For many years I always thought I looked after myself well; I ate good food, exercised regularly and slept well. I seemed to have plenty of energy and life seemed great, however, I was losing weight. I tried to do things to put on weight and I had medical tests to see if there was any physical cause, but nothing showed up – so I had to look at the quality of my life.
I felt I was only valued for what I did, and how well I did it. Because of this lack of self-esteem, I did not feel that I deserved to be cared for.
Looking back now, I see that I was actually allowing a lot self-abuse and even when I did care for myself, if I didn’t do it with a loving quality, it was not very nurturing.
So, for example, if I cooked a lovely meal but then ate it in a rush or while having an argument, I would not digest it properly. If I went to bed early feeling wound up after a busy day I often would not be able to get to sleep even though I was tired. If I did get to sleep, I would toss and turn and not get a deep sleep.
So I started to see that it was the quality in which I did things that mattered, not just what I did. I began to be more aware of ‘how’ I did things.
What helped me was to allow myself to really feel into how I was feeling. When I did this, I would not switch on the automatic pilot which would cause me to just go ahead and do something. I would take a moment to listen to my body and get a sense if it was the appropriate thing to do in that moment. This is how I started to be able to say ‘No’ more easily. My body would let me know very quickly, and if I didn’t listen to it, it would let me know after the event. For example, if I lifted something that was too heavy or without being conscious of my posture, I would end up with back pain the next day.
Our bodies are always giving us signals and if we don’t listen to the first messages it gives us, it has to speak a bit louder to get our attention!
As I listened to my body more, it changed the way I felt about myself. I realised I was worth taking care of and that far from being selfish it was very honouring of me to do so. As a result, it also had a ripple effect out to others.
As a result of appreciating myself more, I found that I would not try so hard to get everything done but would pause throughout the day and be able to do things for me without feeling selfish. I would not rush to answer the phone, I no longer offered to do things without checking in with myself first to see if it was a true impulse or whether it was just coming from wanting to help or rescue someone. I would no longer blame myself for what went wrong but would look at how I could make better choices next time. I saw that I had a choice every moment to self-love or self-abuse.
Now for me, self-care is not something I do to ‘improve’ myself. If I do it with that intention, I often just go through the motions without really giving myself the tender loving care and the body immediately lets me know. For example, if I smear my moisturiser on in a hurry while thinking about my day ahead, my face does not glow in the same way as it does when I apply it tenderly feeling the texture of my skin and enjoying the sensation of my touch. With the quality of my touch becoming more gentle and loving, my face and skin reflected this.
So what is self-care? For me it means that whatever I do, I do with a sense of appreciation of myself, and my body.
These legs have carried me over many miles, these hands have done so much, these eyes have received so much, this heart has pumped without fail to sustain this body. All parts of me are worth truly honouring for the fact that when they work harmoniously together, they provide a vehicle that carries me through life and allows me to bring whatever is needed to contribute to the world.
I also am learning to appreciate what comes through me and to know that without a healthy body, which is in harmony with life, I cannot be fully available to fulfil the purpose I am here for.
I now see my body as a precious gift from God so why on earth would I want to abuse it?
Sandra N., Australia