Radical Self Care

Updated: Apr 29

Question: I find myself repeatedly debating how much of my time is spent on self-care vs action for others and the environment. - Anonymous


I was raised understanding my job was to be nice above all else. That translated my focus to giving everyone what they needed. That translated into taking care of everyone else’s needs before my own. That translated into forgetting about me.


In 2010, standing at the back of a workshop full of participants, I was listening to Lisa Nichols. She had a commanding presence and a compelling story. A welfare mom struggling to survive now a motivational speaker, I was listening and yet distracted by yet someone else talking about selfcare. I understand selfcare.


I was the room monitor and had the opportunity to experience her behind the scenes and on stage. It’s an interesting experience to be with a leader off stage and on. She was real to me.


She was telling her story and demonstrating the meaning of personal boundaries and selfcare. The question hanging in the room was how much of us do we give away to help others? She had a pitcher of water and a teacup and saucer. We are the teacup. I was intrigued. An assistant held the teacup with saucer and she started pouring. At half full, she paused and asked, is this enough of you in the cup? Shaking her head no, with a smile she kept pouring. The water reached the rim of the teacup. She said, how about now? Is there enough of you in this teacup to focus beyond selfcare? Not yet.


She continued to pour and water overflowed into the saucer. She exclaimed, the water in the saucer is what we share to help others.


This concept of selfcare is not what I learned as a child. I was called selfish and labeled other names for thinking about me before others. I would feel guilt and shame because I was selfish. This demonstration shook up my belief system because first and foremost, I am a mother and a caregiver. It’s my job to give of myself to care for my children.


I hit a wall in 1999 and was forced to redefine selfcare. Embedded in my health challenge was a core belief. I’ll do anything to help my children at all costs and I get the leftovers.

I hit bottom in 1999 diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and chronic myofascial pain syndrome, two debilitating conditions that took me down. For two years I was 100% disabled, bedridden, unable to use my hands and arms, walk without assistance and in constant pain.


It was a hard way to learn about selfcare. It was hard on my children as well because they were used to mom the doormat. I rehabbed and recovered over a five-year period, redefining my needs, relearning what it means to be a parent with healthy boundaries, and a human with physical, emotional and spiritual needs.


Granted, this was an extreme example of how I learned parameters for selfcare. I tend to learn by extremes because I have the capacity to put up with a lot of pain, have immeasurable patience and mountains of compassion.


And pain is a great motivator. I’m learning to manage myself better and not wait for the walls of extremes. It’s up to me how much I push myself into a corner. It’s up to me how much I extend myself. It’s up to me. I say with true meaning I am worth the time and energy as I practice selfcare.


Poem by Rupi Kaur, The Sun and Her Flowers


The universe took its time on you

crafted you to offer the world

something different from everyone else

when you doubt

how you were created

you doubt an energy greater than us both.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you. That triggered a lot of thoughts for me. Good thoughts. Growing up as I did, even when I was trying to fill up my cup, it was always with looking outward instead of looking inward. The song that came to me, the one we sang a lot, “Let the beauty of Jesus fill me.” It was looking outside to be filled. While those influences are certainly good, what came to me was changing that song to let the beauty of Harriet Tubman and Michelle Obama and Mary Oliver and all of you be seen in me. So many wonderful people that cross our paths that have so many truths to teach us if we just stop and listen and look at what comes in and fills our cup; it can come from so many different sources. Then I was thinking about the word ‘recreation.’ I thought of re-create. I re-create now by having these thoughts. That’s how I recreate my inner self and fill myself up. Not thinking about one model but all the influences that the universe has to give us, through nature, other people, a piece of clothing, whatever. It’s all a big pitcher waiting to pour into us. I had lots of beautiful images thanks to that reading. Thank you.

  • Thank you. A great reading. I too heard Lisa Nichols speak and it was an incredible lesson. My project went well yesterday. There were glitches but many people helped. My worse fears didn’t happen. The best part for me was the singing. I appreciate all your love and support.

  • Thank you for this reading. That teacup image of filling it up all the way and giving the overflow away is radical and welcome news. Sitting in silence, I realized that filling the cup all the way has to do with being whole. Be whole and then offer to others as much as we know how. I’ve believed that if my cup is half full, that’s when I can start giving half of myself away. Time and energy. Doing that is like leaving a meal half-finished. You eat a portion and then go burn off those calories but you really didn’t fuel up. Hearing the life circumstances of the woman who was teaching that was also radically significant to me. I look forward to filling my cup first and set my sights on that.

  • That was a wonderful image, the teacup was awesome. It sparked a lot of visions for me during the meditation. The last one was the King Solomon story where the two mothers are fighting over the baby. King Solomon says I can’t tell whose baby it is so I’m going to take my sword and cut the baby in half. That serves nobody. That’s the feeling sometimes when I let myself be cut in half. The wholeness comes from the love. The mother who loves her child enough to say take the child because I love this child and I don’t want to see it hurt. I was simultaneously both people: grasping for what I want and feeling other people grasping from me what they want. And simultaneously saying no, I want to be whole. No, I won’t let someone cut me in half. It got my attention.

  • What came to my mind is that words don’t teach. I keep hearing that. I ask myself what does that mean. It’s when the words are combined with the feelings, with something that vibrates within my body, my mind, my heart, my soul. That’s when I learn. Your words don’t teach. The feeling you put into them, the thought, the love, the way you send it out to us. The way we receive it and chew it and feel it and vibrate with it is amazing. This group is such a gift.

  • That’s the power of an affirmation. The feeling behind it is what does it.

  • I feel like my cup is not overflowing, that I am half empty. I’ve learned to know what that feels like. Then I create the remedy.

  • Thank you all, the wisdom we have to share together here. It’s an incredible gift to be part of this community and to share the wisdom. We pass it around, we play with it, we trust it, we don’t trust it. We feel like we’re failing but we’re not. It’s all this journey. In a sense, this is like an incubator.

  • Thank you. I hope you all have a gentle day. Awareness is an incredible tool along with gentleness and kindness. And emotion is a tool too. We don’t let it use us but we use it. Thank you. Have a good day.

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