I am thoroughly delighted to have an interview today with Cheryl Richardson, world-renowned life coach and New York Times bestselling author, for my Embracing SUCCESS series. I’ve seen and heard her on Louise Hay’s DVD and on Oprah. You can feel her warmth and genuine caring on the screen, and I felt it when we spoke. she really wants to help us improve our lives.
Cheryl’s new book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care, (Hay House, 2009) is a testament to her spirit. It’s a user-friendly book that’s designed as a 12-month process of positive transformation, but the individual lessons can be used on their own as well in whatever ways work for you. You know I emphasize the importance of nurturing yourself. This book is very easy to read, with concrete, well-organized suggestions for learning how to get help and how to receive it in ways that benefit you the most.
I highlighted that last part since many of us are good at giving, like I was when I lived in DoorMatville, but rebuff offers of kindness. I couldn’t handle accepting goodies or favors back then. Now I welcome it all, since I love me! Cheryl writes from a place of having lived through learning to give herself Extreme Self-Care. This book is an excellent guide to learning how to open your world to enjoying the happiness you deserve! Cheryl writes in a loving and supportive way. I feel honored that I got to talk with her. Here’s what she had to say:
What is Extreme Self-Care? Extreme Self-Care is about taking your care to a whole new level—a level that, to some, may seem arrogant and selfish, or practiced by people who have an inappropriate sense of entitlement. It means taking radical action to improve your life and engaging in daily habits that allow you to maintain this new standard of living. For example, it’s not enough to take a weekend off from helping others so you can enjoy some downtime. It means scheduling time for yourself (on your calendar, in ink) every day.
Extreme Self-Care also involves surrounding yourself with people who are smart, self-aware, and only interested in two-way relationships. It means taking bold steps, such as eliminating clutter from your life, for good; creating a soul-nourishing work and home environment, and keeping it that way; getting your financial act together so that you always have choices about how to live your life; and not making any commitments whatsoever out of guilt or obligation.
In addition, Extreme Self-Care suggests that we make pleasure a priority – real pleasure, not just a massage every couple of months, an occasional bath, or a yearly vacation. It might mean leaving work in the middle of the day to get out into nature, enjoying a great massage once a week, and developing daily habits that make you feel happy and nurtured, including listening to the music you love, drinking your favorite tea, or ordering fresh flowers for your office. While these ideas might seem far-fetched or out of the realm of possibility for some, it’s important to remember that it’s a process that unfolds over time. The thing to remember is this: The possibility of living a great life starts with an open mind.
Why did you write this book? I wanted to give men and women a very simple and do-able way of practicing better self-care. The idea of putting it into a once a month practice really appealed to me. I often write about the very things that I’m confronted with or working on in my own life. I was really being challenged to practice self-care on a whole new level in my own life.
What was going on in your life? As I say in the book, my husband got very ill. I was suddenly faced with a lot of responsibilities. We were building a home at the time. He was in charge of the design. Suddenly he was sick and I had a deadline to write this book and I was speaking and traveling. I reached a point and thought, “This is ridiculous. I’m writing a book about extreme self-care and my life reads like a perfect play of extreme disrepair.”
How did that affect your book? When faced with difficult life challenges, we often go back to the old coping strategies which kept us safe and feeling secure when we were young. Suddenly my life was out of balance. I was completely overwhelmed. So the book that I originally planned to write and the one I ended up writing were a little bit different as a result of my own experience.
Is the need for Extreme Self Care primarily an issue for women? It’s an issue for both men and women, but for generations women have received specific training that causes them to feel anxiety, guilt, and discomfort when they put their needs first. So, in that regard, it becomes more of an issue for a larger number of women than men.
How would you distinguish between extreme self-care and selfishness? I’m teaching men and women to be selfish because selfishness is the path to selflessness. I understand the concern about whether it’s being too self-indulgent to say “no” to somebody who needs me or backing out of a commitment that I’ve made when I have decided that I just can’t or don’t want to do it. While I’m sensitive to that, most of the people I deal with need to be challenged to have a stronger sense of entitlement. The reality is, most of us spend way too much of our lives attempting to be well liked or not disappoint people or hurt their feelings.
How does this kind of selfishness help others? We need to move beyond the conversation of whether or not extreme self-care is selfish and more toward the conversation of why it’s so vital that we do that now in order to make our greatest contribution to the planet. The more you take care of yourself, the more you raise your level of consciousness. And conscious people don’t hurt other people. They care more about other people and therefore care more about the environment they live in. So I’m really talking about becoming more conscious.
How does Extreme Self-Care relate to a spiritual lifestyle? If you’re constantly making decisions based on, “I don’t want to upset you” or saying yes because you don’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings, you’re really not engaged in authentic relationships. You’re engaged in arrangements with people. Doing things out of
guilt or obligation is not coming from a place of spiritual purity. On a fundamental level, the more we start to honor ourselves as the souls that we are, the more we respect that in others. If you’re more centered and calmer, you an bring your authentic presence to others when you take better care of yourself. I think that’s pretty darn spiritual!
How connected is Extreme Self-Care to self- love? Extreme Self-Care is about being an extraordinary mother to ourselves. In the book I’m talking about becoming a really great mother to yourself, whether you’re a man or woman. If you love yourself, you don’t make yourself work too hard. If you love yourself, you feed yourself real food; you move your body; you let yourself have fun; you spend time with people stimulate and love you, not people who put you down.
What are some of the long-term benefits of giving yourself Extreme Self-Care? You start to look forward to getting older. When a birthday or the new year rolls around you’re not beating yourself up. You celebrate a new year because you look and feel better. Your relationships improve. Some might fall away because there might be people in your life that can’t handle you anymore if you’ve been over-giving in the past. For me, the biggest benefit is not going to bed with a sense of dread and waking up feeling really happy about the life you’re living.
What one thing can people do right away to practice Extreme Self-Care? The most important thing a person can do to begin making changes that honor their Extreme Self-Care is to get support. By sharing this unfolding journey with someone who is equally committed to their own self-care, we put accountability in place and we give ourselves the gift of someone to lean on when we’re tempted to fall back into old, outdated patterns of behavior. That’s why we created a section on our website called: “Life Makeover Groups” at cherylrichardson.com. We have over 4,000 groups around the world – a free community – for people who are serious about getting their lives in shape and want to share that journey – in person – with others. Support and community are the secret weapons used against the enemies of apathy and numbness.
Check out Cheryl Richardson‘s new book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care. It’s the first thing you can do to honor your own right to give yourself Extreme Self-Care.