We might think that self-care is bubble baths, scented candles, spa days, and skincare, but self-care is not just pampering, or an excuse to shop. Self-love is accepting yourself for all that you are, and self-care is finding a way to be gentle with your precious heart in the midst of life’s messiness.
The self-care market is big business, an industry of products and services marketed under the umbrella of ‘you deserve it.’ As pleasurable and as necessary as it is to look after our bodies, to relax our mind and fuel our spirit, this is the surface layer of self-care, the tip of the iceberg. Real self-care is shining light on what lies beneath, in the shadowy depths of our psyche.
Over the years, I’ve struggled with the concept of self-love. Like so many others, I’ve grappled with issues such as imposter syndrome and lack of worthiness. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve recognised that self-love, and the self-care that nourishes it, is really just a label for being as kind and as gentle towards myself, as I am (or would like to think I am) towards others.
Self-care is the path from the overactive mind to the loving heart. It’s how we resource ourselves. It’s also the spirit level that helps us find equilibrium between giving and receiving, between doing and being.
Whilst I firmly believe that we are all perfectly ourselves, simultaneously we are also works in progress. I view my self-care journey as one that is away from fear-based filters and conditioning and moving towards love, away from suffering and towards inner peace. The more we walk this path the lighter we become. We shed what no longer serves us, what often was not really ours in the first place. This is the tough love side of self-love.
There are times when we need a companion on our journey, someone to support us, someone to hold the lantern. This is where a therapist, counselor, or coach can be invaluable, a professional whose sole focus is assisting you to heal and move forward in your life. Dealing with a long-buried trauma and hauling limiting beliefs and patterns into awareness is the heavy work of self-care. We acknowledge and embrace the bruised, hurt, and disempowered parts of ourselves. This often involves forgiveness of ourselves and others. As the heartbeat of healing, forgiveness expands our capacity for self-compassion, the foundation block of self-care.
Establishing boundaries is self-care in action. You are making decisions as to what you need to function well in the world. The best boundaries are the ones built with love. Boundaries may be time-based, or they might be physical spaces, thresholds that distinguish between different aspects of your life. Boundaries play an essential role in protecting your energy, shielding you from situations that drain your energy.
Self-care is also nourishing the body inside and out. Since cancer gate-crashed my life, regular check-ups with my GP and consultants are part of my self-maintenance routines. I take vitamins and supplements that support my well-being. Regular exercise and staying hydrated is no longer done solely for vanity reasons, it’s part of my lifestyle because I want to honour my body, my avatar in this world. I ask myself – what does my body need? Frequently, the answer is rest. Never forget that sleep is an integral part of self-care too.
There can be many natural bi-products of a regular self-care practice. You find the courage to have a difficult conversation that you’d put on the long finger. You take baby steps in the direction of goals you’ve identified or dreams you’ve resurrected. You get curious about what triggers you. Whilst you think others might press your buttons, they are still your buttons, so you go on an expedition to uncover hidden buttons and the treasures they conceal.
I’ve found that when I ignore what my fear and pain are pointing me towards, I’m rejecting an invitation for healing and for even more love to enter my life. Without the deeper work, I might put on the fluffy robe, but eventually, my wounds will bleed through. Cosseting and pampering is a balm for the mind, body, and soul, but it is only a minor part of self-care. It can also be a distraction from the real work of caring for the self.
If you enjoyed this article then I recommend you read my post titled Self-Care 2.0 where I go through the changes I have made to my own self-care habit for this year. If you like to listen to podcasts then you must listen to my interview with Georgina Durkin an Intuitive Therapist who is affectionately known as the ‘Soul Whisperer’ and who shares how she helps her clients connect with their internal guidance system, a practice that always leads to our highest good and greatest joy.
To ensure you don’t miss any of my latest blog posts, news and development do make sure to join my community newsletter by entering your email below.