Before I embarked on my own path as a healer, I had an awareness of my own resistance to self-care. During the busiest, most stressful times in my life as a working mother, business owner, and student, I would neglect my needs for woods time, or yoga, or even just to sit down for a few minutes during the busy day. It would take some epic crash in my energy levels, an illness, or being on the brink of a panic attack, before I would listen to my own inner voice to slow down, relax, and go do something for myself. Sometimes I would end up having the panic attack or my back would go out before I would slow down, a forced shut down. When I think back on these times I consider the deep seeded inner message(s) playing that didn’t allow for self-care. I see this same pattern in others as a friend, parent, practitioner and casual observer. Many people wait, until they are overwhelmed, exhausted and physically sick before they do something to relieve their own misery. This behavior is especially prevalent amongst the folks taking care of others as an occupation or in their home life.
We didn’t come into physical being with a life purpose of self-deprivation. However, early on, many of us received messages that taking care of ourselves before others is selfish. With the feeling of selfishness comes shame, learned during childhood and passed on from many of our parents who were raised in shame-based households. Do we even “deserve” care or compassion in the first place? Have we achieved enough, accomplished enough, produced enough in our day to deserve a break, a reward? Some people even believe that being “selfless” is the best choice in order to be successful in life, especially when it comes to how we relate to others.
Here is a simple quote by author Eleanor Brown that contains deep wisdom. “Self-care is not selfish (it is a gift to all concerned). You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Isn’t it true that when we are overwhelmed, drained and depleted that the quality of our giving is compromised? On the other hand, when we are rested, energized, happy and relaxed, our “vessel” full, aren’t we at our optimum to care for our loved ones, work at our jobs, be a better spouse, parent, friend? When we are filled up, we can access all of our life force, our talents, our beautiful heart space, our joy.
I have noticed that many of us are aware that we put our own needs on the back burner, and maybe we even chastise ourselves for not being better at self-care, more shame and blame. But awareness at any level is a good start. So how do we turn this hard-wired thinking, this antiquated belief system around and start taking responsibility for our own needs, loving ourselves and believing that we do deserve to get what we need for our well-being?
I was recently at Kripalu for a 5 day workshop, and at the orientation, held in this beautiful temple-like room with wonderfully high ceilings, the educator began his talk with this quote: “Self-care is not selfish, self care is essential”. This is the theme at Kripalu. I love it! Just like any new habit we try to form, it takes practice to embed. So maybe we can try checking in with ourselves each day for 30 days (enough time to form a habit according to many mental health professionals). What a great start, just to take 5 to 10 minutes each day to quiet our minds and then ask ourselves how we are doing and what our soul needs to feel a bit better physically, more satisfied emotionally, more energized, more joyful, more fulfilled. Most likely the answer(s) will come quickly and easily, because deep down, we all know what we need to feel more whole. And from the answer or answers we receive, let’s all start practicing better self-care, in any way that feels good. Let’s keep our vessel filled with our own beautiful life force and self-love, and in that way, our flow will spill over to everyone we come into contact with. : )
I welcome any comments, experiences or insights that you would like to share as a response to this blog.
Love and healing to you all,