It’s become almost a cliché to talk about self-care, probably because it has never been more ubiquitous or essential than during the current pandemic/political climate. But before Covid, many people understood self-care as basically glorified grooming: Things we do to nurture our outer selves, such as manicures, face masks, hot baths and massage.The pandemic is exposing the nitty gritty essence of self-care—why it has become so important. What does it really mean to take care of oneself, to tend to one’s own emotional health? Necessity has nudged self-care into the realm of soul care. Self-care is no longer negotiable; it may be our most important job.
One of the true self-care visionaries is Glennon Doyle, an author, activist and thought leader, who explores the relevance of self-care as a galvanizing wakeup call to fulfilling our purpose.
In an interview, Doyle had this to say about self-care:
“I’m hoping that one of the results of this quarantine time will be that women discover that, actually, they can just show up however the hell they look. Which will save them time, energy and money to participate in real self-care, which is care of the inner selves,” she says. “Like, what the hell do I need to get a little more rest, a little more energy, a little more peace? It took a pandemic. That’s what the world had to do. Like, maybe she’ll stop putting on seven layers of mascara if I send the global pandemic.”
From Doyle’s most recent book Untamed, here are her four keys to claim ourselves, tend our spark, nurture our wild power. Caveat emptor: It means foregoing the need, often culturally dictated, to please others. Instead, true self-care entails dedicating yourself to pleasing the person most important in your life—yourself.
Notable Benefits of Self Care
1. It allows us to feel our emotions
Being fully human is not about feeling happy, it’s about feeling everything, Doyle says. It’s about not avoiding or repressing or shying away from what is uncomfortable or painful. She encourages us to lean into feelings, that despite the dangerous territory, feelings themselves are not life threatening. Letting ourselves burn in the fire of pain does not mean we will be consumed by that fire. Rather, it can ignite our resilience. Facing our pain makes us “fireproof,” able to be in the fire but not destroyed by it. As Doyle says, use the pain to become.
“I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again and forever. To be alive is to be in a perpetual state of revolution. Whether I like it or not, pain is the fuel of revolution. Everything I need to become the woman I’m meant to be next is inside my feelings of now. Life is alchemy, and emotions are the fire that turns me to gold. I will continue to become only if I resist extinguishing myself a million times a day. If I can sit in the fire of my own feelings, I will keep becoming,” Doyle says.
This being human is painful. To accept the pain, to be curious about it, is to become someone who knows how to trust in pain. Doyle says she knows when the pain and wanting is here, the rising is on the way.
2. It lets us be present in the moment
One of the biggest gifts of the pandemic is the stillness that it invites—and exposes. There’s no avoiding the perma-pause of life stripped of travel, social functions and activities of most kinds.
What will we do with the stillness? Get restless with it? Complain about the lack of things to do? Or take advantage of it?
Doyle says when she started being still for just 10 minutes a day she got reacquainted with her own deepest knowing. “Down here, when I pose a question about my life – in words or abstract images – I sense a nudge. The nudge guides me toward the next precise thing, and then, when I silently acknowledge the nudge – it fills me. The Knowing feels just like warm liquid gold filling my veins and solidifying just enough to make me feel steady, certain,” she writes.
The nudge is sacred—it is the holy we carry inside us. After establishing a committed relationship with this alive, fluid expression of truth, Doyle says “I now only take orders from my own knowing.”
It doesn’t matter what you call the knowing. You can call it God or spirit or light or energy. The only thing that matters is that we call it—and how we call it.
Like this, self-care becomes an act of listening, and the listening an act of love. The best part of this version of self-care? You don’t need to explain it to others or ask permission. It is of you, by you, and for you.
3. It helps us to imagine new possibilities
In order to take orders from your own knowing, you have to be able to imagine another way of living. Doyle calls it “a life meant for you truer than the one you are living.” When we strip ourselves from our defenses or our story, then, through love, we can imagine a new way of being, possibilities that have been inside of us all along.
This is what Doyle refers to as the unseen order inside of us. It is the courage to dream ourselves into a better life, then bring it forth. To take under consideration what Gloria Steinem said, “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” If you are discontent, says Doyle, perk up your ears. “Discontent is evidence that your imagination has not given up on you. It is still pressing, swelling, trying to get your attention by whispering: “Not this.”
4. It helps us release the negative
This fourth key focusses on moving from not this to this instead, how to go from dreaming to doing. This key, Doyle warns us, involves a healthy dose of destruction before the new construction can begin. “The building of the true and beautiful means the destruction of the good enough,” she says. It is the willingness to be annihilated, to have one’s former identity, beliefs, relationships, self-combust.
To let burn whatever keeps us small by forcing us to abandon ourselves in the pursuit of pleasing others. Doyle describes it as “allowing to burn all that separates me from the knowing.”
This is self-care of the most radical, life-changing order. Do we take our own importance seriously enough? Are we willing to risk everything to be fully alive?