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Radical Self-Care: Affirm Your Self-Worth and Live With Intention

Black woman embracing herself as an act of self-love
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Real self-care is radical. Real self-care is critical to affirming our self-worth because real self-care is self-love. 

Your true intentions become your behaviors, practices, and the way you approach life. If you live with intention and affirm your self-worth that speaks volumes about what you love, value, prioritize, and believe. 

For this very reason, intentional living is so beneficial, especially if we want to assert our power, expand our creativity, and live according to our values.

Let’s be honest. You will care for who and what you value.  You care for and prioritize what or who you deem worthy just as you affirm who and what you show up for in life.

I ask the question when was the last time you showed up for you?  What’s your self-care practice?  And most importantly have you affirmed your self-worth, and I mean on a soul level?

Self-affirmation teaches us we are worthy.  And therefore, affirming our self-worth is the beginning of living a joyous prosperous life.

Again, real self-care affirms our self-worth because real self-care is self-love.  Real self-care is aligning with abundance and worthiness.

And yet, one of the greatest misconceptions about abundance, prosperity, and living a good and joyous life is all life’s rewards are on the other side of self-sacrifice. 

On the other hand, self-sacrifice teaches us that good will only come to you if you work hard, give it all away, and do more for others than you do for yourself. And many, including myself, bought into this fallacy.

A Proud Selfless Human Being

Until a few years ago before I understood the power of intentional living, the idea that I could and should put myself first would have seemed wrong and disgraceful.

In the past, I dedicated more time and attention to sacrifice than I did proclaiming my self-worth and value as a soul. 

And you definitely couldn’t tell me giving, being there for others, and sacrificing for those you love or those you believe are in need wasn’t ideal or empowering.   

To that end, I truly believed good people sacrificed their joy, happiness, and peace for the good of all.

I regarded service to others as much more “righteous” than service to self.  

Yes, for years, I was a proud, selfless human being. I was last on my list and I honestly thought that’s what “good people” are supposed to do, put themselves last.

Self-care?  I thought self-care was a few minutes of yoga a couple of days a week and an herbal bath.

What did I really want? Beyond everything, I simply wanted to be worthy of a happy, good life.

As I continuously emitted this energy and desire, there were those in my life who were willing to take advantage of my need to “sacrifice for the good of others.” 

They would remind me,  “You don’t have any children. You’re not married.”

“You’ve got all the time in the world,” some would say as they disturb my peace with their problems and troubles. I invested my precious energy, time, and money in the barren soil of those who did not respect my boundaries in an attempt to prove…

“I am a good person.”

So, how did this good person end up having a full-on panic attack? Crying. Heaving. Shaking. Scared.

This good person was tired, discouraged, and needed rest.

I Was Far Too Hard on Myself

But I can’t and won’t blame everyone else. My peace was disturbed by my own making.  I aligned my energy and focus with unachievable standards, and it was draining me.

I made myself qualify for everything and even as a hardcore perfectionist, I never met my outlandish qualifications.  In my mind, I could always, “do better.”

Every self-efficacious opportunity was torn down by my need to be perfect and altruistic. And altruism became a barrier to my creative power and self-worth.

I Had to Return to My Soul

After two years and doing the work, breaking non-productive mindsets, and putting the life back into my living, I returned to my soul — I returned to beauty and goodness without trying to be perfect, righteous, or good enough.

As such, I had no idea I was practicing something crucial for my well-being. I was practicing Radical Self-Care. I had not asserted Radical Self-Care, but I unknowingly practiced its tenets.

How I Discovered Radical Self-Care

I discovered radical self-care in October 2021. While studying and practicing restorative healing and holistic living, I ran across “Radical Self-Care.” Radical self-care was birth from a 1988 essay collection, A Burst of Light, written by activist and poet Audre Lorde while battling cancer. Lorde penned the following passage:

“I had to examine, in my dreams as well as in my immune-function tests, the devastating effects of overextension. Overextending myself is not stretching myself. I had to accept how difficult it is to monitor the difference. Necessary for me as cutting down on sugar. Crucial. Physically. Psychically. Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audre Lorde

Recently, Angela Davis, Dr. Joi Lewis, and Anne Lamott have all revisited Radical Self-Care.

But what is Radical Self-Care?

Radical Self-Care is an essential and life-altering self-care practice that asserts you have the responsibility to take care of yourself first before attempting to take care of others. It’s necessary to fill your cup first and only give from your overflow.

Authors Donna J. Nicol and Jennifer A. Yee explained the difference between what we know as self-care and radical self-care in Reclaiming Our Time,

“Radical self-care was and is an imperative practice to resist pressures to comply, conform, and above all, to remain true to our authentic selves.”

Radical Self-Care For Deep Healing and Autonomy

When intentionally practiced and integrated into your life, radical self-care is not only a self-care practice but a healing modality.

Thus, with radical self-care practices, you unapologetically choose with whom, how, and how often you interconnect your worlds, lives, and experiences.

The deeper you immerse into the practice, you discover there can be no proper healing without autonomy. The more you give up your agency over your mind, body, and spirit, the more you feel exhausted, used, and spent. And the less access you have to your creative power.

The truth is, many of us give up agency and autonomy to be accepted, loved, and celebrated.  We don’t give our minds and bodies a moment to recover before we’re on to the next thing to do, be, or have.  Restoration is critical for healing.

Radical Self-Care As A Tool For Personal Growth and Well-being

Henceforth, to restore we must take back our time and energy. With radical self-care, we take back our time and energy and reinvest it in our personal growth and well-being. 

In practice, we will find that radical self-care is very much a part of our growth journey because it supports resiliency.  When you fail, stumble, and don’t meet the goal, radical self-care permits you to stop, take a breath, re-evaluate, recollect, and find a resolution.  

What are the Tenets of Radical Self-Care?

To practice radical self-care, we begin by asserting three tenets of well-being. Those tenets include:

  1. Connect to well-being in mind, body, and spirit
  2. Create a practice of reflection
  3. Affirm your self-worth above all others

Tenet #1: Connect to Well-being in Mind, Body, and Spirit

In her Indiana State University’s Multicultural Services and Program workshop, Angela Davis explained that “radical self-care involves the mind, body, and spirit.”

With this understanding, I wrote in my story, A Year of Healing — Resolution 2022 at Medium.com:

“No parts of me will be left unloved.” — The Author (Carmellita)

Radical Self-Care as a healing modality emphasizes the “whole self,” or holistic healing. In the interest of holistic healing, I asked myself the following questions:

  • How will I nourish my mind, body, and spirit? That bag of chips from the vending machine won’t nourish my body.  Celebrity gossip won’t nourish my mind.  And messages of condemnation won’t lift and nourish my spirit.
  • How will I embrace practices that keep me physically, psychically, emotionally, and psychologically fit and empowered? Living with intention helps me maintain the art and practice of radical self-care.
  • How will I restore, recover, and replenish my whole self throughout the day? My cup must be filled and refilled.
  • How will I address trauma encoded in my Causal Body? Everything that has happened to me lives in the causal body.  These psychological imprints affect subtle and gross bodies.

Tenet #2: Create a Practice of Reflection

Since reflection is a crucial component of navigating your self-awareness and personal growth journey, it’s helpful to reflect upon your day.

As you navigate your self-awareness journey, reflection answers the question: “Do you know where you are? And is this where you want to be?”

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” — Socrates

Geil Browning, Ph.D., Founder, and CEO of Emergenetics, an organization dedicated to examining the connection between individuals’ life experiences and genetic gifts to enhance communication and build more productive workplaces, defines reflection as:

“…tapping into every aspect of our experiences, clarifying our thinking, and honing in on what matters to us.”–Geil Browning

While I take the time to reflect daily, not just on my work but on my experiences throughout the day, the questions I ask are:

  • Do my experiences today reflect my values? When I give up more and more of my agency day by day, my life will not reflect my values.
  • What experiences today did not reflect my values? I have to check in throughout my day to be sure I am living my values.
  • How much time did I spend doing the things that matter to me? Have I spent most of my day doing what others want me to do or am I doing the things that matter to me?

Tenet #3: Affirm Your Self-Worth Above all Others

To affirm my self-worth, I must be clear about my values (worth and value are connected). That includes:

  • Identifying My Values and what matters to me:  Do I know what my values are? Can I write them down?  Are these values written in my heart space?  Can I recall my values?
  • Knowing My Worth and My Power: It is through knowing my worth that I can proclaim my values and affirm my self-worth above all others.
  • Knowing what and who I want in my life: I must make it clear to myself and others how I want to spend my time and energy.
  • Knowing what or who I no longer want in my life:  Some people and situations I may have to let go of to maintain peace and honor my self-worth.
  • Challenging myself to grow:  Nothing good and resourceful can live in stagnancy.  Growth is life. 
  • Finding and connecting with a community that respects my boundaries and shares similar values: Well-being requires community and interpersonal communication but finding those who share my core values and respect my boundaries honors who I am and who I am becoming.

You Won’t Find This Kind of Self-Care at Sephora or Even Your Favorite Botanical Shop.

Radical self-care is authentic. Real self-care is “radical” because it puts you in control of your choices and affirms your self-worth. Consequently, you decide how and where to invest your time, money, and energy.

Regain Agency over Your Mind, Body, and Spirit

You cannot flow in abundance and affluence if you invest your time, money, and energy in fruitless pursuits — things that don’t matter to us. You can’t give until you give out!

Again, in the past, I would give and give (primarily out of guilt) until my cup was nearly empty, and then I’d make some feeble attempt to refill my cup — never full, always barely enough. No wonder I questioned if I was good enough!

As a result, years of self-neglect manifested as inflammation, hormonal imbalances, weariness, and discontentment. I knew something was missing. Ultimately, what was truly missing was:

I forgot to show up for me.  

Making You the Priority Is the Greatest Way to Serve Others

Now, my mission has been learning to give without giving out. I understand how service to self is service to others. When I take care of myself I show up better, prepared, and ready to work focused.  

Moreover, I have the energy and confidence to execute ideas, remain open-minded, and maintain flexibility when facing challenges, solving problems, or completing creative projects.  And that is how we truly serve others.

I am not of service to anyone if I am worn-out, frustrated, tired, and confused.

So, when someone suggests that “service to others” is more important than “service to self” know it is their fear talking.  They fear they lack the resources and opportunities to achieve their goals, execute their ideas, and solve their problems.  

Accordingly, you cannot put yourself in a mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual deficit to serve others.  The people you love, support, and want to serve can only get the best of you when you are at your best.