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Self Care is not Selfish

Reposted with permission from Womb of Light, by Bethany Webster.

As women, the need for self-care can trigger feelings of guilt. We’ve been conditioned to automatically think that we are neglecting others when we take time and energy to care for ourselves. Even if we have very supportive partners and family members who actively encourage us to love and care for ourselves, it can feel dangerous in moments to actually do so. This is because there is a very strong cultural message that has powerful intergenerational momentum which states that a good woman is a self-sacrificing woman. 

Many of us have grown up watching our mothers neglect themselves in order to care for their families–not just to care for their children but also to care for their parents and their husbands. Many of us have looked on as our mothers received praise for their self-neglect and we’ve seen the destruction that their inner deprivation can cause–as it manifests in family dynamics–and within our mothers in the forms of rage, depression, emptiness and bitter resentment.

Jane Bouse 1938 Johan Hagemeyer

There is a profound misconception that taking care of ourselves is bad for others. There’s a sense of scarcity; of having to choose between caring for yourself or your loved ones and not being permitted to have both.  It’s a double-bind in which we lose if we care for ourselves because we end up feeling guilty, and we lose if we neglect self-care because we end up feeling resentful.

The more we can actively care for ourselves in small and big ways, the more this old belief can be seen for what it is: a way to control women and keep them ignorant of their power.  It’s becoming clearer to modern women that there are no payoffs to martyrdom and self-deprivation. And as this becomes clearer, the more women can support one another in actively caring for themselves and asking for support when they need it. This support among women is so key to the paradigm shifts that are needed in our culture in order to create a more positive future for humanity and the planet.

Definition of self-care: Activities that nourish and replenish the mind, body and soul.

ye rin mok

Examples of self-care:

  • Rest, sleep, slowing down; listening into inner rhythms and cycles, solitude and reflection
  • Stimulating, creative and enriching activities like reading books, learning new skills, creating art, music or writing
  • Acts of receiving support from others such as mentorship or massage
  • Spiritual and inspirational activities that accentuate one’s sense of place in the world, in the universe and larger scheme of things such as connecting with a larger, supportive community

Claiming our need for self-care is claiming our right to be whole people. 

Esben Bøg

The irony is that this pattern of self-sacrifice and self-neglect creates the resentment that can actually induce one to act in truly neglectful ways towards our children and families.

Self-neglect is a pattern of deprivation and scarcity that we’ve internalized based on the patriarchal belief that women’s lives are less valuable.  

Many of us grew up hearing women being called “selfish” or “ungrateful” if they spent time focusing on their own pursuits or feeling entitled to some degree of independence from traditional female roles. We’ve learned to think of it as black and white, as an “either/or” not a “both/and.” It was rare to see a woman was able to enjoy independent pursuits and simultaneously be seen as a good-enough mother or wife.

We must be willing to be misperceived for the sake of what is true and real.  

I truly believe that in order to break the cycle of exhaustion and resentment, we must claim our need for self-care as valid, even in the face of criticism from loved ones. Even in the face of being called selfish. We have to let go of the fear of being seen as selfish for the sake of our own well-being and that of our children. And if we need support so that we can truly care for ourselves and others, we must begin to ask for support and claim that need as valid as well.

A woman who loves and cares for herself is NOT selfish. She is powerful … and she is harder to control and manipulate. 

Nirav Patel

Self-care is not only available to the wealthy woman who can afford to hire a nanny or pay for a massage. Self-care can come in the tiniest of forms and each step we take to care for ourselves brings rich rewards to ourselves and our children, especially our daughters. We model what it means for a woman to value herself. As daughters see their mothers take care of their own needs and carrying themselves with self-worth, daughters can more easily internalize their own self-worth. The more a daughter sees her mother demonstrate respect for herself and other women, the higher esteem a young daughter will hold herself.


Simple ways we can demonstrate self-care in our daily lives: 

  • Take a little quiet time for yourself every day (meditation, long bath, walk, etc.)
  • Breathe deeply and fully
  • Take care of your physical body with healthy food, enough rest and activity
  • Craft potent affirmations that reflect new beliefs that you want to embody in your life. Speak them out loud daily.
  • Speak your truth; say Yes when you mean Yes and No when you mean No.

Self-care is ultimately about seeing ourselves as good, worthy and holy, even when our families and our cultures have been unable to. It is the work of a pioneer. We are owning our worth and laying new roads for future women.

Part of stepping into our power as women involves processing deep grief; grief not only for the pain you’ve experienced in your own life, but also the grief from acknowledging the oppression that has been experienced by the women in your generational lineage.  On an even deeper level, there’s  the grief of seeing that you cannot rely on your family or society to give you permission to be your full self. It’s the grief of realizing that they are incapable of giving you this permission. If you are to claim your full self, you must give yourself permission to be that full self. Only you can do this.

untitled june 8

Something powerful arises from this reckoning and the grief that follows. It’s the ability to see your worth and value as a human being independent of the ability of other people to understand you.

From that moment forward, you can act from that place of knowing your worth even in the face of outer rejection and criticism. You have stepped across a threshold into a territory many women have never had the fortitude or opportunity to go to. You become a radiant light unto yourself, a light that others can begin to feel burning within themselves by virtue of witnessing your light.

This path may be incredibly lonely at times, but you are never truly alone. When you’ve touched this place of utter aloneness and singularity within yourself, paradoxically, you begin to touch something in the universal collective.

maud chalard

As we move forward diligently with our self-care, we demonstrate the potency of the self-anointed woman who is: 

  • willing to be misperceived by others
  • willing to be seen as inconvenient or “not good enough”
  • willing to be seen as “too much” or “too intense”
  • willing to cease putting vital energy into people-pleasing and approval-seeking
  • willing to be seen as selfish by others for the sake of demonstrating self-care practices to her daughter(s) and other young women
  • willing to follow her inner wisdom and intuition even when it may conflict with the conventions and norms of the culture.

A free, self-anointed woman is willing to do these things because she is committing to living from her own sacred source…no matter what.  She refuses to be confined by the patriarchal conventions of the culture. She demonstrates profound self-trust, aliveness, strength, joy, wildness and deep integrity.

As we become more free ourselves, living from our inner truth and authentic center, we assist others in discovering their own freedom as well. There is also a connection between our commitment to our own self-care and creating the cultural shift toward greater care of the planet. It all starts with the radical and simple commitment to value and care for ourselves.

Dorothea Lange 1

(Art credits in order of appearance: Olaf Grind, Johan Hagemeyer, Ye Rin Mok, Esbeg Bøg, Mirav Patel, artist unknown, Maud Calard, Dorothea Lange)

© Bethany Webster 2014

Bethany Webster is a writer, transformational coach, international speaker and what you could call a midwife of the heart. Her work is focused on helping women heal the “mother wound” so that they can step into their full feminine power and potential. In addition to writing and teaching internationally, Bethany offers online courses and a private coaching program for women leaders who desire to take a quantum leap in their leadership.

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“Hello Lover You Sexy Beast” And Other Adventures in Compassionate Self-Talk

The voice that I used to talk to myself in my head with typically sounded like a cross between Judge Judy (on good days) and the evil stepmother from Cinderella (bad ones). Critical, to the point, sometimes disguised as for my own good, but came down way too hard and wasn’t particularly kind.

But ever since I realized, hey, I love myself why am I talking to myself as though I’m a prison warden in a one-woman-only Alcatraz on Kerrie Island? – I’ve been vigilant about reprogramming the voice I use to talk to myself in my head.

1. In times of embarrassment, foot-in-mouth situations and public faux pas

Before: “Why did you do that! Oh my god I hate myself.” Accompanied by wanting to hide away forever.

Now: “It’s okay. It’s just a mistake. No one really noticed. EVEN IF they did, no one really cares that much/You’re doing your best to make it right.”

It’s not as if I no longer feel mortified or embarrassed. Because if there’s one thing I learnt, there’s no way to exorcise feelings completely – feelings are what makes us human! So in these moments, I just hold on and ride these waves. But, the difference is that instead of intensifying those emotions and over-stimulating myself even more with with nasty self-talk, I make an effort to soothe myself, and to be kind instead.

This has really changed everything.

Being noticed, especially having mistakes noticed, can be a huge deal for highly sensitive people. I know I get really overstimulated by the sensation of having done something wrong – plus, horror, having it pointed out – and it makes me overly cautious. But I’m learning to talk myself gently off the ledge in those moments, and more importantly, to let go.

Oftentimes for HSPs, we think that EVERYONE is watching, everyone notices, but that’s not really true. No one really looks that closely. And even if they did, they wouldn’t think much of it; it would usually be forgotten about soon enough. And in those times when people DO notice, and DO pick up on it, and get on your case about it or pass a judgmental comment…? If they are unkind about it, then it’s really their problem! Especially if you’ve done all you can to apologize or to rectify the situation. Most likely, they’re probably just being plain tactless, and in that case, let it roll off your back, baby.

Try: “It’s okay, it’s a new day, and I’m good. You’re kind. Your heart will shine through and people who matter will see that and will overlook any mistake or faux pas.”

It’s also taught me to be kinder, and to keep my blunt self in check with others – because no one wants their mortifying moments to be pointed out. No one.

2. In more intense situations of fear, doubt and uncertainty

When you feel like you have the rug pulled out from under your feet, especially in situations like dealing with losing your job, finding a job, having all your plans crumble before your eyes etc., it can be so easy to be down on yourself even more. But think about it – if your best friend comes to you with a major life crisis, would you berate them further?

Before: “You should have known better, you should have done XYZ, why didn’t you XYZ…?!”

“This relationship/job/project failed, therefore I failed and am a failure, the end.”

I used to put a WHOLE ton of pressure on myself to ‘stay ahead of the game’, way beyond reasonable expectations i.e. being able to divine the future in crystal clarity – thus all the ‘shoulds’. What the ‘shoulds’ only served to do was to freeze me into a state of paralysis, unable to forgive myself, unable to truly move forward.

But the truth is: we are never in 100% control of any situation. Expecting total control, including in situations where other people are involved – people with FREE WILL – is not only an exercise in futility, but also a form of arrogance! But it’s okay, everyone’s arrogant at some point, it’s like a Badge of Immaturity we all wear for a while. Eventually, we all learn. (See? Compassionate talk happening here.)

It’s natural to feel regret, sadness, anger – all stemming from a sense of helplessness and fear, but turning those feelings into self-destructive thoughts serves no one, least of all yourself. Resist the temptation!

Try: “You did the best you could with what you knew. You made the best decision you knew how to make. Now that it’s turned out like this, okay, let’s see how we can work this. Let’s see how we can fix it or make it better. Now you know better!”

“Even though this relationship ended / job opportunity didn’t work out / project didn’t pan out, doesn’t mean that have failed. It taught me XYZ; it was a really valuable lesson. Yes, I did make a mistake, but I’ll find out what that is and make sure I don’t repeat it again. I know I will learn it this time around.”

Give yourself some breathing room. Take a step back – and suddenly, options seem clearer when you stop throwing yourself under the bus or condemning yourself. Suddenly, there’s space to move forward.

3. When dealing with work pressure

There are times I just don’t feel like getting down to work. I procrastinate. I get distracted. I find a million other little things to do instead. It’s also the side of me I usually associate with my HSS self – sensation seeking and that gets bored easily.

Before:Oh my god what’s wrong with you, just focus, you’re being lazy, if you don’t do this, this means you’re going to…(dire consequence)

That used to result in me doing the work, but feeling heavy-hearted with lots of feet dragging. The work is usually uninspired.

Now: “Okay Kerrie, what do you need in order to focus? Can you focus for 20 minutes and then go read that site/go for a drink/talk a walk instead? What’s bothering you? What’s the REAL reason behind not wanting to do this?”

I might discover that I have a niggling worry I need to sort out with myself first, or have some issue that I need to take care of. Or it might be the work, or the project itself – something is making me drag my feet (I might have intuited something that’s off about it, but that I’m not yet conscious or cognizant about; I can’t quite yet put a finger on it.). Sometimes that dragging of feet means something. Sometimes it means that a decision DOES need to be put on hold, more information is needed before moving ahead. My intuition needs to be checked in with. I wouldn’t have been able to realize all of these possibilities if I had just kept being super harsh towards myself.

4. General day-to-day appearance-related self-talk

First thing in the morning. Bathroom. I look into the mirror.

Before: “Oh my god. Check out that pimple! And your dark eye rings! Your skin is XYZ. Your face is XYZ. (Replace XYZ with any criticism you can think of.)”

Now:Hello Lover You Sexy Beast.

(Though I’m not usually quite that pumped up.)

“Hello self! It’s a new day. You’re choosing to face the world with an open heart, and that’s amazing.” Then, big grin.

Because every day IS a new day. Can you be kind and friendly to yourself? Over time, it gets easier, more natural, and more of a reflex. Try it and watch yourself blossom under the loving nature of your sweet, sweet (real) talk – and watch it spill out of your mouth in conversation with others.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the Universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Unknown, but Not Buddha

P.S. A journalist once asked Dalai Lama what he thought about self-hatred and he was totally baffled! It had never crossed his mind before that someone might hate themselves.


How do you talk to yourself in your head? Is it always judging, criticizing, full of admonishment? Or loving and kind? I’d love to hear. We can all learn to sweet talk ourselves together.  


Self-Care Series: Elyssa Jakim

The self-care series features sensitive people across the spectrum – intuitives, empaths, indigos, whatever label you might know them by – and how they practice radical self-care. Self-care is a way of keeping ourselves centered, grounded and glowing – and ready to be of service to others. We can only truly nourish the world by first nurturing ourselves.  

Elyssa and I crossed paths this past year; I felt drawn to doing energy work and taking up Reiki Level 1 and I was lucky enough to have her as my Reiki Teacher! She’s vivacious, ethereal and has an angelic nature about her, and you guys, she gives such an on-point description of what self-care TRULY is. I’m super stoked she’s the very first strong & sensitive lady kicking off the series. – xx K

This may sound batty, but I find that working full time in the healing arts, means devoting practically all of my off-hours to self-care in one form or another. Here’s how it’s not crazy: I believe that we can move in our lives with an attitude of self-care, lovingly holding ourselves through it all. This does not mean being inactive and spending all day lying on a settee and and eating cacao (though sometimes it just might, yum!) this means being very present with the emotional ups and downs of your life, being very present with yourself, and choosing love as often as possible. This might mean that you move more slowly or “do” fewer things than the average New Yorker, or 21st century human. And that, I want to assure you, is A-Okay by the universe!

I’ve recently been asked questions about self-care relating to selfishness such as: “Doesn’t it feel self-indulgent to take so much time for yourself?” And you know, when I started on my healing and self-healing journey, I wasn’t sure if I deserved all of the time I wanted to take to love myself and the answer was “yes”. Around this time, I went to a women’s retreat Chris Maddox’s Wild Woman Project. When Chris and wild women start circles, they light a candle, asking that that flame nourish the flame of all women, allowing all women to awaken their wild spirits. That idea really stuck with me: when we take the time to nurture ourselves, other women receive freedom, bliss and ease. If “self-care” is a block for you, I urge you to start there. Let your self-care practice be an act of prayer for all others in the world in need of love and nurturing. Choose a cause that is your cause (for me it’s almost always about women and sexual healing), and let your work on yourself be a prayer for that place. Now my taking time for self-care is as natural, and feels as necessary as breathing.

That said and that intention set, here are my go-to regimens du jour. I would say I do most of these things almost daily, and the practices are always evolving. One thing I have learned is that the mindset of “you must do this every day” doesn’t really jibe with me. I try to move away from punishment and more towards a sense of balance and ease with all aspects of my life. It’s a challenge, but oh is it a worthwhile one to address!

Take a Bath

Water is incredible, it is the gorgeous metaphor for our emotions. Water can hold our feelings, and water can wash them away. I like to bathe in sea-salt and/or baking soda as an aura cleanser. When I do this, I ask that any energy that is not serving me or does not belong to me be released. I also make little bath tonics depending on my mood. If I’m feeling heart-heavy, for instance, I add rose petals and rose quartz crystals to the bath, and line it with candles. Bath tonics are a great chance to be creative, kind of silly, and have fun. When I drain the bath, I picture everything washing away. For a quickie, I use sea-salt in the shower.

Set an Altar and maintain your space


I currently have several altars in my home, and the one in my bedroom is extremely dear to me. On it I put objects such as crystals, images of loved ones, positive notes to self, anything that makes me feel good or reminds me of aspects in my life in need of healing. Whenever things are feeling really “off” for me, I take some time to say hi to my altar and maybe re-arrange her. Re-arranging and cleaning your physical space, creates so much room in the real world. This goes for cleaning your home too. I know it’s not fun or particularly sexy, but taking time to love up your living space is so good for your psyche and the fairies love it! I had a dear friend once tell me “Fairies don’t want to visit your mess!” Speaking of fairies, I leave a fairy altar with trinkets and chocolate by my window from time to time too, to add more magic into my life.

Sleep Hypnosis

The summer months have been a bit stressy and taxing for many of us, and this means we are more amped up than usual. Whenever I have trouble falling asleep or just need a re-charge, I listen to one of these awesome sleep hypnosis videos I found on you-tube. This is a new practice but it’s so great. Michael Sealey is my favorite—try this one!


I never grew up “religious” or following a particular faith, but now I pray all the time. I pray to the Goddess, I pray to God, I pray to any divine beings that inspire me. Recently, I’ve been praying to the Goddess Venus and Persephone. I call in Jesus and Archangel Michael too. This is something I don’t always share openly, for fear it will be polarizing or people will think I’m woo-woo, but I long stepped out of the woo woo closet, so might as well embrace it in print! I believe that prayer changes us and prayer changes things. I love to speak my worries and hopes and dreams out-loud, to the loving presence of the divine. Often I light a candle and just whisper or shout my hopes and fears to it, asking for help. This practoce reminds me that I am not alone and has brought so many beautiful miracles into my life. It will open up your channel to spirit and to cosmic energy, and it will be life-changing. Marianne Williamson is someone I turn to often who has inspired my thoughts about prayer, her book A Return to Love is an excellent resource for this.

Turn to Others  

We learn and heal in relationships. As you work on your self-care practice (and please take it slowly for there is no rush, and it may feel HUGE), know that you do not have to go it alone. You can share. If you have a soul-friend who can hold you through your ups and downs (we all always have ups and downs), I ask you to turn to him or her and share your hopes and fears and dreams. If this friend isn’t here yet, she’ll come. Just ask, ask when you pray. She will come. When the friend in need wills it, the warrior-mirror friend will come. Turn to others to turn you on to your light. Go to group healing sessions. Invest in body and energy work such as Reiki, energy healing, tarot readings, intuitive readings, whatever that little heart-light tells you to do. I promise, you are worth it. And money invested in self-care will always come back ten fold. I promise.

Thanks for reading, I love you, and I wish you so many blessings on your journey to nourish yourself. Remember, you’re giving others space to do the same! I bow to you for that.


Elyssa Jakim is a Reiki Master, Hands-on energy healer, and intuitive channel. She is the co-creator of the Numinous’s Temple of Venus (opening visitors to love/abundance/beauty) and of Brooklyn’s Fairy School (keeping kids and adults magical). Elyssa found the healing arts through an intense, lifelong study of acting: she has always been fascinated by the facets of human nature. She received her BA from Harvard University in Visual and Environmental Studies and writes for The Numinous, The Huffington Post, and Mind Body Green. For more info, check out
Instagram and twitter: @elyssajakim

Dear sensitive soul, what does self-care mean to you?


Self-care Fridays: Food & Feelings

1. I wanted to rhyme ‘Food’ & ‘Mood’ for this title but nothing witty came to mind

This week, I was mindful about drinking more water, and reducing my salt & sugar intake. (Writing this sentence just gave me a sense of being connected to my mother, who is the queen of healthy eating and very much the voice in my head whenever I find myself confronted by food choices.) What sparked this drive was probably an entire summer’s worth of being reckless about what I was putting into my body – (I wanted to gain weight after the Food Poisoning Incident of 2014 of which we shall never speak again), and after months of indulgence, I needed to feel a little bit more grounded by the food I was eating.

Food affects my mood a lot more than I would like to acknowledge sometimes. Too much sugar and I find myself being unable to focus well. Then, in order to help me focus, I have to drink coffee – but then I would need to remind myself to stop at one cup of coffee a day – if not, my night would be spent in fitful, dream-filled half slumber. (Which was what happened last night, sigh.) Sugar also results in more severe mood swings, and gives me a kind of high that’s hard to get down from.

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Self-care Fridays

I skipped a post as I was in Portland last week! (And I’m late by a day this week! But baby steps, guys, baby steps.) Travelling for me is basically self-care in motion – walking around,  seeing new things, meeting new people and connecting with them are all really renewing activities for me. So it was definitely a really pleasant way to spend my birthday week!

  • Just say namaste

This week, I went for yoga again (yay me!). Overcoming inertia is a big thing for me. Right before I’m supposed to go, I lie in bed thinking of all the reasons why I shouldn’t (oh it’s too cold outside, I’m too sleepy right now, I have a backache, my period could be coming, is that a twitch in my ankle that I feel…) Basically, my sly mind tries to trick me into staying inert. Sometimes, it tries to play a movie reel about all the arduous future steps I’m about to take, and I exhaust myself in the process. Then it’s just like, Alright, that’s it, I’m just going to lie in bed all day now. Luckily, good sense (almost) always prevails. I just try to remember that euphoric feeling after every session, and how at the end of it, I never ever regret going. So I’m learning to shut my self-sabotaging mind up and just move.

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Self-care as an HSP

Dupont Circle DC

Friday is my new, self-appointed Self-care as an HSP day! Every Friday, I intend to talk about how I’ve taken time to slow down and care for myself that week. 

First off, are you new to this whole HSP business? Or need help explaining this trait to others? Then this letter might help. Having supportive loved ones, I think, is really important for self-care as an HSP too.  Ane Axeford, of Sensitive and Thriving, wrote an open letter for HSPs ‘coming out’ to friends & family. I think she does a really good job of detailing HSP traits and the ways it could come across to others – and how we can help our loved ones understand us better. It’s a great way to open the dialogue to empathy and understanding.

I also found this to be a particularly good reminder for myself:

I may not know what I want or need sometimes. I may really want to know what I want and need at those times. I may have considered it over and over, researched options, and put a lot of effort and intention into understanding what I want and need. And I may still not know. … Please know that sometimes I only know what I want or need after I have taken action on something and gotten physical, experiential feedback about it. …This is not because I am not committed to you or myself. It is because understanding what my own true preferences are is very subtle and experiential. I learn by seeing and doing. So, it is helpful for me to have space to see and do before I say yes to something. And, sometimes the way I imagine something is not at all the way it physically actually is. My feeling of whether or not something fits is subtle and important. My taking my time on decisions and trying them out is to ensure that we both get what we want, it is not a sign of resistance.

Complicated, but yes, totally true. Can’t tell you just how often I twist myself into knots trying to figure out what I really want!

What goes down during down-time

I’m still learning to prioritize rest and relaxation – and I do still have to fight those feelings of guilt about it, sometimes – it all stems from this habit of judging myself. Those sluggish afternoons where I find myself in bed, on a weekday. Needing at least 9 hours of sleep a night. Even though my HSS mind wants more, more, more, my HSP self will go “No! Please stop. Please chill and take a break.”

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