Michelle’s heart is really hurt right now and it’s screaming for attention, but she pushes the pain down so she can go on. Tara needs a day off like nobody’s business, but she hasn’t taken one in three months! Julia sleeps only 4 hours a night so that she can get things done while the kids are sleeping and she tells herself it’s no big deal when she gets super irritable because she’s tired. These women in ministry are hurting, exhausted, and beat-down.
I bet you would have a few things to say to these ladies if I gave you their phone numbers! Most of your input would probably somehow reflect the message, “You need to take care of yourself!!!”
If you would tell Michelle, Tara, and Julia to do that, then why is it that most of you don’t do the self-care that you need?
Maybe you, just like them, convince yourself that self-care is not that important for you. Maybe you convince yourself that you are just being being noble by putting it off. Maybe you’ve talked yourself into other things that stick self-care way down at the bottom of your priority list. Women in ministry believe in self-care, teach self-care, and yet are the masters at denying themselves self-care!
The problem isn’t just that life is too busy. The problem is that there are several core myths about self-care that are probably ruling your thinking. These core myths can be responsible for producing hundreds of excuses as to why self-care can wait!
The problem isn’t just that life is too busy. The problem is that there are several core myths about self-care that are probably ruling your thinking.
The biggest lure of these myths is that they usually seem completely valid, logical, noble, and sound just like something a woman in ministry should say. They often come from imperfect influences of family of origin, life experiences, and even church culture. That’s why they have so much power to you! But, the truth is that they are unfounded myths that don’t sound anything like God’s truth!!!!!
You’ve got to begin seeing the myths as myths–as an imperfect perspective that doesn’t align with God’s truth. As soon as you identify these perspectives as myths, their power immediately begins to melt away!
So, I’m going to share and dispute the top five myths that I hear from women in ministry:
1. Self-care means I’m selfish.
No, self-care is good stewardship!
Dr. John Walker said, “If self is the center of your life, then self-care IS selfish. But, if Christ is the center of your life, then self-care is good stewardship.” It’s good stewardship because you are the “equipment” of Christ. In Matthew 10:9-10 (TM), Jesus says to the disciples as he is sending them out, “Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.” If all you need to keep going is YOU, then you better be healthy. You better care for the equipment!
2. Self care is a luxury.
No, self-care is a strategic necessity for the Kingdom
2 Corinthians 8:11 says, “Now finish the work so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” The key phrase in this verse is “your means.” You have to have the “means” to live to serve another day. Self-care is what gives you the means! It is the pathway to wellness in your heart, mind, and soul.
The strategic necessity of self-care is bigger than just you though. Being well also gives you the means to care well for others. Do you remember the safety speech you get every time you board an airplane? The flight attendant tells you that if there is an emergency, you are to put on your oxygen mask on first before assisting other passengers. You need to be able to breathe so you can think straight when trying to help someone else! Likewise, a heart, mind, and soul that are well enable you to care well and care deeply for others.
3. Self-care means I’m lazy and don’t work hard.
No, self-care allows you to work more efficiently, work smarter, and actually work harder!
You don’t have to compete with the Proverbs 31 woman. You all know who she is. She is called the “truly excellent woman” (The Voice). Proverbs 31:17 (The Voice) says, “She wraps herself in strength, carries herself with confidence, and works hard, strengthening her arms for the task at hand.”
The problem is that many of us let her excellence (or perfection in my opinion) condemn us for not doing enough. We judge ourselves as falling short of her standard. But, the truth is that she’s meant to be an inspiration, not a source of condemnation! Stop making self-care impossible by trying to live up to the perfection of the Proverbs 31 woman! You’ll never catch her and you aren’t meant to!
4. Doing self-care means that I’m not tough enough and my capacity is just too small.
No, self-care means you are wisely embracing your limitations and living within your capacity.
This is the Proverbs 31 problem again. We judge that we can’t handle things like the Proverbs 31 woman and put a lot of “shoulds” on ourselves. We have to stop trying to live out a facade and embrace vulnerability. That means admitting when you are hurt by things, managing your heart well, and honoring the capacity you have.
It’s okay to admit that being a woman in ministry is hard! Pain is part of leadership. You need to manage your hearts well and live in vulnerability when you aren’t okay.
5. I’m a leader, and leaders can get by without self-care.
No, leaders are not the exception when it comes to needing self-care.
Dr. John Walker once said that Solomon’s problem was not seeing himself as exceptional, it was seeing himself exception! You may not consider yourself an arrogant person, but if you are telling yourself that you can get by without managing your heart, without slowing down from time to time, and without letting yourself be cared for by others, then you are exercising arrogance!
Stop seeing yourself as the exception to the rule. Stop kidding yourself that you are the one who doesn’t need it or the one who’s tough enough. Learn from the recent stories of pastors falling and saying they wish they had listened to their own teaching to connect, slow down, and take care of their hearts.
If you found yourself nodding, agreeing, or resonating in any way with one or more of these myths, you’ve got some realignment to do in your thinking! Kick out the myths, replace them with God’s truth, and get to work on being a good steward of the equipment of Christ.
Without self-care, you are setting yourself to finish short of the job God has given you to do! What’s worse than that? With these myths out of the way, you’ll do the self-care that enables you to fire on all cylinders, thrive, and ultimately finish well in the end!
So here’s a question:
How are you doing with self-care? Do you need to debunk a myth about it and change your tune?
Leave a comment below and let’s talk!
Dr. Byers serves as the Executive Director of Clinical Services for Blessing Ranch Ministries, a non profit dedicated to providing transformational soul care for Christian leaders.
As a licensed Psychologist, she provides Professional Counseling Services to Pastors, Missionaries, and other Christian leaders.
While she connects well with all leaders, she has a particular passion for serving women in ministry.
Dr. Byers’ educational experiences include a B.A. in Clinical Counseling and School Psychology from Western State College of Colorado, an M.A. in General Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado, and a PhD. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver.