The phrase ‘self-care’ gets bounced around a lot these days and it has different meanings for everyone. Sometimes it is setting boundaries, other times taking time out from the busyness of life through yoga, a walk in a park, or just being quiet. Often it might be simply turning off your phone for a few hours (or a whole day) and curling up with a good book or movie.
Personally, self-care means looking after me, in whatever capacity I feel I need to, at any given moment. The older I get and the more earth time that passes between Ben and me, the less I care what people think (of me) and the stronger and more confident I feel in my own capabilities. And anyway, do we ever really know someone or what they are thinking? Most of us are too busy being busy, running around with a variety of hats and masks on to find uninterrupted quality and real time with others.
And on the point of personal capabilities, I guarantee you, you are stronger and more capable than you think!
I used to wonder if I was becoming increasingly intolerant, but now I believe it’s more a case of me having a higher level of self-awareness, connecting strongly with my own values, and knowing what I don’t want. Why does this always seem to be easier to figure out than what I do want? And if you’re struggling with this, sometimes writing down all the things you don’t want allows you to more easily identify what you do.
There is a term in counselling called dignity of risk. It means encouraging or facilitating a person’s right to make their own decisions in life even if those decisions include an element of risk. This is regardless of what the counsellor might believe is the right or wrong choice. Afterall, a great counsellor will never bring their own bias, judgements or opinions into a session anyway right?!
Often, we believe it is our job to protect those around us, our friends, family, and young people from experiencing disappointment or pain. Someone said to me once (in context) never deny your kids the struggle. I realise there is a delicate balance here but NO, this never means intentionally making their lives harder ‘to teach them a lesson‘.
Protection from pain is common in the grief space. We hear the words, ‘don’t cry, stay strong, I don’t want to make you upset’. Yet, the irony is that we can’t take a step forward without experiencing and moving through the pain first. We can’t learn new things or better strategies by doing the same thing over and over again. And by avoiding going through disappointment and what we call failing first, we can’t build strength and resilience.
So by offering well-meaning protection, which can lead to persuasion, are we really allowing dignity of risk? Or encouraging each individual to practice self-care in the way they need to? Let me be clear, there is a big difference between the act of supporting and the act of protecting.
This game of life is tricky but exceptionally clever. It’s only by facing adversity that we can build resilience. It’s only by feeling the pain that we really know what feeling good is all about. It is only when we are not feeling loved that we truly appreciate how powerful love is and how it instrumentally changes our attitudes, our beliefs, and our actions.
It leads to another lifelong question that continually changes based on where we are at and perhaps one of the most challenging ones, ‘What’s most important to me?’ As we move through different phases, our answers to this question will change – sometimes a little… sometimes a lot.
If you asked me 6 years ago what was most important to me it would have been a very different answer than today. And when we do find an answer, I don’t think it’s ever about the when or what ifs that inevitably accompany it, but more about the why along with an attitude of I will.
And so I make a point of taking regular time out for reflection as part of my own self-care. Where am I, where have I been, where am I going, how do I feel, what brings me joy, what makes me feel good, what do I need to do less of?
And all this while keeping in mind that happiness is an inside job, I alone am in control of my thoughts and responses, and if it’s going to be it’s up to me.
Dalya xx 💙