Looking After Ourselves
Something that comes up time and again, with both clients, and with friends and family, is the need to look after the self. I have previously emphasised the need for self-care but now we are diving in deeper. This post is not about the task of creating the time and space for acts of self-care, but about the long-term relationship with the self.
The safety instructions on an airplane dictate that we should help ourselves before we help other people. Many people scoff at this; "Of course I'm going to help my baby put on a oxygen mask before I put one on myself."
But what if you run out of oxygen before you are able to do so?
This applies to everyday life. You cannot pour from an empty jug. You must look after yourself in order to look after other people. This starts with acts of self-care, whether they are rationed to one day a week, one weekend a month, or once a year. However, for self-love to truly develop, we must become attuned to what we truly need, and then give this to ourselves.
What do you need right now to be happy? What do you need everyday to feel fulfilled? How do you need your life to be in order to feel nourished? These are continuous things, not momentary luxuries. I have a super long list of acts of self-care here!
Some people need five minutes meditation each day in order to feel at peace and ready to face the day. Some people need to cultivate strong and lasting relationships with friends ad family in order to feel nourished and whole.
Some of us may need a strong partnership in which decisions and tasks are shared. Others may need a sense of independence and autonomy in order to fully exercise and experience their potency.
Trial and Error
You may have a clear idea of what it is that you need in order to feel genuinely happy, or it may be a lifelong trial and error experiment. That is fine. In fact there is no error, only trial. There is nothing wrong with trying new things to see if they make you happy. When you find one, start to build it into your life, actively making time for it, until it becomes a habit. Then look for the next thing that can bring happiness to your life, and begin to build this in too.
It isn't just about adding things in either. There is nothing wrong with cutting out things or people that only bring misery or pain. Pay attention to the things and people that are already in your life. Which of them brings you joy and which of them brings you pain? Who raises you up and who drags you down.
Those that drag you down may not realise that they are doing it. They may, in fact, need someone in their life who will raise them up. And if that is you and you are comfortable doing so (and it doesn't drag you down in the process), then brilliant!
However, do not set yourself on fire just to keep other people warm. In other words, don't go out of your way to make other people happy, if it is going to make you miserable. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back from a friendship or relationship in order to look after yourself. This might be a temporary step-back or permanent. Either way, do what feels right for you.
Sometimes a simple reshuffle is enough to reset the balance in life. Perhaps you start saying no to events that you aren't really interested in. Or you take the time once a week to go to a class that you have always wanted to go to. The balance feels right and you have a newfound sense of joy and self-nourishment. Amazing!
Sometimes, we need to take a giant step back from our lives and look at the whole thing through a new lens. Perhaps the reason that you aren't enjoying your job isn't that your boss is demanding or your colleagues are dull, but that the career itself no longer stimulates you.
The point of this whole post is that although I am a massive advocate for acts of self-care, I am an even bigger advocate for building these acts of self-care into habits. When I first started my Instagram account, my intention was to make it so varied, with different forms of self-care every day. However, I have realised that if I do that, then I won't be able to build these into long lasting habits. I need to repeat acts of self-care every day in order to truly nourish myself and build a happy life!
If you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org