Trudeau: self-care is not self-improvement | Lifestyles

Renee Peterson Trudeau

One Sunday morning I was lying in bed reading from author Anne Lamott’s beautiful little book “Small Victories.” In one of her stories about parenting, she shares with a little self-deprecation and a lot of tenderness, how she doesn’t bake for PTA fundraisers, is often disorganized and sometimes forgets to follow-through on updates from her son’s school. Her ability to accept who she is, is both endearing and freeing.

Her story got me thinking how so many people I meet have a misguided sense about the concept of self-care. I often hear a lot of “shoulds,” and many people confess they feel like failures when it comes to self-care.

As a life balance coach/teacher, I have studied, taught and written books about self-care for more than 20 years. I can wholeheartedly share that self-care–a practice that has changed my life more than any other– is not about:

•fixing yourself or turning yourself into a “makeover version” of you;

•trying to become someone who “has it all together” or who’s always wise and calm;

•being perfect or doing what our parents, friends or the media say we should do to be our best selves (go gluten-free or do more yoga);

•striving to be more worthy through accomplishing more or adhering to society’s list of “shoulds” around parenting, relationships or (fill in the blank); and

•spending a bunch of money on services or products that are supposed to make us more fit, beautiful, smart, etc.

Self-care isn’t a goal you strive for. and it’s not about becoming you version 2.0. It’s about meeting yourself where you are and believing “my ordinary self is enough.” It’s feeling safe enough to show up in the world 100% you and inherently giving others permission to do the same.

Self-care is about attuning and responding to your needs and desires moment to moment. It’s about being compassionate with yourself when you bump up against your faults and treating yourself with the same love and tenderness you would have for a four year-old who’s had a really hard day. It’s not about adding something to your to-do list, cracking the whip, or finally getting in shape. The true art of self-renewal is about cultivating a kinder, gentler relationship with yourself and asking for and receiving the nurturing and nourishment you truly need-whether that’s a hug or long nap. It’s knowing that you have your back. and that no matter what you say or do–you will not abandon yourself.

This week notice how you treat and talk to yourself. How would you describe the relationship? Do you sound like a drill sergeant, a loving grandparent or a wise mentor? Share your observations with someone you trust. Learning the art and science of self-care and cultivating a kinder and gentler relationship with yourself takes time and patience.

Renee Peterson Trudeau is a Brevard-based, nationally-recognized life balance author/speaker/coach who is passionate about helping people find balance through the art/science of self-care. Check out her May 6-8 Awakening Your Wild Soul: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat in Boone and her weekly Wild Souls Nature Adventures. Subscribe to her life balance blog at

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