What would it mean for you to love and nurture yourself without apology?
Pondering this question is a good place to start a journey to find that energized, loving, full-of-life YOU that you haven’t seen much of lately.
I find that for most women (myself included) and some men too, the thought of loving and nurturing oneself without apology is practically unfathomable. It short circuits our brains. We feel confused. Is that even right? Possible?
Isn’t there something wrong with even asking the question?
There are many reasons for our discomfort.
Some are undoubtedly very personal, but many are much bigger than our individual selves. They are rooted in stories we’ve heard our whole lives: about good girls and bad girls, good moms and bad moms, good Christians and bad Christians—you get the idea.
Our discomfort with idea of loving and nurturing ourselves without apology for all the messed-up parts, for all the parts that don’t fit the ideal, is rooted in lessons taught to us directly and indirectly, often by well-meaning adults.
These lessons convince us deep within our souls that we should apologize for taking up space in the world, for having needs, for having opinions, for wanting to be valued for our work, for feeling strong emotions. For many women, there is also an unconscious apology we make for the mistake of being born female in the first place. And if you are a woman who is a member of another undervalued or oppressed group too—if you’re brown-skinned, or poor, or have a physical disability—you know even more stories that encourage you to apologize for being who you are.
“I’m sorry to bother you” we say to the sales clerk whose job it is to help us find and purchase what we need or to the professor whose job it is to answer our questions during his office hours.
“Please forgive me, but may I make a suggestion?” we say as we seek to insert ourselves into a discussion about a topic about which we have more expertise than any of the men in the room who have been easily talking over each other for the past 45 minutes.
These are small examples, but there are bigger ones too. For moms especially, there are often much bigger examples of the ways we apologize for who we are. And this is a problem, not only for ourselves, but for our children and—I would argue—for the world.
Very often as moms we apologize for having needs, or desires, or goals of our own without even realizing that we have done so.
We bury them. We silence them. We numb them. We silence ourselves and our needs before we even get to an outward apology for their intrusion. We apologize through our actions. How?
· We show up for all our daughter’s basketball games, but regularly miss the yoga class we love.
· We give our toddler our full attention whenever she asks for it, but fail to schedule even 20 minutes a day that is totally just for whatever we want to do, a space to breathe for a moment.
· We submerge our talent and deep longing to write under decades of cooking and cleaning, birthday parties and work that pays the bills.
· Or maybe—as I saw referenced in a recent Facebook post that was supposed to be funny, but made me cringe—you know you’re a mom when your preschooler looks adorable in all her new clothes, but you are still wearing the ratty underwear you bought before she was born.
· Maybe we give up a whole career that we love to stay home with our kids because we think that’s what a really good mom does (or maybe we work more than we’d like because we think a really good mom needs to pay for the best schools, camps etc.)
For you the scenes may be different, but I bet you can think of one.
So, I ask you (and myself)...
What would look different in your life if you felt the freedom to love and nurture yourself with the same kind of abandon with which you love others?
For me, it often means asking for silence to read and to think. It means not cooking much. It means paying for someone to clean my house even though I’m not earning a lot of money right now. It means telling my son that I need him to walk the dog, so I can prepare to have friends over. It means Gerber daisies . . . and many other things, big and small.
· For you, it might be as simple as scheduling your own doctor’s appointment, and going to it.
· Or it might mean sending your toddler to the zoo with a friend so you have a few hours alone.
· For you, it may mean shutting your door to write for 30 minutes and telling your kids, like author Sue Monk Kidd does, to “knock twice” if there’s a REAL emergency, but otherwise to leave you alone.
· Or it might mean that you need to talk with your partner about how much you want to go back to work, so you can figure out how you can both be parents and have fulfilling careers.
· It might just mean that you leave that adorable kids outfit on the shelf and buy a gorgeous new bra.
No one can tell you what it would look like for you to love and nurture yourself without apology, but I will say this.
It’s a good idea.
And the fact that many of the “good mom” stories that are so powerful in our culture are about moms who give up everything for their kids—who sacrifice all their dreams for the sake of their children, who ignore their own needs—the fact that these stories are told over and over in a million different ways doesn’t make them true, or helpful.
I think they are, in fact, dangerous—a barrier to unleashing moms and kids to make the world a much better place than what it is right now.
Most moms want their kids to live fully and authentically as the amazing, unique human beings that we know them to be.
But we can’t give to them what we do not have ourselves. As life coach Martha Beck often says, “You have to live it, to give it.”
So, good mom, I ask you again, what would it mean for you to love and nurture yourself without apology?
I encourage you to take a tiny step in that direction. Today. Even though it’s the holidays and it’s all supposed to be about giving to others.
You can’t give what you don’t have. Give yourself some unconditional love and care.
Then hit reply to this message and tell me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org or pop into the comments section of this blog HERE and let me know. And if you want more support for your journey I'd love to talk with you about the work I do with moms who want more from their lives. You can set up a free consultation with me here.
I'm thankful for you this holiday season. Here's to thriving!