How often have you heard people say, ‘take care of yourself’? A few years ago, when going through a particularly difficult time, a well-meaning individual encouraged me to do just this. I remember replying to her, ‘I don’t even know what that really means.’
And so, I began my journey into understanding what it means to look after myself – looking further into the infamous ‘self-care’ bandwagon that the Socials all seem to be on. For many, the idea of self-care is synonymous with selfish – placing oneself before the needs of other people. However, this is a misnomer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, googling ‘self-care’ brings up the importance of good sleep, healthy food, exercise, fresh air, a warm bath (and perhaps a glass of wine and some chocolate). However, through my journey of understanding real self-care, I’ve come to realise that it reaches far beyond these obvious pampering elements (although these things are important too!). True self-care is adopting an attitude towards our ‘self’ that places us, and our needs up there as being as important as other’s needs, which is essential for our mental health and well-being and ultimately our enjoyment and management, of the demands of daily life.
Perhaps it is helpful to turn self-care on its head and consider it as ‘Care of Self.’ And to take care of our ‘self’ so that we can give our ‘self’ what we really need to feel good, we need to know and prioritise our ‘self.’
To really know ourselves, and therefore know and understand what we, as unique individuals really need, seems to have several key components. It seems to me to begin with self-compassion. Is it possible to be as compassionate to ourselves as we are to others? Can we treat our ‘self’ at least as well as we treat others around us? Can we really listen to and meet our needs as we might for others? Can we notice when our internal voice is critical and judgemental of our 'self.' Can we replace it with a kind, caring interjection that we might well offer our friends and loved ones in a similar situation.
Can we then be more self-accepting. Can we listen to our true feelings with this compassion and, therefore, accept our feelings. Listening and respecting our feelings when we sense that a situation/relationship/(fill the blank) is not okay for us. Believing that it is ok to say ‘no’ and set a boundary if we feel something doesn’t work for us, knowing, and acknowledging, that it may work for other people. Understanding, and being ok with the fact that what is true for you, may not be true for others.
The foundations of self-care seem to me to be built on a fundamental attitude and belief that our needs and well-being are at least as important as others. If we can start to truly respect, believe in, and have compassion towards our ‘self’ we can truly look after ourselves and our well-being.
Self-care is all about the ‘selfs’ – 'self-compassion,' 'self-acceptance’, ‘self-belief’ and ‘self-respect’… and perhaps some chocolate sometimes too…