For many, “self-care” is a term that conjures up the idea of impossible or indulgent luxury, or a yoga-pants wearing, sound bath addicted caricature of spirituality.
Neither is accurate, but I definitely get why anyone would see it that way.
To me, self-care is not an imperative in life as it is not at all related to self-compassion (self-love), and for the definitive distinction between these terms, I invite you to refer to my most downloaded episode of the Coached podcast of all time: How to Stop Feeling Like You Don’t Measure Up.
In the meantime, in lieu of my usual “5 things” email, let me tell you what IS an imperative, that can come in form of self-care ritual: BOUNDARIES, and how to incorporate 3 of them into your life in order to live better.
Principle: COMPASSION is your best self. Without boundaries, you are not demonstrating compassion, only obligation.
Famed author, speaker and researcher Brene Brown asked a group of compassionate people by vocation (monks, priests, nuns, etc.), what compassion meant to them.
After countless interviews, they found a group of people who lived out the operational definition of compassion. These were people who reached out to others with kindness and empathy. They were people who saw the humanity in everyone and believed in oneness in all. The most overriding similarity, however?
It was that the most compassionate people had “boundaries of steel.”
Confused by her findings, Brown went back and asked these extremely boundaried people if they resonated with what was found. Did they intend to set clear boundaries in their lives? Where did their healthy boundaries come from?
In general, the response was, “I would not have said it that way, but yes, I am very clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay. I don’t subject myself to the abuse of other people.”
Boundaries are the critical thing Brene Brown’s team found all people with high levels of compassion had in common. In essence, daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves and choose what is right for us FIRST, even when we risk disappointing others. We can’t base our own worthiness on others’ approval (and this is coming from someone who spent years trying to please everyone!). Only when we believe, deep down, that we are enough can we say “Enough!”
Having served as coach and counselor to leading executives at two dozen Fortune 500 companies, I can translate this into the simplest language:
Martyrdom is neither leadership, nor service (nor parenting, for that matter).
Without boundaries you cannot serve.
Principle 2: Boundaries in the form of SELF-CARE are essential. You can build these into your life right now. To me, boundaries are what essential self-care should be designed around. And for you, here are the top 3 self-care rituals that have changed my life and that I believe will infinitely improve yours.
1. Set boundaries with calls. As much as I love y’all and love my friends and family, only three hours on my calendar per week are availble for consultations.
I say “no” to all other calls by blocking the time on my calendar and by responding to calls at times that suit me better. Why is this not selfish? It’s because it allows me to be generous from a genuine place, and to show up for calls fully present and available. At the same time, calls do not override my own priorities.
Bonus: silence all notifications, too. You will far better command and harness your energy.
2. Meditate in the morning. If you don’t take the first 20 minutes of your day to sit in meditation, deeply revel in presence and prioritizing your peace, the rest of your day will be at the mercy of others and you will live in the constant, paltry state of reactivity. Meditation is the most fundamental of joys: the time of day when thinking is deliberately focused on here and now, instead of on what’s next and which email should I answer now?
The Dalai Lama says: “if you don’t have an hour to meditate in the morning, you should meditate for 2 hours.” I agree with the sentiment, and all I ever recommend to my clients is 20 minutes of here and now.
3. Take breaks throughout the day. As a fellow human doing, I too have my fair share of daily hustle and grind. The self-care compromise I have found is to schedule “recess” time into every single day. Yes: just like we had in school. Every two hours, I get a 30 minute “recess” (lunchtime is one hour).
It’s like hitting a “pause” button. This recess is not to be used for returning calls, reading the news or picking up pharmacy prescriptions. It is for a walk outside, or just sitting outside in silence with your coffee, for a good stretch, for listening to an uplifting podcast, for an invigorating shower or power nap, or even a moment of reflection. All these nourish the mind and help you bring your best self to any next moment that requires your full presence.
From here, I believe it is easy to show why boundaries and true generosity go hand in hand.
Fake generosity is me, run ragged, trying to give you the thread of consciousness still available to me.
Real generosity is me, fully charged, giving you every iota of my presence each time we connect.
I hope this week’s top 3 have served you.