By Charlotte Pointeaux, founder of Sister Souls Coaching, Women's Life Coach and trained Youth Mentor.
That moment, when you discover an article that pretty much sums up something you've spent a lot of time thinking and talking about... When you've been rambling on, trying to explain the core of what you're feeling but haven't yet been able to quite land on it, until boom, someone else encapsulates it so well and suddenly it comes to life? Well that was me tonight.
After a beautiful chat with a very dear friend about the essence of truly unshakeable friendships and how isolating it can be when we feel we can't rely on people, I stumbled across this article here which explained what Nakita Valerio, a Toronto-based community organiser and researcher who specialises in building cross-cultural bridges meant when she said "telling people to practice self-care is actually failing them - they need community-care instead".
To summarise, Valerio defined community-care as "People committed to leveraging their privilege to be there for one another in various ways", whereas self-care expects a person to provide all the care they need themselves, by themselves.
Boom. How right is that! I hadn't even noticed that about self-care, but it's so true!
We all talk about self-care these days - it's one of the hottest buzzwords around in the personal development sphere. And it's deserved - it's super important - we all need and deserve self-care time. But by neglecting to acknowledge the role we can play in each other's care and expecting the already heavily-burdened, time-poor woman to prioritise herself, it's likely that she'll actually take care of everyone & everything else instead, with her own self-care needs just slumping to the bottom of an overwhelmingly long to-do list. Let's be honest, chances are, it probably won't happen. And that's where community-care comes in.
And by community, I mean authentic and soulful friendships that allow you to be the real, raw, whole you. Close support networks of women who genuinely care and have your back not just when you need it most, but anytime. Of judgement-free, hassle-free, agenda-free relationships between people who give as much as they receive on an unconditional basis, who can walk beside you as you flourish, change, grow, move, succeed and fail with unwavering love, without feeling threatened or judgemental.
Friends we can lean on to lend a hand, watch our kids, drop round some groceries when we're just too sick to move. Friends we can relax and speak without filtering ourselves. Who love our kids, don't notice the messy house, couldn't care less that you've got no makeup on.
But I can't shake off the feeling of just how few and far between these relationships so often are in our lives...
Sisters not doing it for themselves, but for each other
As women we’re naturally, primally programmed to seek connection and community with other women, to care for each other, to listen, hold space, help out and be there. However recent times have changed a lot of that: our modern society pits women against each other in a constant competition to prove who is the most liked/successful/capable/kind/the best mother/the best wife/the best professional/the fittest/the most soulful....the list is endless. Since girlhood we've become so accustomed to comparing ourselves to other females, feeling judged and judgemental in turn, that we've lost that innate trust in each other. We've on the whole shut ourselves down to each other.
It’s become so easy to live our lives in separation to one another, even if we are physically surrounded by many other people. We've learnt to hide our real feelings, worries, experiences, to not ask each other how we are truly feeling beneath the façade. And we certainly don’t ask for help when we need it for fear of putting too much on someone else or worse, revealing that we actually don't have all of our shit together, despite cleverly crafted appearances. Instead we're prone to making small talk, to skipping over revealing details, harder truths. We make like all is “fine”, when really it feels far from it. And this makes us feel painfully alone.
And as mums, on top of often feeling inadequate and overwhelmed, it's too easy to give all of ourselves to everyone else before realising how much we could do with some mothering ourselves, whether that's by our actual mothers or our friends and communities. Our village. Where has it gone?
Sister Souls Raise Each Other Up!
These thoughts bring me back to why I started Sister Souls in the first place. It’s what it's all about, in my mind. A community of like-minded women who truly invite in the loving connection of others, who see each other for all that we are, without judgement or agenda, just because it feels so damn good to share life with wise, kind, loving and open women. To give and receive from each other, to feel surrounded by strength and love.
Where are we without it? Who are we without community? Where and when can we truly be exactly as we are in all of our glory, mess, chaos, as a woman, a mother, wife, friend, daughter AND feel completely supported in that? Its in the company of those friends and supporters who don't expect anything from you, who never judge, who are capable of holding loving space without agenda, who don't want your bull$h*t pretend "I'm fine" replies.
Don't Lose Your Marbles
The Goddess that is Brene Brown calls these people our "marble jar friends". She explains that trust is built over time in the small moments, not in the big grand gestures. For each time they show up, listen, don't judge, show consideration and consistency, we add a marble to the proverbial 'friendship jar'. These are our ride-or-dies, lifers, the ones we know will pick us off the floor in the shittiest of times, and celebrate wholeheartedly with us in the best of times.
Not all of us are lucky enough to have many marble jar friends, or even any at all. Reportedly, we have fewer close friends than ever with the average now being less than 1. Shocking, saddening stuff.
This can be why reaching out to womens groups and networks in your area can be of such transformational value. In these lovingly crafted spaces we often find like-minded women who we'd never normally stumble across in everyday life, or have the time to connect with when we've got kids yelling the same question at us on repeat, or when we're racing off from A-B so as not to cram in our huge to-do lists before school pickup.
In these spaces we have uninterrupted time to be the woman we really are beneath it all, with nowhere else to be, no other role to play, to savour protected time that is just ours to spend meaningfully with other kind-hearted, intelligent souls seeking connection just like we are. From soul circles to business networking, or book clubs to yoga class, putting yourself out there can reward you with so much more than just self-care, but true community-care.
Don't do it alone - you just don't have to. Allow others to see you, to support you, to love and hold you - it might just transform your life in rich, untold, magical ways that you wouldn't expect. Don't lose your marbles!
*Charlotte runs monthly Sister Circles for women from Moss Vale Yoga Studio in the Southern Highlands NSW- a beautifully sacred experience for women of all ages, stages and orientations to gather for spiritual reflection, heart-to-heart connection, loving support and relaxation. It's self-care meets community-care! If you're curious about joining the circle please email Charlotte to be notified of the next date*