What Does Radical Self Care Mean to You?

I was on Facebook yesterday (big surprise) and I glanced at a post that said, “What does radical self-care mean to you?” I didn’t read the rest of the post or think about it much at the time, but as I sat down to write my blog today, I realized that I’ve been engaging in some radical self-care recently.

We all know that self-care is important, or at least we hear it from our friends and nod our heads knowingly. But how often do we actually choose to care for ourselves? And of those times, are we engaging in the minimum amount of self-care so that we don’t feel disgusting, like my recent self-administered foot massage and pedicure? Or are we actually practicing radical self-care?

What does radical self-care even mean?

As I thought more about it I realized that over the past several weeks I’ve spent hours on Pinterest adding pins to my Tattoo board. It’s the most self-centered activity I’ve engaged in for months. And I LOVE it. Every night after my daughter is in bed I pour over images and imagine my tattoo. I think about where I will put it on my body. I imagine how it will look. I think about how much it might hurt and the fact that it will take time to heal.

Maybe it sounds odd to think that a tattoo is self-care, but for me it is. It’s a way to express myself. It’s a beautiful piece of artwork that I get to wear for the rest of my life, just for me. I know it will be painful, but I’ve been through childbirth, so I know how to welcome the pain. And besides, life is painful. There’s no getting away from pain, no matter how hard we try.

For me, there’s a spiritual aspect to getting a tattoo. If you have one, you probably know what I’m talking about, but for those of you who don’t, let me explain.

Years ago I did some Native American spiritual ceremonies. I did sweat lodges, a couple of teepee ceremonies, and finally, a full on vision quest. I spent days on a hill with no food or water. It was a truly transformative experience.

I know, I know, depriving myself of food and water doesn’t exactly sound like self-care, but here’s the thing. When I did those ceremonies I consciously put my body under duress. I was too hot or I was sleep deprived or I was hungry or thirsty or nauseous. But by experiencing those physical challenges, it was somehow easier to access spiritual clarity. The idea behind these kinds of spiritual trials is that they bring us closer to God.

During my vision quest my priorities came into sharp relief.

I got clear about my purpose. I got a visit from my grandmother who had passed away. Call me crazy if you want to, but these experiences were huge gifts to me.

I left each of these life events richer than I was before. I gained more knowledge of myself, my connection to spirit, and my body’s abilities and limitations. Every time I’ve challenged myself whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually, I’ve come away stronger and more sure of myself.

These ceremonies were rights of passage for me. And so is the tattoo I will be getting. For me, a tattoo is radical self-care. And it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but me. It’s OK if my parents or other people cringe at the sight of my new tattoo. It’s not about impressing or disappointing anyone else, it’s just about ME choosing an outer expression to reflect my inner world.

Sometimes I create visual art, or I cry or rage. Other times I write or hot tub or savor an extra long hug from a dear friend. And soon I’ll be getting my first tattoo.

This is how I heal and grow.

Your way might be different, and that’s beautiful too. I would love to hear about your own notions of radical self-care. What does it look like in YOUR life? Have you been through similar ceremonies or other rites of passage? How do you know when you’ve achieved radical self-care? And do you care how your self-care appears to other people? Does it bother you to think that others might consider you “selfish” for doing the things that nurture you?

I hope you’ll share your thoughts, experiences, and ideas with me by leaving a comment.

And I deeply wish you all the love and peace you can possibly handle.

Warm hugs, Shelly