The topic of 'self care' seems to be coming up in conversations a lot lately and to some degree it can mean different things to different people. It can also be more or less affected by life situation and circumstances. But for so many people I speak with, the 'basics' such as sleep, nourishing food, non-'doing' time and water, take a back seat to hectic schedules..... and they acknowledge this. They reflect on their attempts at shifting it but the tone of their reflection tends to move towards a sense of 'failure' in the end or a temporary 'victory'.
So, why is it that in our lives the first thing that seems to depart is basic 'self care'?
And how is it that we have created a culture where this is so common and acceptable and in some arenas (such as jobs or academia) it is expected? Can you imagine if within job culture that 'self care' was viewed as a strength and encouraged?
Now, I understand that in certain circumstances like raising children there is a whole different set of needs and we make necessary sacrifices for our children. But I also understand that it takes a 'village' to raise a child and many of us have lost that 'village' sensibility. Our society has held on high the 'merits' of self sufficiency and privacy. We have become more independent and insular which can often bring on more stress due to lack of integrated support network. (When I say 'integrated' I am referring to a community of support that doesn't just manifest in times of crisis but is ongoing.)
I also believe that self care and child raising can go together and that our cultural legacy has not offered us a strong models for this. (Sometimes we almost wear our exhaustion like a badge of honor or way to 'show' the world we are working hard and earning our merit)
And whether or not you have children are we not always taking care of all the growing aspects of ourselves even as 'adults'? Is there not a growing, nurturing, learning and loving quality to each of our days as we navigate our lives and the many layers of who we are?
It also seems less common to see someone who grew up being taught or shown the unique personal importance of self care. So many children these days watch the adults around them rushing about, eating while on the run, driving while on the phone, 'running late', on their computers/smart phones all the time, distracted etc etc (to name a few). Where do we think young people learn self care? Where did you or I learn our knowledge of self care (and I am talking beyond brushing our teeth and basic hygiene)?
I am not criticizing these qualities of hecticity......some of these are a part of my life too. But......I think it is about balance.......we don't need to choose all or nothing....we each need to discover and integrate balance.
If self care is such a reoccurring topic of conversation and point of reflection (or even the mirror for feeling bad about oneself based on comparison) than there must be something significant about it...yes? And if it is something so many people seem to desire and yet it is elusive perhaps there is something to discover.
So where to begin....?
For me it always begins with a question(s).
I suppose each person would need to start with honestly asking themselves what 'self care' means for them (because it is different for each of us although we will have common themes) and perhaps even ask why it is important.
And then perhaps gently ask without judgement, 'what gets in my way of doing this care?'.
I believe so much begins from within......not from the outside in. You need to connect to your own 'center'......that wise & grounded place in each of us. It is within this center that we can learn about what we need and what gets in our way. The key here is learning to listen and this takes some practice for many of us.
We also need to get out from within the pattern of viewing self care as this elusive quality that we have for a fleeting moment and then we 'mess up'. This always seems like a set up for feeling bad about oneself. Perhaps know that it is already within you and you are simply allowing space for it to emerge. And any time you notice you weren't able to allow it......gently question without judgement. Perhaps be curious and loving as a part of your self care. It might take time but it is truly there within you to cultivate.
(I don't know about you, but I typically feel more willing to be vulnerable in situations that feel safe and nurturing as opposed to ones where it feels harsh and critical. In the latter I am going to protect myself and not open up. If you want to get to know the vulnerable and honest parts of yourself perhaps let go of the criticism and cultivate a compassionate and gentle approach. This is certainly not the model we have learned overall but why not try it?)
So, why not start right now and feel into what is self care for you.
Notice if you feel it is already integrated into your days.
Notice if you have any sense of lacking with it.
Notice what it means to you and the thoughts that tag along in this process.
You will be your best guide in knowing what is true for you. Just open an environment in yourself for this 'truth' to emerge freely. Continue to cultivate unconditioned love for yourself.......believe that you are doing it with every breath you take.
Thanks for reading and sharing.