Conscious living has been creeping into my awareness and life for quite a while now. Though the element of self care has for the most part eluded me. I’m really good at putting others first, modelled to me by my parents, society, the church, the media, etc. So my take was to neglect myself, make sure everyone else was okay first and then with whatever was left over to see to my own needs – which inevitably was very little to nothing. I also tried to deny I had any needs which had it’s own detrimental effect.
When flying I used to watch the steward/ess on the aeroplane explain about the oxygen masks and how I needed to put my own on first before I could help my child or someone else. That made complete sense in that context but I couldn’t take that analogy back into my own life and look after me first – that was selfish….
I have been interested in personal development for the last 20 something years. I enjoy learning new things, especially getting to know myself and why I do the things I do or why I am as I am. A few years ago I was introduced to a programme which looks at emotional sobriety, at how I show up or not in the world, at the impact my childhood has had on all that and the beliefs I took on as a result of it. The support I have had in the group has been wonderful, the discoveries I’ve made superb and the depth to which I go is as Karen Drucker says “only as fast as the slowest part of me feels safe to go”.
The difference now is as opposed to trying to fix myself, to make myself better because I’m broken, wrong, defective, etc. I am learning to love and accept myself as I am, all the parts of me – even the ones that aren’t so likeable or loveable. I am learning to be gentle, kind, compassionate and tolerant of myself – not always easy and moving through the four stages of competence is taking time and can be very frustrating at times. I have to watch out for that harsh and judgemental inner critic as I’m learning to be my own loving inner parent rather. Sometimes it feels like a back and forth and sideways dance though, so to remember to keep focusing back on trying again and finding ways to be more proficient at it, with progress rather than perfection in mind.
I’m learning that Self Care is more than a candlelit salt bath 😉 It’s also checking in with myself on a regular basis throughout the day, asking with as much curiosity, gentleness and compassion as I can at that moment:
- What am I feeling? Is this my feeling? If it’s not then handing it over.
- What do I need right now? Physically – Emotionally – Mentally – Spiritually. Can I give it to myself now or set a time to do so later (making sure to honour that commitment) or can I reach out to someone for help with it
- What’s happening with my inner child? What does she need?
- Can I say “It’s OK” and be okay with not knowing, not doing what I’d like to, not having the outcome I want – just yet… or even if I never do. Learn to say it’s ok and I’m ok – accept what is and how I am right now.
- When I get triggered can I use the opportunity to observe myself curiously, gently and compassionately to work with it, to lean into the tension, to act rather than to react.
Other Self care ideas that have helped me so far:
- Have a daily routine of connecting, grounding and protecting myself before I start the day (download mine here)
- Use a Daily Self Care check list with the things that work for, and matter to, me or reflect my individual triggers. Keep updating and adding to it. (see an example here)
- Make a list of at least 100 things that I love about me, things people have said, things I know and keep adding to it. Read it often.
- Make a list of my values, what I like, what fills and lights up my soul and do them as often as possible.
- Having a physical or virtual file, a one stop place where I can get upliftment, nourishment, resources/ reminders, prayers, etc. when I need it.
- Having playlists on my phone of music that soothes / uplifts / allows me to verbalise. I need to watch out not to use the music to escape and avoid my stuff though; so rather to acknowledge what’s coming up, park it and set a time to get back to it if needed.
- Using the Golden Mean (Aristotle’s term for avoiding extremes in behavior and attitudes) for gauging where I am at currently – in the extremes or finding the mid path.
- Use something like William Whiteclouds Conflict Deconstruction process or Byron Katie’s Four Questions, etc. to unpack any problem areas.
- Keep looking for ideas on how to care for and love myself differently and more deeply, to play with ideas, ask others for ideas, try them out and if needed change them to make them my own.
- Notice the advice I give to others – is that something I need too?
- Have a gratitude diary, write a minimum of 5 things I am grateful for each day.
- Have a list of choices to make each day or affirmations or afformations or vision board or whatever works for me to focus forward to the life I want. To remember that my current reality does not define my future – my thoughts and actions do. Change this as often as I need to.
This journey from self neglect to self care for me is one of learning, doing, forgetting, remembering and repeating as I grow and develop. I’ve had to learn that sharing with others, having support and reaching out for it when I need it, is not a weakness but actually a strength.
And then to remember that life is an ongoing dance, an invitation to look at things again from a different perspective as I spiral along the journey. As it’s the journey that matters most not the destination – as frustrating as that can be for me.