For a long time, I lived the belief that to create the life I wanted, I needed to work harder. This meant less sleep, long hours, and even “forgetting” to eat so that I could get the job done.
There is a place for rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work that is called for. This is an ability that many people lack and because of it they stay stuck in one area or another in their life. But for me, I’ve overused this ability to my own detriment.
I started out my adult life with a trial by fire – no resources, no direction, and a baby. I was fortunate enough at the time to call on this ability to work hard and not quit. Because of this, I put myself through school and developed my business, along with a number of other accomplishments.
Whether it was true or not, my ability to work hard became linked to my ability to get results. In other words – hard work meant survival. But it goes further than that. There were a number of other beliefs that were strengthened at the same time, including:
Again, there are whole segments of people who would benefit from some deeper understanding of hard work and sacrifice. But above all else at this time, I needed to remember self-care, support, sustainability, and nourishment. Cultivating the psychological and energetic capacity to embody this shift in the way that I show up to life, has been critical in the unlocking of my personal power and stepping into my calling.
I circled through this territory time and time again. But I was so deficient in my understanding, that try as I might, I could not get these things to stick. Until one day, I found myself cracking. My patience was thin, more and more situations were bothering me, I wasn’t enjoying the people I usually enjoy, I was super thin and really tired. Because of this I was making bad choices and errors in judgment. It is scary that when you are in a place of leadership, so few people are willing to call you on your dysfunction even when it is staring them in the face – but this is a topic for another day.
Long story short, I was swimming as fast as I could and sinking from exhaustion. I had learned along the way that I needed to ask for help. So, I asked for help and got a cosmic level dose of instruction. Some amazing support came my way – just enough to stop me from sinking. However, I also received an enormous heap of challenges, and this was the true teaching. Opposition can show us exactly where and how we need to grow. Here, I was shown the internal mechanisms that were putting this all in place.
I don’t like to repeatedly bang the drum of a certain brand of oppression – throw all my “problems” into one bucket and blame it for everything. Life is much more complicated, and I would rather not make my life story about victimhood. However, that is very different from turning a blind eye to some of the realities of the world we live in.
And for me, this particular issue is about the oppression of the feminine force within us all.
I learned to survive from doing rather than being, so I was not standing in my genius.
I learned to identify my value with my looks, so I never got to know my own beauty.
I learned that care of others was more important than care of myself, so I lived in a place of depletion.
I learned to ask permission to stand in my power, so I was never fully in it.
I learned that the wisdom of my body was inferior to the knowledge of my mind, so I neglected my truth and covered up my wisdom.
I learned that it was ok for others to use my hard work and life force and call it their own, so I let them take without giving until I was exhausted.
And, yes, I believe that this is symptomatic of the long-standing historical oppression of the feminine force and its wisdom – and it affects most of us in some way. Historically, women have been the home-makers. They clean the house, tend the fire, and cook the food. But the wisdom of any oppressed group survives. It just goes underground. It gets preserved and encoded in the simple acts of every day. So look closely, for the greater healing is here:
Clean the house.
Tend the fire.
Cook the food.
So, I started cleaning my house. I put boundaries in place and moved unsupportive people to more distant places in my life. I looked at the places where I was out of alignment with myself and my deeper truth, and I made shifts to get back on track. I repeat as is necessary. And, yes, I literally clean my house.
I started a desire journal and wrote at least one thing each day that stoked the fire of my life. I added in one activity that was just about enjoyment for each day. I paid closer attention to where I lit up and what brought me joy, and recognized this as my divine intelligence.
I looked at what sustains me, what supports me, and what allows me to thrive, and to this day I continue to make choices to bring this into my life. I am taking time to see what will truly nourish me, and make sure that I have put it on the table.
As I do these things, I heal. I love myself more. I find it easier to stand in my power. And as I make these shifts, I uncover a new way of working where I am cared for, supported, and can create more with less effort. Today is your opportunity, and I invite you to gently allow the feminine force within to come alive.
To live is to embrace a paradox that affects many areas of our lives, including our relationships with ourselves; we are at once ourselves and unaware of our true nature
Being who we are is quite straightforward in one way and yet so multi-faceted and complex that we spend our whole lives figuring it out.
Rediscovering who we truly are requires watching ourselves in action: what are we drawn to, what lights us up, and what leaves us feeling flat. Our emotions and interests are the best guides to our essential nature.
The process of self-discovery (or rediscovery, depending on how you want to look at it) can be a beautiful and at times challenging process during which we learn both to honor our deeper nature and to accept ALL of who we are. This includes our limited, broken, confused, and less inspired parts.
Self-acceptance is loving it all.
Reclaiming the self can’t happen without self-acceptance. We cannot have a real connection with our essence while disowning parts of who we are. We are again in paradox. Our deeper nature is not riddled with human flaws, but to truly live it, we need to embrace those flaws that do exist.
Self-acceptance does not come easy to most of us. It is not like we go to a workshop and walk out the door with self-acceptance. Instead, it seems to grow steadily and slowly, building imperceptibly under the surface at first and then showing us its strong roots.
We can work at accepting ourselves in a similar way to how we might learn to be more accepting of others. We can try to understand what they are thinking & feeling; walk a mile in their shoes. We can empathize with their challenges & see beauty in the complexity of their way of being. We can strengthen our self-acceptance by choosing ourselves in the present moment and removing the need to fix ourselves or become something else.
We can enjoy the quirks and the challenges instead of seeing them as obstacles. Self-acceptance allows us to see who we are clearly —to look ourselves straight in the face and own it—all of it.
Self-acceptance means that we do not push to the side those aspects of ourselves that we don’t like, marginalizing them to such a degree that even while we see so much we do like in ourselves, we have this heavy feeling that we are still unlovable.
Slowly, we love ourselves when and where we feel most unlovable; step by step we heal.
As we move through the bumps, jolts and obstacles of life, we can use them to justify our own “rightness” or choose to see through the eyes of compassion. When seen most clearly, any person who hurts us is merely a person who is suffering himself or herself. When we choose to see others in this way, it opens up a door to a more expanded way of being. This does not mean that we should put ourselves in harm’s way or simply accept harmful behavior. That would be a cop-out—a way to bypass our own responsibility. It is a way that we can get trapped in a kind of pseudo-compassion. This false compassion is a trick of our ego and a way to feel important through our own victim-hood.
Instead, we can make choices that both offer others compassion and takes care of ourselves. Compassion requires that we be able to stand in another’s place and understand where they are coming from. It asks that we feel another’s motives and empathize with their plight. Respect and love for ourselves and others helps us put boundaries in place, say no, or simply remove ourselves from harmful situations. Both compassionate understanding and self-care are essential. Goddesses, such as Quan Yin, Yemanja, and Mary, show us the way to unconditional compassion for others. They overflow with deep acceptance of the natural evolution of the soul—marked at times by oversights, limitations, and ignorance. They know that no one escapes these challenges and that each one is doing the best they can at any given moment. In their strength and with compassionate grace, they show us how to emanate light in the face of all of life’s challenges. They do not exalt or negate suffering—they simply offer it compassion. Compassion toward another is, in the end, a gift to us. It releases us from the shackles of judgment. It creates the space for us to learn and grow. It sets us free to live and love more deeply.
We may look around our lives or the world and see many things that are wrong—politicians who are power-hungry, friends who are self-absorbed, or family members who are stuck in limiting belief systems. These clear problems may invoke in us frustration, judgment, or even deep sadness. To protect ourselves, we may feel the need to make these people bad in some way.
We might believe that they are harmful, lost, or just wrong. We might feel that, if they continue to act in this way, it will be infringing upon our ability to be ourselves or have the kind of life that we desire. But what if, instead of blocking our path, they are signs pointing the way? Do not go that way—that is not your way. What if, instead of negating our way of being, they are helping us see how to be with all aspects of ourselves and of life? What if they are deepening our ability to trust in the divine unfolding of things and more completely challenging our ego’s limited grasp of how things should be? Our compassion can be our teacher, showing us the way to deeper truth and happiness.
As with many things, the first person who needs compassion from us is usually ourselves. Many of us, especially those on a spiritual path, can forget to develop ourselves in our striving, forget that we are in a perfectly timed process of unfolding and that our mistakes and limitations are part of the process not keeping us from it. Cultivating compassion as a ground for our spiritual development ensures that we are approaching it from the healthiest and most beneficial direction—with honor and integrity rather than an egoistic need to be something other than who we are at any given moment.
My prayer is that compassion lives in your heart, that you remember to be compassionate when you have forgotten, and that you have the strength to feel compassion when it is most challenging. I ask that you feel compassion’s gifts and be open to its teachings. I ask that your life be inspired by divine compassionate grace.
Better self-love equals better decisions. Creating an ongoing experience of self-love for yourself keeps you operating at a higher level. Like all things that you do to take care of yourself, loving yourself makes it easier to make better choices simply because you are feeling better when you make them.
Helps determine your real needs. If you do not give yourself the love that you need, you may end up getting confused about what your real needs are. If you do not even fulfill this most primary need how can your really know what your other needs are.
You know how to do it best. While it is wonderful to receive love from others, we actually know what we want and need better than anyone else. Sometimes, if we are feeling a lack of love or care from an outside relationship, we can focus on giving/showing this love to our self in exactly the way that we know we need.
Sets the tone for the people in your life. We teach others how to treat us. When we love ourselves, we show others how to love us, thus setting a standard for the other people in our life.
Self-love is the best form of self-protection. When you act lovingly toward yourself, you are unlikely to tolerate unloving behavior from others. As a result, many problems can resolve themselves without effort, and certain predatory types will find the presence of your self-love less appetizing.
You are the root of positive change. Whether you are a professional caregiver or trying to have your impact be a positive one, giving yourself a steady dose of self-love keeps you healthier, happier, and in the game longer. If you shirk your responsibility to love yourself, you will lessen your overall ability to make a difference.
You are a role model. You are teaching your friends, partner, children, and others how to love themselves each time you show up for yourself in this way. We can all use some extra support in the direction of loving ourselves even more completely. You doing this for yourself helps those around you to do the same.
Do you ever feel compassion fatigue? Read more about caring for yourself here >>> “4 Ways You Can Stop Burnout When You Care a Lot.”
I hear it all the time from people who work with others in any helping or healing capacity: “I am exhausted. I am not sure I can do this anymore. I need a vacation. Maybe I should go into another line of work.” This same fatigue also affects those who are caring for other people in their lives. It is the result of actively attending to other people’s pain at the expense of your own self-care. It even has its own label: compassion fatigue.
One of the first things that I talk to practitioners about when they start to work with me is their own self-care. The more that you care for yourself, the more you are able to assist other people. The problem is that many helpers and healers get into the work because of their own wounds. This is fine overall; however, you will continue to deplete yourself to the extent that you have not healed.
If you find yourself stressed, with little energy to put into your work, or have noticed your behavior deteriorating in other areas of your life because you are caring a lot for others and little for yourself, try some of the following tips.
Boundaries. You may need to rewrite the way that you do the work you do, or work in a different way. You may need to learn to say no to those you love so that you can do some things for yourself. If you are feeling fatigued and possibly ready to quit, your boundaries are not in the right place. You are giving more than you have to give. Ask yourself: what do you need to make this a healthy arrangement?
Time out. One of the best ways to figure all of this out is to take a break. This can seem like a really big request when you feel like you are barely keeping up as it is. BUT—and it is a big “but”—it can be the smartest and easiest solution to your dilemma. Take as much time as you believe is possible and then take just a little more. The space will give you the perspective to help you see new ways of doing things.
Therapy. As I said, very often we get to this point because of our unresolved issues. Get some help from someone outside of your situation who can help you examine and shift the underlying patterns that are creating your over-giving.
Vision. First, connecting to your vision can be reinvigorating. However, it can do more than that. Take a look at how you are represented in your vision. Is it possible to have a vision where not only are you helping others but you are also well cared for? Write or rewrite a vision statement with this in mind, and read it regularly to keep yourself on track.
Perhaps most importantly, know that this can just be a passing phase. You can offer your amazing gifts to others in whatever way you do and you can be healthy while you do it. Look for new solutions, and don’t settle!
Take a look at my article here for more ideas on why loving yourself is so key >>> “7 Reasons to Love Yourself First.”
When people think about self-care, they often imagine a list of things that they need to do for themselves. So, they check the boxes, making sure that they’re exercising, drinking enough
water, sleeping enough, eating the right food. All of these things belong to the basic category of self-care. If we are doing these things, then it must mean we are taking care of ourselves, right?
There is some truth to this. These are the basics. This is what we need to do in order to sustain our health.
However, self-care is much deeper than checking these boxes. Our self-care is more about how we are able to take care of ourselves in each and every moment – this includes all of our behaviors, thoughts, and emotional experiences. It is more than diet, exercise, getting enough sleep, and the occasional massage. Each and every act in our life either cares for us and supports us, or it does not.
Our ability to care for ourselves is also a sign of how much we have healed ourselves up to this point in time. So self-care is both a way of seeing how much we have healed ourselves and a
way of healing ourselves.
When we give ourselves something that we didn’t have in the past – if we take care of ourselves in a way we weren’t taken care of in the past, or if we love ourselves in a way that we weren’t loved in the past, or any other way that we give to ourselves something in the present that undoes or rebalances what was done or not done in the past – it is powerfully
healing. So as we give ourselves the care that we may have missed out on, it lifts us to an entirely different place, a whole new level of healing.
However, there are a number of things that get in the way of receiving this deep healing through our self-care. For example, we may have learned ways of caring for ourselves that we were taught were helpful but actually are less so. Someone could think that they’re eating in a healthy way because that is what they’ve been taught is healthy, unaware that what they’re eating is actually really harmful for them. This type of misconception can happen in every area of our life. What we eat is just one example.
Another way that we become limited in our ability to care for ourselves is through our thoughts and perceptions about who we are and what we deserve. We cannot care for ourselves if we believe that we’re not worthy of it. These beliefs, which we often learn in our childhood, teach us to cancel out our wants and needs. We become blind to what it is that we need. We become out of tune with what it is that we’re wanting or needing in any given moment.
Because of this, we might reach out to various different things that are maybe less healthy, less useful, less caring of ourselves. In part, self-care is actually learning what it is that we need. Like, what are these things that maybe we’ve lost sight of yet are truly supportive of who we are and who we want to be and how we want to live our lives: one is the habits that we develop, another is the way that we have lost sight of what is good for us.
There are also institutional structures in place that actually lead us away from caring for ourselves. We’re taught to evaluate ourselves based on our ability to persevere and work really hard. We are taught to evaluate our own goodness according to how much we sacrifice for those around us. As we become aware of these cultural influences on our ability to care for ourselves, we can peel back another layer of what has been getting in our Way.
Self-care is a foundational element to doing personal development work. It is both an act that keeps us healthy and one that heals us. There are a number of challenges to being able to really care for ourselves. Recognizing the obstacles that are in the way of our self-care will help us to be more prepared in our efforts and proud of our successes.
For more about self care take a look at my article >>> “On Self Care”
1. Savor it! Actively focus on the parts of your life that are pleasurable. Receive the pleasure that is there. Do you ever notice that it is much easier to remember what went wrong? Counter this tendency by really allowing yourself to experience and remember the parts of your day that are pleasurable.
2. Start small and the pleasure will build on itself. Don’t make it a burden on your to-do list. Choose things that you can easily incorporate into your daily life. The pleasure and confidence that you receive from those small things will give you an energy boost in the direction of more pleasure.
3. Give yourself permission to do what you want, rather than what you think you should do.
4. What sparks you most regularly? Identify what brings you into your body and your senses. Is it deliciously flavored food? Soft fabrics? Beautiful artwork or surroundings? Find ways to surround yourself with that. Maybe you get an extra-ordinate amount of pleasure from having super soft sheets, using a fancy pen, having beautiful boxes for organization, or doing computer work outside. Find those small shifts that regularly please you and do that more.
5. Feeling more pleasure is not just about doing things – it is also about removing things. Tune into and adjust the things that add to the stress and tension in your life. Oftentimes, we feel stuck in these situations and let ourselves endure them. However, upon examination, another path appears. Look at the areas of your life that cause you the most stress and tension. Then, meditate on whether there is a way to add more spaciousness and joy to it or whether you need to cut it out altogether.
6. Do something you really love in the morning to start your day off right. If you are feeling good and centered in your heart and your senses, chances are you will find more opportunities for that during the day.
7. Experiment! Sometimes, we can have a hard time including pleasure in our life because it feels like we don’t have time or it will cause other problems in our life. Try an experiment for a day or two so that you feel comfortable letting go into it. Let yourself do everything you want to do that authentically brings you pleasure (think beyond overindulging in sweets and T.V.) and see what happens!
8. Regularly listen to music that you love. Intersperse music or dance breaks throughout your day.
9. Do something sweet for a stranger or someone that you love.
10. Find and incorporate something that ignites your childlike, playful spirit. Maybe it’s wearing a wig for part of the day, blowing bubbles, talking in gibberish, or rolling down a hill. Give yourself permission to play.
For ideas on designing a more pleasurable life, take a look at my article >>> “How to Bring More Pleasure into Your Day-to-Day Life”
Dedication to our path, whatever that looks like for us, is necessary for our continual advancement. However, this dedication, which gives us the inner resolve to stay the course regardless of what comes our way, needs to be in balance with our dedication to our self, which shows in how we care for ourselves in each and every step we take.
I have been blessed with unparalleled stamina and a resolve matched by few others. While that has been a backbone on which I can rely, it has been much more challenging to learn how to deeply care for and nourish myself.
I look around and see that I am not alone with this challenge.
When self-care is left out of the equation, we experience burnout, apathy, depression, and illness. Without self-care, we are unable to truly enjoy our lives, reap the rewards of our hard work, or experience real happiness.
Lack of self-care is nothing short of a denial of self. It is a strong statement of self-negation and has many roots. It is passed down through our lineage. It is taught to us through religion. It is born of our personal wounding.
Because of this, self-care is no small act. It turns centuries of indoctrination on its head. It lifts the weight of our negative childhood conditioning. This simple act of loving and caring for ourselves can be both an act of healing and an act of revolution all in one.
Our lack of ability to care for ourselves can look like many things: not allowing ourselves to rest when we are tired, eating the wrong foods or not eating the right ones, putting ourselves in bad environments or with less than ideal people. Regardless of whether you do not exercise or you stay in a job that is not right for you, there are underlying reasons why you do things this way. Some of these came from your childhood.
As a child, you may have been told that your tears were silly, or your requests for things may simply have been unanswered. These repeated messages told you to ignore your needs in order to to be safe, get approval, or maintain love. Even if you were not directly told to ignore your own needs—which many of you were—when you experienced any kind of wounding, the implied message in the wounding was that your needs did not matter.
This is a message that you likely believed.
As a result, you may continue to act as if your own needs are not important; you may continue to believe those who tell you that this is the case. Because of this, you may, in many small or large ways, not care for yourself.
But, the problem is even more than just devaluing your own needs. Through this process, you lose the fundamental mechanisms of meeting them—you forget how to receive and you forget what it feels like to be someone who is full and whole.
Your wounding creates a deep sense of unworthiness. And wherever you believe that you are unworthy, you will not allow the necessary care and nourishment for your expansion.
In the places where you are unable to attend to your needs, there is an emptiness, a frailness, a primary lack of ability to receive that blocks you from receiving the benefits of all you do. In essence, there is an unhealed place that is incapable of experiencing the joy, wonder, abundance, and other fruits of your life.
When you learn how to care for yourself, you heal the parts of yourself that were wounded in the past. You give yourself what you were unable to get at this other point in time. You show yourself a reality that is different than what you once experienced as possible.
As you commit to radically and completely caring for your needs, you are able to deeply feel not just the results of your specific efforts but all of life in a more deep and profound way. As you learn to deeply care for yourself, you unlock the door to your own happiness and return to the fullness of who you truly are.
For motivation to create self-care rituals in your life, take a look at my article >>> “13 Reasons Why Sensitive Souls Need Rituals”
One of the simplest ways to make really radical and fast changes in our life is to be intentional. Specifically, we should set an intention each and every day for how we want that day to go, what we’re going to focus on, what ultimate result we’re looking for, or how we want to feel. Setting such intentions is the difference between an undirected, unconscious day and having focus for our energy and a frame through which we can become more conscious.
Intention serves a couple of different purposes. Foremost, it helps us more easily and more readily get from point A to point B. Furthermore, it helps us create more of what we want as we become more aware and conscious of our wants and needs. It also helps us get clearer about what is in our way.
Overall, by being intentional, we become more conscious. One of the things that I have clients do is to develop a practice—a specific activity that you do in order to raise your consciousness. This works because you craft the specific activity, time, place, and frame, allowing you to see things more completely. For example, if you are practicing compassion, you might choose a daily activity that helps you understand what compassion really means and how to be compassionate more effectively. Instead of being compassionate “just because” or only when the mood strikes you, you are now doing it in a specific way at a specific time; this frame allows you to see compassion differently.
The foundation of any practice is being intentional. So, if there is a way that we would like to move through our life, if there is a result that we would like to see, the easiest and best way to get there is to be clear about it beforehand. If you were traveling to a town that you had never been to before and you didn’t know its name, even if you knew what direction it was in, it would be very difficult to know when you arrived there. You simply would not have clear knowledge of it. When we clarify what we want from a specific period of time, being intent not only helps us to get there—it helps us to see that we are there.
When we set an intention, it helps to align our heart, mind, and energy with that intention. This means that we are more likely to act in ways that are in alignment with our intention without even thinking about it—setting an intention is like laying down a track for where we want to go.
The best way to work with intentions is to experiment with them. This can be as simple as waking up in the morning and writing down what your intention is for that particular day. You could establish a specific designated time to spend at your altar or some other special spot in your home where you clarify how it is that you’d like to move through your day or what you would like to feel. This experiment will lead you to a deeper understanding of intention and its benefits.
As you experiment with your intentions, you may notice moments in which reactivity overtakes intentionality. Check out my article “When Reaction Beats Intention” for clues on how to turn reactions into responses –> When Reaction Beats Intention
When we react rather than act with intention, it shapes our experience and our outcome. When we are reactive, we simply respond to a stimulus that we have encountered. This can be a person, place, or thing. Usually, our reaction is unconscious. We just do whatever happens as a result. For example, a person comes into the room, they say something to us, and we immediately respond with whatever is true for us in that moment. This could be something beneficial that really makes the situation run quite smoothly. Or, it could be the type of reaction that’s more defensive or problematic, and as a result it creates a disruption or challenge. Either way, it’s simply a response that is not considered.
On the other hand, being intentional means that, regardless of the stimulus we experience, we have a reason for our response. So in other words, if we want to build connection, or clarity, or what have you, then we respond in a certain type of way to accomplish that desire. Intention requires that we know what it is that we want to do in a particular moment and that we guide our actions accordingly. It is the difference between flying by the seat of our pants and guiding the experience.
As you can probably quite easily see, there are times when being more intentional might be very beneficial and help to shift things in a positive way. In our life, we can pay attention to where our intentional efforts might benefit others and ourselves the most. Then we can put a little bit more effort and consciousness into those areas so that we can create more of what we want in life. Conversely, if we do not take the time to be intentional, especially in important situations, our outcome can be hit or miss.
As much as intention is a tool to create more of what we want, it is not as simple as just coming up with a scenario we would like to create and then moving forward. Being intentional is a much more nuanced skill than that. Intention is about bringing our whole self into alignment with what we intend. The first step is getting clarity about how we would like things to go. Then, we have to bring ourselves into a state of being that is in alignment with this clarity. And, once we have, our final task is to surrender our expectations and our need for control and allow our actions to be guided. This final step is of extreme importance. If we do not surrender, we are merely managing the situation—not being intentional. This is just a sophisticated form of reaction.
To put this in action, we need to take the following steps. If we are going about our daily life and we want to be more intentional, we only need to get clear, bring ourselves into alignment, and surrender—but if we have already become reactive, it requires a couple more steps. For example, if someone says something to you that makes you feel activated or triggered, then the first step is to clear the negative reaction. We have to get out of the emotional reaction first before it is possible to take actions to be more intentional. When we are triggered, it may be impossible to know what it is that we would like to have as a positive outcome, let alone how to best create it. Regardless of whether or not you know, the first step is to clear the negative reaction—then we can start being more intentional.
Finally, we need to add skills to the mix. Setting our intention is essential; however, if we are lacking a certain skill that would help us act in a way that would bring our intention into being, we may still fall short of our mark. So, part of our process is also learning skills that support our intention becoming a reality. All of this this allows us to actively construct our life in a way that is most pleasing, satisfying, and beneficial.
If you’re looking to dive deep into your intentions and what might be obstructing them, you may be interested in a Breakthrough Intensive. Find out more here –> Breakthrough Intensive with Dr. Kate