I think I was a cheerleader in another life.
Or perhaps a motivational speaker. Or a counsellor. There's something about me that loves to cheer on the people I love and believe in. I'm not shy about showing love. I give a lot of pep talks to friends, I write them love letters and the occasional adoring Facebook post. I will advocate for them as much as I can, because I believe in them and I want more than anything for them to succeed.
But when it comes to advocating for myself and cheering myself on to do the things that I want to do, I fail. It's been an ongoing thing my entire life – I'm the last person I stick up for. This is not because I wasn't supported or encouraged as a child. In fact, quite the opposite: I had incredibly loving parents who bolstered me and supported me enough to make up for my complete and utter lack of self confidence. I have a distinct memory of my mother asking me where these negative feelings about myself came from, and I couldn't explain it, I just suddenly didn't like myself. Distressed, my mother asked me to treat myself the way I would treat my own beloved little sister or brother, to give myself as much empathy and love and guidance as I would give a sibling. I'm the youngest of two and while I don't actually know what it is like to have a younger sibling, I do have friends who feel like family. If I treated myself the way I treat them, I would be a completely different person. Somehow, it has always felt too indulgent to treat myself with so much care. Getting myself to think differently has been a lifelong project.
Perhaps this is why the self care movement is so prevalent: we are all tired of putting ourselves last and we're are finally giving ourselves and each other permission to treat ourselves the way we treat our loved ones: gently, with compassion, and with lots of love and care. But self care comes in all shapes and sizes. There's the harder stuff, the maintenance, like therapy and creating good habits and lifestyle choices, and there's the more fun, Instagrammable kind: the bath-bombs and the candles and the face masks and foot scrubs. A luxurious night in. Treat yo self and all that. I used to be shy to do this because, again, to do it for myself felt...selfish. Indulgent. I'm not usually one for bubble baths. But would I want my best friend to be treated this way if she was having a rough go? If it helps, absolutely.
So recently I started giving myself a bit more of this so called “indulgent” kind of self care and tried to let go of the associated guilt. I eased into it slowly, a face mask here, an exfoliating scrub there, nothing major. But it was enough. It reminded me how important tending to myself is, something I lost a bit this year with the birth of my son. Hit by the twin cyclones of postpartum depression and a baby that didn't sleep for more than two hours at a time for the first nine months of this life, I lived in survival mode. During that time, my self care routine devolved into ensuring that I showered semi-regularly and occasionally remembered to wear deodorant. I gave up on wearing makeup, doing anything with my hair or caring what I wore, because the world felt a whole world away, and I was just barely connected to it. The volume was turned down and I had missed too many episodes to know what was going on in my life any more, so I stopped trying to follow the story line.
And then, a year after Malakai was born, I went back to work.
My maternity leave was up and I came across a great opportunity, a job training program in the scene had been trying to get into. Daycare space is hard to find these days so we found a babysitter who quickly became like family and who loved our son like her own child. It made returning to work so much easier, and in doing so, I slowly found myself again. My day was now devoted to learning and growing new parts of myself. I had to start being presentable, professional and on the ball, so my self care routine began again. But it was basic stuff: brushing my hair, choosing my clothes for the day. My son finally was sleeping well, so I was sleeping well too. The fog began to clear. I was eating balanced meals again instead of snacking. I wore makeup, not because I had to, but because I had an excuse to express myself through a medium I hadn't touched much all year. I went back to yoga. I slowly began to feel like I was part of the world again. I felt worthy of my own attention, my own care.
Since I felt a bit rusty in the self care department, I looked to people like Alyssa for inspiration. I've known Alyssa since we were kids and she is more like family to me than anything else. Having grown up together in close proximity, I have had the absolute privilege of seeing her grow up into this incredible modern goddess and brilliant entrepreneur who followed her passion and turned it into an awesome business. Alyssa is one of those kinds of people where what you see is what you get. If you've met her and you've gotten the distinct feeling that you've encountered sunlight and champagne in human form, you're not mistaken. She is as genuine and lovely as she seems, and practices what she preaches – a healthy lifestyle and a focus on self care. She embraces the things that keep her balanced mentally and emotionally. She invests in herself, in her body, her mind and her soul and she inspires me regularly to follow my mother's advice and care for myself as much as I care for my friends and family. So these days, I am following her lead and taking more time for me. I use her beautiful products on my skin, because it is sensitive and I love that they soothe and nourish it. I take walks in the woods because it brings me joy. I take time to write, to see my family, because these things soothe my soul. I try to balance my life so that I am functioning not merely as a mother, but a whole person within my motherhood, a person who is worthy of self love and care.
A few thank-yous to conclude: to Alyssa, who has become an incredible role model and powerhouse entrepreneur, thank you for being an inspiring, positive presence in our community and in my life and for sharing your lovely products with us. To my mother, who has always been there for me with good advice and so much love, thank you for loving me when I couldn't love myself.
And to myself and anyone else who needs to hear it: you are worthy of love. You are worthy of care. You are worthy. Don't forget it.