We’re told that we are supposed to love ourselves, but no one teaches us how to do it. The way I conceptualize it, loving your self is a state of being. Who teaches us how to practice self-care? Most of our parents didn’t have impeccable self-care habits that they then lovingly taught to us; teachers at grade schools are overwhelmed and overworked by large classes and a heavy-work load and besides, what subject area would encompass self-care? Where is a child supposed to learn how to do this well? Of course the answer is, children don’t learn it. That is why you and I and most of the people we know have a sense that we “should” be happy with ourselves and our lives, yet for some reason it often feels unattainable.
You know that often quoted part of the safety speech on airplanes, “Please secure your oxygen mask first before helping others,”? This has perhaps become the ultimate metaphor for self-care in our society, the idea being that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we’ll have nothing to give to others! I grew up in the mid-west where there seems to be an unspoken cultural norm to put the needs of others first. It is thought of as selfish to do things just for you just because it feels right, and as a result kids grow up having no idea even of what their needs might be and even if they did know, they would turn themselves inside out before ever asking anyone to help. Do remember though, that when we are able to meet our conscious and unconscious needs we can find a much
greater sense of peace and fulfillment. Do you see the double bind we’re in? Society tells
us to be happy, have a meaningful life, take care of yourself, yet we don’t know what we
need or want to be happy and we haven’t learned how to properly care for ourselves. We
learn to take tests, eventually to pay our bills, we specialize at our jobs, but do we know
how to manage and nurture our emotional balance, our physical well-being, our thoughts,
and maybe even our spiritual selves?
So, here goes with a crash course in self-love and the practicalities of self-care. I
encourage you to the full interview which covers with a much greater depth important ideas around forgiveness,
food, acceptance, good stress and bad stress, therapy, poetry, and love. Perhaps
this will be a part of your new self-care regimen: listen to the interview and create a list
of helpful ideas for yourself.
Here are my top three basics about loving and caring for you.
1-Get to know yourself better.
- How many hours of sleep does it take for you to wake up and feel great?
- What foods do you eat that leave you feeling energetic for many hours?
- What foods leave you with unpleasant feelings in the body or in the heart?
- What makes you feel recharged?
- How can you tell when you’re starting to feel stressed?
Once you start to know yourself better, you will be better equipped to meet your personal needs for health…physical, mental, and emotional.
2-Once you know you better, you then realize that you are constantly faced with choices.
- Is it important to get more sleep or eat better? If so, what is getting in the way now?
- Carve out some time for activities that recharge you. Make it possible.
Again, remember the oxygen mask metaphor: if you’re out of energy, you’re not going to be a great partner, friend, employee, etc. Learn that it is not only ok, but it is imperative that you learn how to choose you.
3- Know your thoughts.
This is a big one for many of us.
- Did you feel like you got a subtle message growing up that it wasn’t ok for you to think highly of yourself?
- Have you ever really heard a person express the idea that they love themselves?
- Does the idea of saying out loud, “I love me,” seem pompous, outlandish, or new-agey?
- Yet it somehow feels ok to demean ourselves, put ourselves down, or otherwise speak poorly of ourselves both out loud and inside our own head.
- Notice your thought patterns.
- Practice replacing one hurtful thought (such as, “Ergh, why do I saystupid things?”) with a more loving thought (such as, “Thank goodness I don’t have to be perfect!”). Also practice thinking kinder thoughts about others.
I think that if most of us could be in a daily conversation with ourselves about these three
things (knowing our own needs, choosing to meet them, and practicing kindness in our
thoughts and speech) we would all feel a greater connection to joy and we’d have plenty
of extra energy to spare to give back to the world! I do know that much of this is easier
said than done. There are different pathways to health for all of us. For me, yoga, therapy,
and education were the magic three that paved the way for me to start practicing self-
love and self-care then finally getting so comfortable with it that I can teach the process
to others. I have seen in myself and in my clients the way that a dawning
realization of self-love can turn a so-so life experience into a deeply fulfilling and joyful
existence. It really is incredible.
Wishing you all the best on your journey! Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or to schedule a consultation for therapy or for yoga.
Maria Williquette, MA, LMFTA, RYT
You can download or listen to Maria’s full interview here.