Most unhappy people need to learn just one lesson: how to see themselves through the lens of genuine compassion and treat themselves accordingly. — Martha Beck
I have spent the last year feeling ugly. Not skin-ugly but soul-ugly. Dorothy Parker wrote, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.” And I some way I felt this characterized me.
Sometime in the spring of last year I stopped writing because I feared the things that would come out would be ugly, angry and dark. Those were the things that were coming out in my relationships. I felt overwhelmed by fear and anxiety and I felt completely abandoned. That feeling of abandonment turned to anger, and anger turned to resentment. It was a deeply painful time and writing about it felt like spoon-feeding people my pain.
I’m a pupil of the likes of Julia Cameron and Laura Doyle, so I thought the answer was better self-care. I exercised, I sought out sunshine (quite the quest in the Pacific Northwest), I got counseling, I treated myself kindly on days I wanted to bite everyone’s head off (if only I could have treated them so). But no amount of bubble baths could wash away something that was bubbling up from inside me.
We are whole beings and when one part is broken the whole thing goes out of whack. Those things helped, the way putting air in your tires might help if your car is routinely overheating, but not much ( . . . I really shouldn’t make car analogies).
Turns out my problem wasn’t emotional or spiritual — it was biochemical. An imbalance in hormones was causing constant emotional overload, which was in turn causing a lot of spiritual turmoil.
The problem is we tend to address issues in the area they manifest. Because I was tired and cranky all the time, I thought I must not be sleeping well enough. When my relationship struggled, I thought the issue was with my relationship. When I was overwhelmed by life, I thought my life was too overwhelming. A little bit of honest checking-in with myself would have revealed that none of those suspicions were true, but that can be hard when your internal sensors are already going haywire.
The thing that is hardest to grapple with looking back is that I knew something was wrong, long before things started to go wrong. I knew I wasn’t doing well before my relationships started to fall apart and I began to question both my sanity and my salvation. I wish that I had been paying more attention when it was just a niggling feeling for me.
Enter this idea of bone deep beauty . . . I got that phrase from friend who is running a 14-day self-care coaching program and kindly let me be a part of the trial run. I’ve been ruminating on the concept ever since.
I do believe in self-care, but we’ve often reduced self-care to things like eating breakfast and taking a night off every once in a while, which should probably just be called common self-decency. Or sometimes we use self-care terminology to disguise the opposite, like bad eating or sleeping habits. We would never hire a baby sitter who said, “This child has had a rough day, I’m just going to let them eat the whole carton of ice cream.” We know that is not care-taking.
The reason I find coaching so valuable, and decided to get trained as a coach myself, is that I don’t believe people need to be dissatisfied with the way they’re living or feeling on a daily basis. Coaching is the first step towards changing those niggling things you can’t seem to change on your own.
That’s why I’ve loved being a part of this program. It not only comes with a box full of ways to nourish your body, but each day is a check-in with a different, essential, part of your life. These include relationships, spirituality, creativity, even the way we eat and the way we play. And Bethany includes one-on-one coaching sessions to help you through the process.
I started this post with the idea that I would write through the themes for the different days of the program (I’m on week two, day one). Instead, I’m going to encourage you to check-in with yourself and consider whether this might be a good time to take some life inventory. And then check out the program.
Get it for yourself . . . or someone you really love . . . or someone who really needs love. Which, let’s face it, is all of us.