This is a tricky topic and one that many of us struggle with – particularly people who care for others as they are so accustomed to putting others’ needs ahead of their own. While that is very noble, it is also really vital for everyone’s wellbeing that a balance is struck between care for others and care for self. Care for self is not selfish; it’s not just looking after yourself without a thought to how that affects others. For me, self-care is caring for yourself in the same way you care for others.
If you’re from a generation that was told, “Always put others before yourself”, “Don’t be selfish” or “It’s not what you want, it’s what you’re going to get” self-care will no doubt be a challenge, so I’ve outlined a practice you can use to help you on your way. The first thing to do is consider what you might like more of in your life. Is it love, warmth, fair wages, laughter, free time, relaxation, appreciation or something else?
I’d suggest writing two lists – one of wants and the other of needs. You may find some desires are a blur between the wants and needs, but do the best you can. Try not to think too much about it as you write. Resist the urge to feel guilty for saying “I want”, or feel weak for saying “I need” – just let it flow. Then, put the lists away overnight and go back to it the next day. When you go back to the list the next day, try putting them in order of priority. You can mix and match the two lists. It can be interesting to note which is more of a priority for you – wants or needs?
Then leave it again overnight, letting yourself and your mind mull it over. The next day, pick one thing on your list. Maybe start with the easiest one and make a plan as if there were no obstacles for how you can make it happen.
Once again, have a sleep on it and then state your want to those you share your life with. If you’re worried about asking, remind yourself that thinking about your own needs is not selfish – it is self-care. You’re deserving of having your needs met just as much as anyone else.
Sleeping on these wants, needs and desires is a very important part of this work, so my physical activity for us this month is to ensure you get a walk out in nature each day and a good, proper night’s sleep. That means no screens for an hour before bedtime, deciding to get to bed earlier than you normally would and being disciplined in this regard. Remember, you’re taking care of your own needs as you would another’s. That’s the brief this month, and it’s important!
It’s been long accepted that humans need connection. We need to feel seen, heard, and to feel understood.
In this society, people are often so engrossed in virtual worlds that we don’t always engage with people in the same meaningful way we are designed to – thus leaving one of our most basic needs unfulfilled.
If you spend some time taking care of yourself in the way I’ve suggested above, you might find yourself feeling more connected to that essential, authentic part of you, as well as becoming more aware of the times when you feel disconnected from your friends and family.
Once you are aware of any disconnect, you have the opportunity to do something about it.
So you see, by taking care of yourself, others also benefit – which proves without any doubt that taking care of yourself is inherently an unselfish act.