On the transformational journey, some topics come up time and time again. Like beacons along the way, they enable us to do a reality check with regard to our progress as spiritual beings having a human experience.
One such topic that demands our attention is self-care. If you have a background of self-abuse/lack of self-care you may, like me, at some point have decided to start taking good care of yourself and to no longer .. [fill in the blank] – whether it concerns binge eating, starving yourself, a lack of sleep, healthy food and sports, or an excess of alcohol, smoking, work and stress etc.
Now self-care is a broad topic that goes much beyond what I could have possibly imagined. I used to make commitments like these:
Min. 3 x / week 45 min. sports
Min. 7 hours sleep at night
Drinking at least 5 glasses of water a day
Max. 2 x / week 1 glass of wine/beer; no liquor; no drinking home alone
Min. 3 x / week 20 min. meditation
Every day fresh veggies and at least 1 piece of fruit
No work after 8pm and on Sunday and taking a 15 min. break every 2 hours
In itself there’s nothing wrong with killing off old destructive habits and replacing them with constructive new ones. As scientists say, you cannot cut out habits; you can only replace one with another. And if you can keep it up for a while, you may find that you have reconditioned yourself to live a healthier life – as according to behavioural scientists it takes 3 weeks to internalise a new pattern.
The problem though is that for many people not taking care of oneself is being replaced by the obsession of taking excellent self-care: I mustn’t, I’m only allowed to, I can no longer, I have to …
Are the rules clear? Yes. Measurable? Yes. Is there commitment? Yes, but … is it inspiring? Not really. Twenty percent out of the comfort zone? Maybe. Is there resistance? Hell yeah.
The question is where are you coming from when making your self-care commitments? Take a close look: is your self-improvement programme a true expression of self-love? Or were your rules born out of a context of not being good enough? Are they nurturing you or are they just another way of being competitive, reaching perfection and becoming good enough in the eyes of the world and yourself?
Intuitively you already know that shoulds and mustn’ts don’t inspire; then why do you make a 98 page document on the rules in your life? Instead your energy would be much better spent on nurturing the connection to your higher Self so that you can continuously make your decisions from there, surrendering to your own wisdom and coming from a place of fulfilment, love and gratitude.
Every parent knows you should pick your battles in child rearing; then why would you shun the ‘velvet glove’ approach with yourself? Be gentle! Be loving. What is the real need that is underneath all the symptoms at the surface?
Your higher Self cannot help but take good care of you the way you would of a two-year-old child. However, you would not tell that child that it’s fat, needs to lose 3 kilos by the end of next week, run 45 minutes twice a week and 200 metres further each time, not eat any carbs, do 100 push-ups in the morning and meditate every other day for at least 15 minutes, in the weekends for 30, and only eat chocolate cake on its birthday. That would be a recipe for unhappiness, burn-out and obsessive-compulsive neuroticism. All work and no fun makes Jack a dull boy.
I believe self-care is an act of service to yourself and the world, as when we practise true self-care we also create a space for others to start doing the same. A lack of self-care is identity-driven, whether through abuse or rigid health regimens. The Self is nurturing and does not live by a punishment/reward system. Just consider that any lack of self-care is merely a symptom of something deeper and those symptoms only start disappearing once we’re ready to embrace ourselves: júst the way we are.
So by all means create loving new patterns to replace the old. Just consider whether you’re doing self-care while being not good enough or whether your self-caring actions come from a space of unconditional love.
Ask yourself: is my higher Self driving the bus uphill to somewhere high above the clouds where the skies are blue and clear or is my identity taking me for a ride and veering dangerously close to the abyss?
By Mieke Beurskens