Internet Inspiration – May 31, 2013
May 31, 2013
On Superpowers
June 5, 2013

Caring for Yourself is Not a Zero-Sum Game


I… don’t quite know why I thought of this today. But it’s true. And it came into my brain, so maybe it needs to be said:

Your relationship with yourself is possibly the most important relationship you will ever cultivate. Insist on yourself.

You deserve to be well cared for, you deserved to be happy and fulfilled in your life. And there are so many ways this can manifest, all you have to do is pick the ways that work for you. All the solutions people come up with are true. If they resonate as true for you, let them in. If they don’t, trust that it’s still the truth, just for another person.

But I think people put others ahead of themselves because that’s the “right” thing to do. And maybe because they experience their energy and attention and needs as finite. If you take an hour to have a massage, that’s one hour that you’re not providing care for your kids or spouse or career. “If I win,” you think, “you lose.” And I think on a conscious level that’s true; you only have so many hours in the day, and so many things you can focus on at once.

Many people may also worry that their depth of desire for self-care is actually a bottomless pit, that if you start giving in to what you need, you’ll never stop, and you’ll descend into a spiral of gluttony, greed, and sloth. And you won’t care for anything or anyone else, and they will have to fend for themselves but of course they can’t fend for themselves as well as you can fend for them, and very quickly the entire Earth will fall directly into the Sun, all because you decided to sleep an extra hour today.

But maybe that’s not true. Maybe you have infinite energy and focus. Maybe you have infinite influence. Maybe you can focus on one thing and other things will continue functioning. Like if you cut yourself, and you wash off the cut and put on some Neosporin, and then you just leave it alone. Did you heal yourself? Or did you set up the conditions so that your body could just do its own thing?

Are you familiar with the theory of wave-particle duality? It’s one of my favorite things I ever learned. It posits that if you observe a particle, meaning focus on it, it appears as a particle, a dot in space. But when you take your eyes away, that particle can literally be in an infinite number of places at once, and appears as a continuous, infinite wave. Can you imagine? We see a particle when we look, but when our back is turned, that particle is nothing but a wave of possibility.

Think of self-care as a starting point for that wave of possibility. You know what you’re doing in the moment you’re caring for yourself, but once it’s finished, let it go, and let it radiate out. It may impact more areas of your life than you expect.

I’ll leave you with a quotation I love, and a blog post that expands on this topic:

We tend to view mental well-being on an individual level, believing that stress only affects us because of our individual situations and capabilities. However, when we acknowledge that these immense pressures come from outside sources and affect us collectively, the idea of self-care becomes something that we feel safe asking for.

Self-care means taking a bit of time or energy to tell yourself that what you feel is valid, that you deserve the good in your life, and that right now, you are enough. Lorde’s reference to “political warfare” is a nod to the idea that rejecting self-care in the name of money, progress, success, or getting ahead is not a problem that only plagues individuals. This problem is encouraged by society—by where we place our values, how we talk about success, and how we shame those who don’t measure up. Stress is experienced by individuals, but the pressure to feel stress—just to prove that you are working “hard enough”—comes from a collective worldview that often rejects self-care and calls it selfishness.