Women are often wonderful nurturers… to others. What they have a more difficult time with is caring for themselves. Although every woman with this struggle has her own reasons, there are myths about women that fuel this problem. Below are some of them, along realities of womanhood (really, ‘personhood’) that can free you to nurture yourself properly.
Myth: You are primarily valuable as a nurturer.
Fact: You are valuable because you are you. The roles you fill in life (e.g. mother, wife, sister) are important because they help provide meaning. But, if you mistake your value as a person for how effectively you function in those roles, then you are at risk for becoming entrapped in a cycle of constantly needing to please others.
If that is hard to understand or apply to yourself, consider this: You are likely to marvel at the beauty and inherent preciousness of young children. You don’t come by this appreciation because of what they do so much as who they are. Although we sometimes lose this understanding when we look at adults – especially ourselves – the same truth holds.
Myth: You must always be available to support others in all the ways they need support.
Fact: You have limits to how much or in what ways you can support others. To remain healthy and better able to serve yourself and others, you need to respect those limits.
Myth: A corollary to the previous myth: You may attend to your own needs if it does not interfere with caring for others.
Fact: You must attend to yourself and accept nurturing from others in order to have the reserves to be giving.
Myth: You are a bad friend or family member if you burden others with your problems.
Fact: You will sometimes need the support of others just as they will sometimes need your support. By reaching out for help, you are giving them a chance to feel helpful and important. And, it’s through this kind of inter-dependence that people create the sense of community that most of us seek.
Myth: You must have done something wrong if someone is hurt by your words or actions.
Fact: When your words or actions upset someone, you have not necessarily done anything wrong. For instance, let’s say you decide to give a co-worker corrective feedback because their tendency to work quickly, rather than thoroughly, is causing you a problem. This might be the best course of action even if the person feels upset or hurt. Feeling “bad” for that person or being empathic to their pain does not mean you are guilty of a ‘crime.’
Myth: If you effectively use time management and stress management skills, then you can get everything done and you will feel good about life.
Fact: Time management and stress management skills are essential in balancing a busy life. However, it’s important to remember that everyone has limits. Only by accepting your limits and loving and nurturing yourself (and others) can you enjoy your life.
If you are tripped up by any of the above myths, you will not be able to just change in an instant. You will need to think about how it affects you in different areas of your life. It will take time to really see your mis-perceptions in the moment; and choose a different path. But, that’s okay if you do for yourself what you already do so well for others – be patient. With awareness and patience, you can learn to relate in a more positive and nurturing way with yourself. And, the pay-off will be a much happier you! (If it helps any to know this; those around you will benefit from this, too.)
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