Regardless of my spiritual practice, meditation, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, journaling, I’ve felt overwhelmed during the past weeks, so I decided to pack a bag and head north, far enough to be away from New York City and surrounded by trees. I wanted to take a couple of days really connecting with myself and listening to my own voice and my needs. I wanted to be quiet, and I didn’t want any disturbances to my thoughts, my feelings, or to talk or listen to anyone.
It’s not only my job but also my nature to take care of others, to listen, to be there and support them, to help and elevate or just hold space for anyone. It comes naturally to me. It’s me!
One thing does not come naturally to me, and it is to nurture myself. I don’t give myself time to listen to my needs or to say no to someone because of what I feel within me. I keep neglecting myself, and that’s what made me feel drained and tired.
It is NOT what I give to others that hurts me, but what I don’t give to myself.
I teach self-care to others, I teach weight loss through self-care and give thought to understanding one’s own needs. I need to fully understand what it means to care for myself facing every challenge that comes with it, so I can teach it to you. I guess meditating, eating healthy, exercising, sleeping enough, breathing, and all my spiritual practice is not enough just yet.
The truth is, that even for someone who teaches this, and very conscious of the importance of it, self-care does not come easily.
Why is that?
Well, I can share my own experience, and you can see if you can relate to it or not. In my case, when I was a child I tried to gain love through pleasing and do what I was told, so my parents, mostly my dad, would love me. Not to blame parents here (or society, cultures, family, teachers early childhood friends etc) but most of our subconscious conditioning happens before we’re six to seven years old. And it’s really not about what happened to us but the meaning we gave to it. Unless we’re very conscious of our own behavior and we know ourselves very well, we don’t know why we make certain decisions. Our decision-making circuits in our brain are habitual. So we make our decisions—this is true for most of us—based on how we got love or attention when we were kids. Some kids act out, some kids are super-smart, great at sports, some get sick, some have lots of problems, some got love with gifts and money, some got food for love.
But these patterns affect our day-to-day lives. In my life, one way it shows up, and there are many more ways they manifest themselves, is to put others first before my own basic needs.
I’m not suggesting not to care for others, but what I learned this weekend is that I can’t be there for others if I don’t take care of myself and my basic needs. When I’m there for someone and I feel out of balance, I need to stop and listen to what feels wrong within me and lovingly express it if I need to express it or just step away.
And sometimes all I need to say is NO! Simple as that.
The one thing I noticed is that when I end up NOT saying NO, it’s about to turn into a very unhealthy situation. For my part, I think I’m doing the right thing because I’m trying to help, but on the other hand, I’m becoming an enabler, and when I do that, I take power away from others. I also make others responsible for my experience in life, and I victimize myself.
I’m not only hurting myself, which is not okay, but what’s even worse, I’m hurting others by not saying NO! It is a little twisted, isn’t it?
This was only one of the lessons I learned over the weekend on my short getaway.
After my arrival, I decided to go down to the river and sit by the water to relax. I brought a bunch of magazines and local travel guides with me to read and to make a plan for the weekend. As I was reading and planning, I started to notice a little anxiety gripping me. As I told you before, my plan for the weekend was to closely observe myself and my reactions to life, so I paid extra attention to what was happening.
It suddenly hit me. Taking care of myself is not about doing anything; it’s about being! Being this person who follows what’s right for her and what’s not. It is not about getting a pedicure or taking myself out for dinner or not even about a weekend getaway. All those things are a nice way to treat myself.
But it isn’t what self-care is. Self-care is when I listen to my own needs and I follow through on them. It’s when I listen to my heart, and I do what feels right for me.
I remember times when my life was not about what was right for me, but what I had to do to survive. I’ve lived that life. The interesting part about it when I was deep in it, it did not feel as wrong as it does now when I’m much more conscious of myself and the choices I make. I used to not feel so strongly when I did something against my best interests.
What do we call it when someone does something to us against our will? Abuse, rape…? Thinking back, I have committed some serious self-abuse, and I wasn’t even aware of it. Have you ever done that to yourself?
Self-care is much more serious than going to the gym for an hour or eating a healthy meal. Those are only the expression of self-care. Not taking care of ourselves sometimes causes damage in our lives, within us, in our relationships that we can’t ever or can hardly recover from.
When I live my life with and open heart, taking care of myself, it’s very much possible that my life will go through big changes. I might change jobs, relocate, or let friendships and people go. At the same time, I will live where I feel I belong; I will have friendships and relationships in my life that I can fully commit to, with integrity and honesty. And because of all the love I feel within me and I will be able to spread that love and act from it with others. I will also honor their live as much as I honor mine.
It is not easy to keep up with our lives, our responsibilities and in the meantime stay in integrity.
Living our lives from our hearts, caring about ourselves is not an easy life; it’s a very responsible one. We step into a life we truly want to live with all of our hearts. It’s a life we desire, not what someone else desires for us. It’s a life of full integrity and honesty.
It isn’t a simple life but a heart-felt, loving, and kind life.
A life lived from the heart is a life worth living!
How do you feel and what do you think about your own self-care?
I created a group on Facebook called the “Self-Care Movement” to inspire others live from a heart centered place. Come and join the movement, live from you heart, share your story, your challenges, and support each other shifting our lives from “have tos ” to “I would love tos”.