As I embarked upon my own research and understanding of self-care I felt the need to first look at why self-care is important from a holistic well-being perspective. I felt the need to do this because I found myself in a thought-loop with my inner-critic telling me that self-care was selfish, and that I had to choose between being either a giver or a taker in life. (This is a good example of how our conditioning shows up – as the voice in our head!) Given the option, I was devoted to staying in the ‘giver’ camp. However, I became curious. As someone who genuinely wants to be of service to others and pursue a purposeful and generous life I wondered whether it was possible to do that in a sustainable way. I wondered how I could help others and manage my energy so that I did not show-up in a self-depleting way and burn-out.
I decided to start with a definition of self-care from people who are perhaps the biggest ‘givers’ in the world – the people in the health care system. In 2005, the UK Department of Health published a broad definition: “Self care is a part of daily living. It is the care taken by individuals towards their own health and well-being. From this definition, self-care is a conscious choice to constructively and strategically combat stressors in daily life.”
In another definition, self-care is seen as the practice of emotional hygiene — taking care of our emotions, our minds, with the same diligence we take care of our bodies. All scholars on the subject agree that healthy boundaries are a crucial component of self-care in all aspects of our lives. For example, “in work or in our personal relationships, poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger, and burnout”– Dr Dana Nelson
It seems that when we practice self-care and make that a priority, not only do we benefit, but so do the people around us. If we are burned out, stressed out or overloaded, what’s left to give to others? Some might say self-care isn’t even about us; it’s about being responsible so that we can show-up in the world to be of service to others in the best possible way. Following this line of thinking and going back to the Department of Health as an example, I’m sure we would all want our nurses and doctors to be practicing self-care.
Having now defined and understood the importance of self-care, I wondered if this would be enough to empower women to practice self-care and if not, what might stand in the way of that. The answer came to me via a powerful premise by Dr Tasneem Bhatia (known as Dr Taz). In her TED Talk “The Science of Empowerment” Dr Taz shared that our DNA is passed down generationally, and our DNA includes imprints of our thoughts. Knowing what life was like for our female ancestors – fighting for equality, and in some cases basic human rights, a woman wasn’t a priority in most societies, let alone in her own life.
It’s interesting then that here we are generations on with the same imprinting, fighting the fight of empowering ourselves and prioritising our needs. In fact, some might say we are fighting their fight. Given this, self-care particularly needs to be a priority for women, because as Giorgio Galli says, “the Future Has An Ancient Heart” and if a woman hasn’t had the opportunity to do the work and embrace her power and authenticity, it can be internalised by her daughter. Mother’s pass down their emotional landscape to their daughters. In other words, we are hard-wired to self-sabotage and give our power away if our mother did that.
Clinical psychologist Christina Manfredi says, “Every cell in our body contains our ancestors’ genetic and spiritual blueprint. Historical information that goes back generations is encoded within our own DNA. This not only refers to the way we look or an orientation to certain health conditions, but also includes the psychological stories of hope and fear experienced by our ancestors.”
The good news is we do have the power to change it all. According to Dr Taz Bhatia, there is a science to empowering women and it involves “changing women’s chemistry – altering their DNA so they can embrace their power and authenticity…..Without empowered and healthy women, societies fail, countries fall and the children are just forgotten.”
Positive psychology tells us that our thoughts manifest as vibrational energy in the body – and directly impact the structure of our brain, and our DNA, which is then passed down generation after generation. Some scientists say that it takes seven generations to change this pattern fully. Our thoughts matter. “Is this why we say yes, rather than no, don’t stand up for ourselves, sacrifice our interests and fail to recognise and understand our power? Is this why a strong woman, chooses the wrong partner or cannot protect her financial interests?…….I get why we as women work against our self-interest, our needs, our rights – we are still fighting their fight! We need to change this – or our children will be fighting this same fight and will take exponentially more time to change the course of history.” – Dr Tasneem Bhatia Integrative medicine physician and wellness expert
As women, it is now more important than ever that we practice self-care and embrace the responsibility to do the work – the work on our mindset, (and therefore our vibrational energy), to set and hold our boundaries, to have the courage to say no, to listen to and honour our intuition, to hold ourself in high regard and not sacrifice our needs, nor self-sabotage or martyr ourselves. We need to be vigilant about what we are role-modelling and the legacy we are leaving behind – our daughters and their daughters are counting on us.
Given these insights from the science of self-care, I invite us to be responsible, brave, awakened and empowered ancestors. Through the practice of self-care we can change our imprint and in turn empower future generations of women. Self-care isn’t just about us. Self-care empowers us to reshape the future and change the world.
This is an extract from The SelfCare Starter Guide for Women by Özlem: Founder of Spirit of Womankind