Tending to my nourishment and pleasure isn’t something I was taught when I was younger. If anything, I was surrounded by those who would suffer for their nourishment and pleasure.
I grew up in a society and culture that revered productivity and perseverance, driven to achieve the American dream at the expense of health and wellbeing.
I can say, with certainty, that the vast majority of us were never taught the skills and resources needed to best care for ourselves. As children, the building blocks of our identity were learned through imitation.
How many of us can claim that we had healthy role models in our lives that encouraged us to cultivate skills like presence, listening, discernment, articulation of healthy boundaries, self-care, attunement to ourselves and others, compassion, self-trust, and self-love? Without healthy role models, it’s nearly impossible to learn how to find ourselves amidst the chaos of the outer world.
Unhealthy Role Models
Our drive to keep up with societal standards, completely disregarding our instinctual wisdom, has only increased over time. We were indoctrinated into a society that had very specific ideals with regard to success.
If we didn’t fit the mold or norm, we were most likely excluded and labeled an outcast, deviant, or disordered. If we were one of the ‘lucky ones’ who did fit the mold, we may have realized, years later, that we didn’t know who we truly were because we were living by someone else’s rules and standards for so long.
Like most of us, when I was growing up, I watched the women in my family push themselves past their breaking point, working themselves to the bone in order to make ends meet and make themselves available to others.
I watched as their needs fell by the wayside, never really being met or acknowledged. I watched the men in my family work tirelessly to provide for us, as well, trying so hard to be invincible and not show an ounce of vulnerability.
Starved for Nourishment
As I grew older, I began to equate strength with not showing weakness. I learned to feel guilty for wanting to take care of myself. I learned to feel shame for having needs. I learned to feel unworthy of nourishment and pleasure until I had worked hard enough and sacrificed enough of myself to deserve it.
By the time I reached my early twenties, I was in the grips of endless cycles of burn out and scarcity. I was at war with myself.
The part of myself that was starved for nourishment begged for a reprieve; the other was the perfect slave driver, utilizing criticism, pain, and fear to torture me into persevering beyond my limits. I was not only my harshest critic but also my worst enemy.
Once we reach a point in our lives when nothing is ever good enough, where do we go from there? In time, I learned that the answer wasn’t going to be found outside of myself.
Seeking external validation for love, success, and worthiness led me down a long and painful road that ended with the realization that I didn’t know who I really was and had absolutely no idea how to care for myself.
For the vast majority of us, the process of learning to care for ourselves and listen to our inner wisdom is born when we have reached the point of no return.
We are confronted with the hard and painful truth that we cannot continue existing in the same way that we have been. We are terrified because we realize we are on the precipice of an inevitable and irrevocable change and that if we don’t make the choice to shift our reality, life will make the choice for us.
It is often in the process of losing ourselves and everything we thought we knew that we discover who we truly are.
When everything is stripped away, we are offered an opportunity to come into greater intimacy with our true selves. We have a chance to start over, rebirth ourselves anew and live our lives in ways that don’t compromise who we are on any level.
Our journey towards greater healing and wholeness becomes possible through our commitment to our own self-nourishment. Our lives radically begin to shift when we decide that negating our truth isn’t an option anymore.
As we learn to honor and listen to our instincts and inner rhythms, we begin to create the space to take care of ourselves in the ways we deserve.
Over time, we slowly learn to put ourselves first and recognize that our needs, desires, and dreams are important.
We re-discover our values and preferences.
We begin to grasp the importance of having and communicating healthy boundaries.
We learn that the more we attune to our own needs, pleasure, and nourishment, the greater our capacity is to show up for the people and things that are most precious to us.