"For some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment, that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love." Geneen Roth
Remember that day that didn’t have enough hours?.. when you rushed, pushed, tried to squeeze as much in as possible, worked overtime, had to eat on the go, judged your body/hair/look of exhaustion when you passed a mirror, ignored all physical pains and aches, and fell into bed desperate of needing more time for you?
Oh that was yesterday.
Oh that’s almost every day. Sounds like it’s time to take care of you. In a radical and life-altering manner.
Self-care and self-love are commonplace slogans in the health and wellness industry, akin to ‘be present’ or ‘stay in the moment’. Why do we need reminders to take care of ourselves? Because we forget and the busy world takes over. Because we are driven and the mind says we need to be better and try harder. Why do we need tips on how to embody being kind to ourselves? Because the mind is good at justifying or delaying and we tell ourselves that we’ll get to self-care soon. Sadly, many of us cannot see clearly the state of our hearts and stress levels. We excel at putting self-care and gentle thoughts on the back burner.
Self-care begins within. Not that our drive to succeed or that our relationships with others should be ignored, but the priority must always be ME. I. MYSELF. MY HEART. MY SPIRIT.
Every single day we have the opportunity to look within and listen to our hearts because every day life will pull us in many directions away from the inner. The work of rekindling the wise inner guide can feel ‘corny’. Training our minds to be present with our selves and our deepest needs seem cheesy mostly because it’s such a foreign practice for us.
Self-care mantras to silently repeat in any situation can include:
- “my dear body, I’m here for you”
- “what do I truly need in this moment?”
- “may I act and speak from the space of the heart”
- “I deserve to rest and to receive care"
The cheesiness is necessary. It’s time for an inner revolution against self-doubt, self-loathing and the battle to be the best. What we can discover through these mantras is an underlying current of acceptance, ease and kindness.
Self-care: things to remember when the mind starts buying in to the chaotic days or when we are trying hard to please others…
- literally step out of a situation (move into a hallway or into another room) and take a deep breath with your hand on your stomach or upper chest. Connect to how you are feeling in the moment.
- try not to overanalyze or blow the current situation out of proportion (why your co-worker is lazy and has left a mess of work for you to take care of again or how careless you are for having injured your wrist again) and instead gently acknowledge/label how you personally are feeling (I feel overwhelmed at the pile of work I have or I feel physical pain and frustration that my wrist is injured). And now, move forward with this clear and simple label.
- find your own way. The practice of self-care begins with our inner dialogue and how it is expressed and externalized is different for each of us. Do consider the advice and offers from others yet stay true to your instincts when it comes to the actual practice of healing/resting/appreciating yourself.
- do it now. Everyday. Over and over again. The practice never ends. And I don’t just mean going to the spa but: pausing, asking for help, writing out goals, taking an extra day off to rest, cooking nourishing food, enjoying slow strolls, sitting in nature, sitting anywhere and breathing deeply for 5 minutes, talking with a mentor or counselor, setting up boundaries with others, soaking in the bath, journalling about boundaries or patterns you can see repeating in your life. No one way is right or will necessary be right for each day or each situation.
What to listen for:
Getting in touch with raw feelings and our instincts can be tough and uncomfortable when we aren’t used to it. Watch for harsh judgements towards yourself. You might think you are being too soft with yourself or that speaking gently to yourself is a silly practice. Don’t let your mind hook you, as Pema Chodron says. Don’t believe all of your thoughts.
Listen closely to messages from the physical body for what you need. Step back and perk up to what the body is going through. For example: a fast heart rate or shallow breathing, irregular digestion, weak immune system or any literal physical injuries and pain are signs that we need to shift our self-care practices.
Seeing ourselves clearly and our habits of easily falling into the rat race can be shocking. However, once you begin pausing and listening to messages from the body/heart, it will soon become like second nature. The key is to be gentle with yourself when you forget to check-in. The moments of exhaustion and of feeling distracted are excellent times to be kind towards yourself and simply return to self-care, over and over. Being hard on yourself only propagates the cycle of self-judgement that we are trying to overcome.
Pause, feel your heartbeat, listen to the sensations in your body and go take good care, whatever that might look like for you. Love and care begins with pausing to attend to your thoughts/perceptions, then extends into your actions towards self and will soon extend freely out to others. The revolution has to begin within.