If you listen to the media, you could believe that this is the most self-absorbed generation of people ever to walk this planet. Sometimes it does feel that way. And while tracking sociological trends is outside my field, after decades working as a psychotherapist and coach, I’ve come to trust my own perspective on humanity. I’ve had the great honor to look deeply into the hearts and lives of many men and women.
So, what do I see? Are people as self-centered as the media leads us to believe? On occasion, yes, but mostly, I find people don’t pay the right kind of attention to themselves. The men and women I see rarely stop to consider their personal well-being. There is so little dedication to self-care out there in the world; it saddens me.
When I ask clients to tell me, in detail, about their day, the responses can be quite revealing. The information they share tells me a lot about their lives, their self-worth, and their connection to others. These are hardworking, successful people who are devoted to making life better but there is a glaring similarity in all their stories. Their energy is focused outward and there is little left for them. Consequently, they neglect themselves.
Think about the ways you take care of yourself. What ways have you practiced self-care recently? Write down your responses.
What does your list look like? Is it full of more things to do? Self-care isn’t about doing more. Taking care of oneself has a much deeper and broader range. We’re missing the bigger picture. We’re not looking deep enough. We’re not looking at internal forces built into us from past experiences that drive us – outside our conscious awareness.
Some people are driven by fear; fear of not being enough or being exposed as a failure or of financial insecurity or feeling all alone. Was taking on too much responsibility your role in the family growing up? Is this true today? Do you only feel valuable to others only when you are doing, giving or providing? You may not be consciously aware of this, but this inner belief taps into your feeling of self-worth. Feeling that you are valued for what you do, rather than who you are may be driving you hard to perform. This can be exhausting and ultimately leads to burnout. If you are experiencing feelings that life is overwhelming, deep discouragement or of resentment, you have unearthed an important clue. You are not taking care of yourself as you should. Let’s see what the bible has to say about self-care.
“Above all else, guard your heart for out of it flows the issues of life.”
We must guard our hearts “above all else.” Does that strike you as counter-intuitive? If you’re anything like me, you’ve gotten the impression that first and foremost, God wants us taking care of other people’s hearts. Then, if we’ve been especially helpful, and it doesn’t take too much time or cost too much, we might give ourselves a bit of whatever resources are left.
Do you know what it means to have inherent value? Consider the care most parents take bringing a newborn baby home from the hospital. I remember more than twenty years ago, when my husband and I took turns sitting in the backseat to watch over our newborn daughter while the other drove. Our heart full of love for this little person. You probably feel this kind of love for a family member? Do you believe anyone feels this way about you?
Our willingness to take care of ourselves is linked our inner beliefs about our self-worth. If our caretakers paid attention to our needs and nurtured us as children, we’ve internalized this, and our self-care is natural and fluid. When people neglect themselves, they do it in uncannily similar ways to the ways they were neglected as children. What are your memories of childhood? Were you lonely, bored, bullied, or ignored? Are there similarities in your life today? Do you feel as if you are walking through life alone, is there a lack of fun hobbies or interests, are you in a painful relationship? Have you been ignoring your personal needs? What is this costing you?
If you listen as long as I have to the lives of others, you’ll discover most of us are not selfish—we actually don’t love ourselves enough. But the truth is; God wants you to guard your heart, your health, your life.
I hope you’ll explore some of this in your growth group, with a friend or with your therapist or coach. I pray you spend quiet time asking God for insight on how to restore your well-being. You are valuable and most certainly worth it!