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180. Self-care, self-comfort, self-love & what we have learned from our mothers

Sometimes we can find ourselves reaching for a bowl of chocolate, scrolling through social media, or checking out for the night, and call that self-care. But that is really self-comfort and only serves to numb the discomfort instead of fixing it. Self-care is tuning into ourselves and finding out what we need to do to care for ourselves. Listen in as I discuss self-care and self-love, and how that has changed over the years since our mothers were young.

 


 

Main topics:

  • The difference between self-care and self-comfort
  • Meeting our needs and our capacity (window of tolerance)
  • Accepting cheap substitutes to meet our needs
  • What we think it means when our needs are going unmet
  • The culture of moms meeting their needs, is it intuitive? 
  • What we learn from our mothers about self-care and self-love
  • Why the term self-love feels challenging. 

 

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FULL TRANSCRIPT (unedited)

We’re gonna continue on with our series about meeting your needs. And I want to talk more about self care and self love and how this is about it. But it’s also not about it. The whole series, meeting your needs, I don’t think that is one that I would listen to if I saw that title sounds kind of weird to say, but I think many mums might feel this way you see something on meeting your needs, and you might think, I don’t need that things are fine. Or there might be some resistance, because you’re kind of worried is this another pitch for that self care, self love, do face masks in the bath, treat yourself, you deserve it love yourself, you’re amazing. We are a little bit worried about where this is going to take us. Because I think some of us know that. That self care, self love cannot be an entire approach to living. There’s parts that are so helpful, for sure. But the approach needs more to it, it kind of feels like thin ice over water. But we need that iceberg. Underneath we need that iceberg of values and beliefs. We need awareness, validation, radical acceptance before we move into self care and self love. So as I move forward with this topic of meeting your needs, I want to approach this topic from the work I’ve done with moms of all ages and stages all over the world. And that’s the approach of addressing the overwhelm the stress, the expectations, the mental load that moms are under. Because this overwhelm it feels like a threat to us on a base level. And when we add in a reduced capacity to deal with that threat, you have yourself a chronic stress response. And that’s what we’re commonly operating from. That’s why we need self care and self love. But at the at the core of it capacity is what’s important. Capacity is one I want to talk about. For someone to feel capacity, they feel like they can do they feel capable, they have met their basic needs, so that they can move forward with dealing with things and feeling capable. Think of how capacity impacts you in your daily life. Think of how you show up in motherhood, when you have slept well, or have had a nourishing meal or when you’ve just gone out for a walk on your own and it felt really restorative. Or you’ve just met up with your besties and had some great laughs. But how often are we really giving ourselves the resources to restore and maintain our capacity, I would say the opposite often happens that we spend more energy scrambling to deal with our lack of capacity rather than we spend building it. And what I mean by that is, first of all, we don’t stop and acknowledge our needs. So by default, we’re just not meeting them proactively. And I’m going to talk about this more in the next episode. So we’re often in this state where we don’t realize we have a need until it’s too late. And then how do we act when our needs are not being met? What do you notice when you are at the end of your capacity, you might notice things like feeling enraged, really easy, burnt out overwhelmed. Maybe you shut down, maybe you go into that hyperactive mode, maybe you’ve kind of kind of become that mum, martyr, these can all be symptoms of having our needs go unmet for a while. And when you’re feeling this way, we start paying attention. And we start to assume things about us in our lives. And one of three things is what we often assume we might assume something is wrong with me, something is wrong with them or something is wrong with my life. So we focus on addressing these now we focus on maybe something’s wrong with me, and I just need to try better and do better, because other moms figure it out. And I should just figure it out. And I just need to hack it and be more disciplined. Or we focus on trying to control them. We tie our emotions to what other people around us are doing and it creates this whole like fragile governance of having to control them. In order for us to feel good or happier, calm. I call this emotional outsourcing. Or we try to change our life what would just make me feel better right now? Or what would just help me to not feel the gross feelings I’m feeling a cupcake, researching new bathroom towel, getting a new cute coat scrolling social media. I mean, I’ve done all of these. And we develop by doing this we develop smaller and smaller tolerance for just feeling discomfort. We spend a lot of energy trying to feel better, we blame others, we shame ourselves. We accept cheap substitutes to help us just feel good again. And these cheap substitutes they can look like self care but what they often are is self comfort. This is a differentiation that I did not make up I’d heard it on a podcast years ago and I think that podcast was sort of awesome. I’m not sure. So self care versus self comfort. Self comfort is a checking out or a numbing or a distraction more Then self care is checking in and listening and responding. And I would even offer that if we’re getting to self comfort, it’s almost always a response, that we haven’t met our needs along the way. And it’s reactive, it’s meeting the deficit, self care can be really active, but it should really be proactive a shift for us, is to be proactive with meeting our needs, and protecting our capacity, which just leads into the whole conversation that this is easier said than done. Because first of all, we just don’t know what we don’t know. When I was a mom with two toddlers and a baby at home, getting very little sleep, living off of protein bars and coffee, I was in survival mode for sure. And even if there was a day where I wasn’t a total stress case, I didn’t really have that awareness that me myself needed to be paid attention to and needed to be cared for. I mean, I could do that for my kids, I could monitor them anticipate when they’re hungry, when they’re tired, what activities they’re going to enjoy, help them with their sibling relationships, help them process feelings and cope, like I can do all of that for

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them. But what about doing that for myself? And then when we realize we do have needs, we know how messy this can get. And just like we talked about in the last episode, we’re going into this with a lifetime of belief and rules about what it looks like for us to have needs. Are they acceptable? Are they a burden? whose needs are more important? whose needs are we expected to meet? Who do we expect to meet our needs? How does it look for us to express our needs, and then maybe we even go through the process of trying to meet our needs. And we might get that, you know, afternoon off or that little bit of time away. And it didn’t feel like it helped that much. And there’s so many reasons why one of the big things is that we may have done something to respond to our bodies and our health and what we need. But we haven’t really done something to respond to what our minds and our hearts need. We’ve gone through the motions, but our brain stayed plugged in to everything going on at home, that stress response still active. And we’re still really operating from the same stories that got us here in the first place. So meeting our needs, it’s hard, because it’s also a commitment to the messy business of addressing what’s in our minds in our hearts. And it’s also the messy business of addressing our lives. Sometimes self care can be a distraction from our lives. And focusing on self care when what we really need to do is address the hurdles in our lives, it can just keep us in the state of bearable suffering. I shared a post on this a few years ago is self care the answer when motherhood sucks, I’ll link that in the show notes. But what I’ve learned in that process is that self care could help me feel better, but I still wasn’t addressing the issues underneath that were really impacting the stress in my life. So meeting our needs is more than just a checklist of things we physically need, you could have all your quote unquote, needs met. And you might still have that helpless or victim mindset, you could be approaching this with some martyrdom or some entitlement, you could still have things in your life that need to be addressed. And you’re just going through the motions, and you will never feel that increasing capacity. At the end of it, you won’t truly feel like your needs were met. In the next episode, I want to talk about this process we can go through from becoming aware of our needs, accepting them, and then learning how to meet our own needs. Because it isn’t easy. And I would say in our culture, it’s also not intuitive. It’s not intuitive for mothers to proactively meet their own needs. I asked for some feedback in the simple Saturday’s email about your experiences with meeting your needs. What’s a struggle for you? What is a win for you? What have you learned, and an interesting thing happened. I heard from some women in their 70s, who reflected on how this awareness and permission would have helped them when they were young moms. Side note, if you’re not aware, there are a lot of women in their 50s 60s and 70s, who are simple podcast listeners and readers. And they share just the most genuine wisdom and insight and encouragement with me. Because they really grew up in an era that made motherhood kind of really, you know, like in a box kind of experience. So in hearing what these women had to write and share with me, they reflected on how they made their kids and their spouse, their whole world. And they’re learning how to become a person separated from that as their kids have grown up and moved out. It’s such a hard thing for moms who were told we need to make her kids her whole world. And then the kids grow up and leave and then what I feel like my mom was in this era as well. And I really feel for the daughters of mothers who had to comply with the culture of the 50s Because from what I observe, and you can tell me if I’m wrong what I observe about the culture of motherhood in the 50s was there was a real pressure to present everything is perfect everything and every one and the whole Home had to be perfect. And nobody ever really told them differently. Nobody ever showed these moms that they could pursue careers and ambitions and create family systems where everyone contributes, in many ways and not singular ways. I’ve been reflecting a lot about what my parents taught me about meeting my own needs. And there’s what I observed growing up. And then there’s what they tell me now, years later down the road. So I’m going to share something with you. I don’t think I’ve shared it before. And it was an experience that my younger sister and I had when we were talking with my mom recently. So a background our journey as a family has included my mom having early onset dementia. A couple of years ago, she entered into a care home, she needed that she needs that level of care. And my siblings and my dad, we’ve done some work going through my parents house and their boxes of stuff and trying to clear some of the clutter because you’ve probably heard that part of my story as well growing up, there’s just clutter in boxes of stuff. So they’re still there, they’ve just shifted around. And we, a couple of years ago, we had an experience where we were sorting through a lot of my mom’s writings, and she was a writer. And there were a lot of just personal writings that she had in all of these boxes. And I would really love to one day just compile them all into kind of the story of her life. Because what I learned as I was reading them, what I was seeing is a story I hear so often, it’s a story of mums who are burnt out, overwhelmed, feeling unheard seeking validation, seeking a break or buying the self help books scared of the anger that they hide under a smile for their whole life. Buying all the low fat yogurt, drinking the tea, baking the birthday cakes, managing the emotions of everyone in the house at the expense of their own. The story of mums who were told they could have it all, but they weren’t told that they would have to do all the work to get it, maintain it and validate it. So my mum later in life experienced burnout. And I don’t know if that was part of the early onset dementia. But she for years would have this dream of writing a book for other women on burnout. Kind of sharing her tale as a cautionary tale of what not to do. This same woman who drove us to all the events stayed up till midnight folding laundry, working full time and then bringing home burgers to feed her family dinner, typing up our essays, putting on her lipstick in the rearview mirror, inviting people in for tea, always giving a belated birthday cards, buying the gifts for all of the people and all of the events, blowing the budget, trying to make Sunday family dinners a thing when nobody was agreeable to it. She was doing all the things that she was raised to do all the things that made her a good mum, a good wife and a good woman. And in her opinion, it led to burnout. As we went through her writings, I could see this hidden world of her that I never got to see. I just saw what was on the surface, happy woman who was maybe staying up too late doing laundry. But I felt like I got to see the real her. And I’m so grateful that she wrote those things down and kept them. Because I get to understand her in a way that I just don’t get a chance to now I get to understand her better than ever now. Part of me wishes I could go back and tell her let go of all those rules and managing all the people and trying to do things the right way. I wish I could tell her to be that wild and loving and free part of herself to get angry to be reckless to be bratty to be messy. But instead, she told me and my sister something that we needed to hear. So I think it was maybe a year and a half ago. We zoom my mom every week. And there’s been times on the call where she’s more aware and more present, especially back a year or two ago. And my little sister and I were talking with her and she was reflecting on her life, how she got here, she kind of had that moment where she realized where she was and why. And she kind of reflected that she spent so many years trying to take care of everyone. And she realized that she never took care of herself and to her that was the reason she is here now. And she said in a moment of presence and awareness. She said girls don’t do what I did. Take care of yourselves in it is permission. It’s wisdom you don’t even know you need. And we don’t need this permission. In fact, some of us might never get it. Some of us have these mothers in our lives, who were there, exhaustion and their mothering is a badge of honor for all at all that they’ve sacrificed. We might never get permission from those women in our lives. But we get to decide what we’re going to do about it. We get to decide what it’s going to look like to be mothers in this time. And we also don’t need to approach all of this from that culture, that modern culture of self care and self love because I think we need to redefine what that means. I mean, look at what our culture teaches us. About Love, especially what it looks like for mothers to love, that we should exhaust ourselves that we should make them happy, give them the best and neglect ourselves in the process. What happens is our love becomes conditional to ourselves into them because it is focused on the outcome of others, which I’m aware of that sentence doesn’t even make sense, because Aren’t we supposed to be invested in the outcomes of our kids.

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But I think we need to switch this around. Our motherhood can’t be determined by this alone. Motherhood is more empowering and purposeful. When we determine our success as moms by how we decide to show up, regardless of our children’s outcomes. This is going to rub some people I respect that there’s going to be some resistance here. But just think about this culture of love this conditional love. It’s focused so much on others, that it doesn’t really feel like love to us, because it means abandoning ourselves in consistent and subtle ways, coded with the sense of nobility that we’ve learned that love means abandoning ourselves, abandoning ourselves in order to correctly perform the duties of motherly love. What have we been taught about loving others and meeting their needs versus loving ourselves in meeting our needs? So self love is confusing. No wonder we have a weird relationship with this term. Because what does it even mean? So this series, it is about self love and self care, but in a different way. It’s about taking care of yourself and having a love for yourself as a person who was worthy of being cared for and loved. It’s about tending to listening to honoring and responding to yourself, and not creating a conditional outcome based or vague or conflicting approach to self love. In the next episodes, I’m going to outline what this process has looked like for me over the years, because I’m not someone who’s done this. Well, I don’t think I had to learn the steps that it takes, starting from awareness all the way to being really flexible with my approach and bringing it into my daily life on how I meet my own needs. But I also want to hear from you. I want you to email me back in the same Saturday’s email if you’re a part of that. Or if you’re on Instagram, send me a message there. I’m at simple on purpose.ca. I’d like to continue this conversation. I’d like to hear what you are taking away from this if there’s something helping you if there’s something that you have resistance to if there’s something you’re curious about, I want to generate a conversation about this. So I need you to do that because the conversation goes two ways. So reach out to me through the simple Saturday’s email or on Instagram and I would love to keep this conversation going. Alright friends, have a great week.

 

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