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Self-Care for the Overly Independent Heart

Woman gazing at herself in a small mirror

Friend and fellow writer Emily Rowntree wrote today’s post. Emily writes about the spiritual gift of discernment.

You don’t always need to stand on your own.

In our American culture, the accepted societal “norm” is for little girls to learn, grow, and remain independent, an important lesson drilled into my head (lovingly) since I was a young girl.

My mother burned her bra in the ’60s. She also taught me to be self-sufficient in case I didn’t “land a husband.” Yet she also taught me how to cook, clean, and host a lovely dinner party just in case I got married.

Of course these attributes are important in the migration of becoming an adult, whether or not I got married. But one thing I have had to learn as an adult is to how to take care of my whole being – my soul, my body, my mind, my heart, as well as my spiritual and emotional well-being.

“Self” Took a Back Seat

There are plenty of diets and beauty regimens for women to follow: skin care gurus, vitamin recommendations, parenting advice and even relationship experts (does a Cosmo subscription count?) are readily available for our dogged pursuits of perfection. But self-care for the independent heart requires a bit of extra digging.

In college, my spiritual and emotional well-being were placed on the back burner as I trudged through term papers, tests, projects and the occasional party. Through my 20s, I focused on my career and relationships. My 30s were for raising my son. And now in my 40s, I felt as if I had it “right,” but as I looked back, something was missing.

A constant go-go-go mentality is admirable to Americans, and I had signed up for the fast lane route in life. But was I being selfish in wanting to take time for myself? Facials and pedicures and retail “therapy” sessions with the girls were nice, but it barely scratched the surface. I needed something more.

I still need more.

Playing Catch-up

One aspect of life I realized that I desperately needed to reprioritize was my spiritual well-being. Of course I attended church and participated in the occasional ladies’ Bible studies. I put a checkmark in every box and honestly thought this was enough.

My independent heart had definitely taken me on fantastic journeys in my career, my friendships, and my relationships. But I had neglected what filled my soul. My prayer life was spotty. Sometimes I could not relate to others on a spiritual level. My sleep was not great.

If it was not producing income, furthering my career, pouring into my child’s life or benefitting my home, I found it unimportant. And a waste of time.

I got a little life “wake-up call” in my mid-20s when I took a spiritual gifts test. Spiritual gifts were unheard of. Nobody in my church or friend circles had spoken about this. In order to get to know what impact I could have in my world, I figured I’d try to reveal what made my soul tick.

The test results came back with “Faith” and “Spiritual Discernment.” I understood faith but had to look up spiritual discernment. Then I did what I always did with something that didn’t make sense to me or was too heavy for my heart. I shelved it.

This one sat on a shelf collecting dust for almost 15 years. (Click here for the story of how I found and began to exercise my spiritual gifts.)

Digging Deeper

The biggest discovery in digging for self-care for my overly independent heart was that we were created to desire community. As humans we are not supposed to be so incredibly self-reliant that we do not need help or interaction with others who have more experience.

This was a hard message to wrap my head around as I reflected on lessons from my bra-burning mother. It seemed to go against the all-American nature of being able to stand (almost defiantly) on my own.

So what does self-care for the overly independent heart look like? Each one of us is created with our own individual sense of self. Here are a few things I have discovered have helped my heart:

Take Inventory
  • Slow down and look within yourself.
  • Be honest, even if what you find is not perfect.
  • What fills your heart with happiness? What drains or robs your heart of that joy?
  • A conversation with a friend or mentor can help open your eyes.
Deal with the Ugly
  • Is there someone you need to forgive? Forgiving someone – not excusing the behavior – frees your soul to move forward.
  • Has bitterness encroached on any areas of your life?
  • Are you dealing with feelings of jealousy or comparing your life with others who seem like they have it all together?
  • Do you have a deep-rooted false notion of what the perfect life, relationship, job or home should be?
Acknowledge the Lovely
  • What is currently around you that is good, fruitful and joyful?
  • Reflect on the blessings that came to you along past journeys. These will serve as good reminders that you are headed in the right direction.
  • Mistakes happen. How you move forward with a confident spirit and willingness to learn can reassure and strengthen your heart.
  • Carve out time to engage in activities that truly feed your soul.
  • Above all else, be thankful. Extend gratitude to your friends and family. Thank God for your blessings, situations, and even your trials. This releases your heart from the tension and stress that come from too much self-reliance.

Community vs. Defiant Independence

If you have felt as if you were completely on your own, striving to achieve lofty goals and dreams only to find yourself shutting down, cutting supportive people out of your life who sometimes don’t seem to “get” what you’re about, you are ultimately starving your soul. There is a healthy way out.

Summon a robust dose of patience. Stop trying to punch the time clock. And take accountability of who is in your life – who is for you and who is against you?

As with most things in this life that are worthwhile, it will take time to find communities who are on the same self-care journey you have started. It has taken months and years for me to find a home base of trustworthy humans who are like-minded. And we don’t even live in the same state (thank goodness for technology)!

Self-care for the overly independent heart can be found within your community. It may start small. It may start slowly.

But start.

As my bra-burning mother liked to remind me, “It takes a pinch to be beautiful… but it takes a humble attitude to find what truly fills your soul.”

Emily Rowntree is a writer and aspiring author, focusing on exploring and providing insight to people and their innate human gifts and talents, particularly the Spiritual Gift of Discernment.  She lives in West Texas with her son and loves all things ornithological, other people‚Äôs cats, architecture, and fiber arts. You can find more on her blog and Instagram.

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