As women we tend to take care of everyone around us, but do a poor job at taking care of ourselves. We are expected by society to be motherly and nurturing to our children, husbands and friends, but are considered selfish and lazy if we take time for self care. Even if no one around us says these things, we internalize these societal expectations and mentally abuse ourselves for taking a break. My mom always said you can’t fill anyone else’s glass if yours is empty. How are we expected to take care of everyone around us, if we cannot take care of ourselves first?
Last weekend, I decided to choose Me first and go on a Women’s Retreat organized by my friend Lindy. Five women left their responsibilities and partners behind for a weekend of rejuvenation, self care, and sisterhood. We stayed in a gorgeous house outside Hood River, Oregon, ate delicious foods, and said fuck it to the world outside. Everyone unpacked their self doubt and replaced it with self love.
As we discussed why we were there and what we hoped to get out of the weekend, a common thread wove its way between us: a feeling of being overworked and overwhelmed. All of us felt this sense of utter exhaustion. We had worn ourselves thin trying to be superhuman by giving our everything to everyone.
As women we overcommit ourselves, because saying no is frowned upon. We say yes to our partners, yes to our bosses, yes to our friends and family, and no to ourselves.
Lately, I have been overdoing it. I started a new job that I love and I’ve thrown myself into the work 110%. I care so much about proving myself as a good employee that I’m neglecting my own needs. I work 50-60 hour weeks not because my employer wants me to, but because I’m an overachiever. I say yes to every meeting and every event, even though I’m beyond exhausted. I don’t know how to stop though.
My story is not unique.
Every woman at the retreat shared similar stories of knowing they couldn’t go on at the pace they’re at, but not knowing how to stop. We all wished we could escape our lives, press pause, and run away to recover ourselves.
This short retreat gave us a taste of what that would be like. We put zero expectations on ourselves. There were no responsibilities, no plans, no schedule, no-one telling you to get up and stop being lazy. We even attempted to turn off the nagging voices in our heads telling us we weren’t doing enough. We had the option to take a walk, color, read, journal, nap, take a bath or sit in the sauna or hot tub. Life felt simple for two days.
I had time to reflect on the pace of my life. We made vision boards of what we wanted for our future. We ate cookies without telling ourselves “you’re going to get fat.” We cooked delicious meals and broke bread together. We supported each other with advice, a shoulder to cry on, and an ear to listen. I didn’t know most of the girls well before the weekend, but by the end I felt a deep bond of sisterhood with these ladies.
It was just what we needed to take a moment for self reflection and self care. We took time to re-evaluate our priorities in life and seek advice on big changes we were seeking. It helped me recenter and reenter society with an awareness for my own needs as much as others. Weekends like these feel essential to our own survival as women.
Instead of competing and putting each other down, women need to support each other. We all put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect and superhuman. We need to come together and take the time to nurture one another and ourselves. We need to love ourselves and take time for self care. Women’s retreats are so valuable for women to rejuvenate, care for themselves and build sisterhood.