, rehab, jail, on the streets, or succumb to their disease. But what you can do is participate in your own healing and self-care.

Self-care sets an example for your loved ones and transforms your life for the better, no matter your circumstances. You can advocate for your loved ones AND for yourself, both. Yes, it’s possible!

The choice you make either honors self-care or leaves you burdened and deprived. It’s really that simple! The challenge is a call to your awareness of how, why, and where you feel burdened and deprived, and how to make a new choice.

I wish I would have understood the choice was there for me while I was going through the worst part of Cody’s addiction. I was so focused on him that I did the opposite of what I should have done. I isolated and fell into a pattern of self-neglect. I immersed myself in his needs instead of mine. I reverted back to old coping patterns like enabling, hiding the truth, and being the good mom who took on all of the responsibility and blame. It wasn’t healthy for him or for me.

What is self-care?

It is a way to care for yourself deliberately, to live authentically, be able to advocate on your behalf, and improve your life. It involves caring for your own emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health in a way that is aligned with who you are and what you most need. It is an evolutionary process, more art as opposed to science.

It is about refreshing and renewing your mind, body, and spirit. It should be called soul care instead self-care.

What isn’t self-care?

It isn’t selfish or indulgent, arrogant or entitled, sinful or bad, or vain. You don’t have to feel burdened and deprived all of the time by falling into a pattern of self-neglect and immersing yourself in the needs of others. This is what causes old coping patterns to emerge, like being a victim or enabler or martyr.

It isn’t about all about manicures and massages, either, although those are good for you, too.

I have always had a tendency to over give and neglect my own needs. Over giving is often a sign of deprivation – a signal that a need is not being met. It can be an unconscious desire to be acknowledged, recognized, needed or gain approval. My over giving usually involved (still does at times) people pleasing behaviors. I don’t how many times I’ve said to myself:

I never have time to do what I want to do”.

But what I am really saying is:

“I don’t take time for my own needs.”

Or I might say:

I always end up doing everything myself.”

But what I am really saying is:

“I don’t ask for help.”

Most over giving and people pleasing behavior is about not wanting to disappoint others.

Disappointing others is an uncomfortable thing to do. You don’t want to feel guilty or want conflict or just don’t have the words to let someone down. Most codependents want people to like them and feel bad and uncomfortable if they don’t. When you have a desire to keep the peace at all costs, it keeps you from telling the truth and results in you not being authentic.

You must learn to manage the anxiety when other people are disappointed, angry, or hurt. It is better to be honest how you feel and tell the truth directly. Don’t overexplain, defend, or invite a debate. The fewer the words the better.

Don’t be surprised if someone close to you tries to reel you back in tempting you with guilt, especially when you set and stick to boundaries, but don’t try manage their emotions. You can’t control how someone is going to feel or react. You have a voice, use it.

Disappointing others is okay once in a while.

Self-care is a willingness to sit with uncomfortable feelings like guilt for putting your own needs first, fear of being judged or criticized by others, and anxiety from challenging long-held beliefs and behaviors.

You lose sight of things that truly make you happy when you are constantly worried, anxious, fearful, and in control mode. Dreams and aspirations get lost over the years due to focusing on everyone else except your own needs. Practicing self-care will afford you the time and energy to devote to the things you feel passionate about and gives you permission to find joy in your life.

You may want to find a role model to help improve your self-care. Consider a friend or family member who you believe values themselves. Hang out with them or ask them to discuss with you their path toward self-love and self-care. From that conversation, you may be able to find insight for your process of building self-care into your life. I did this with a really good friend of mine, and it helped me realize it was okay to focus on my needs.

When ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, you miss the only real experience you can have, one that is happening right here in the moment. It is in the present where you find richness and meaning in life. If necessary, put limits on toxic people and set boundaries.

Make room for healthy habits. Listen to your body. Be mindful. 

You are only able to connect to a spiritual force in your life when you stay present and are in acceptance of the difficult moments, as well as the joyful experiences. It is part of being able to give the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.

I call it soul care.

Mary Cucarola – 7/15/21

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