Reprogramming Self Sacrifice

By Natalie Pearson

Dr. Christiane Northup focuses on women's health and wellness, but what does that have to do with self-care? 

When I hear the words self-care, I immediately think of Dr. Christiane Northrup. Northrup began her career as a traditionally trained gynecologist, but quickly moved into the realm of holistic healing and spiritual self-help after realizing how alienated women are from their own health care in modern medicine. Now a women’s healing advocate and speaker celebrated across the globe, Dr. Northrup regularly writes blogs and books for the ever-hippy-dippy Hay House Publishing.

Don’t you love her already, Eugene?

Yet beyond being a fabulously loving and authoritative hippy, Christiane Northrup is—more importantly—a feminist. Her works are much more likely to come up in self-help sections than in political works and she rarely uses the word “feminist” herself, but Northrup’s attitude is one of unapologetic reverence for female bodies, feminine spirit, and women’s knowledge. For example, she spoke with Oprah Winfrey about the importance of the mind and spirit here.

She speaks regularly about gender roles and is both sex and body positive. A woman who encourages other women to speak honestly and openly about their bodies and experiences is my type of feminist.

In a recent blog post, Northrup wrote: “One of the biggest challenges women face is learning how to care for themselves while caring for others.”

For centuries, women have been taught to find self-worth in their capacity to put others before themselves: our husbands or partners, our children, our communities always come first.

As a future preschool teacher, as a deeply maternal person, and as a lover, I connect strongly to this “programming of self-sacrifice,” as Northrup calls it.

Women absorb this programming over and over from our mothers, our cultural history, our mainstream media. As a result, self-sacrifice is difficult to deny, even when we recognize the guilt, resentment, and stress that eat us alive when we fail to nurture ourselves.

Here’s how Dr. Northrup prescribes self-care:

1. Tap into the stream of healing energy regularly. Whatever these words mean to you, take time for the activities that feel healthful and energizing to you.
2. Know you are your own best mother. Be the person who always has your own best interests at heart! You are strong and able to care for yourself.

3. Do something pleasurable each and every day.
4. Breathe deeply and fully on a regular basis.
5. Get support for your self-care. Self-care doesn’t mean the burden is all on you! It is not selfish to seek out a community that supports you in your learning and growth process.
6. Use the incredible power of no. This one is so important for women, who often never learn how to say no for no’s sake. Know that your “no’s” do not require justification, argument, or guilt.
7. Don’t wait for permission to start taking care of your self. In Northrup’s words: “Prepare to be called ‘selfish’ when you start taking better care of yourself. And when someone calls you that, celebrate!”