"To be nobody but myself, in a world which is doing its best night and day to make me everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting. – e. e. Cummings
I've written before about the “luxury" of self-care - shifting our mindset from self-care being something we HAVE to do, to something we GET to do, with the reward being more healthy and full lives.
But what if, deep down, you don't think you DESERVE a healthy and full life?
What if, deep down, you're punishing yourself with unhealthy habits because you think you deserve the side effects that result from them?
In my own journey towards self-care, I've found that there are three steps to self-acceptance. And I've noticed that, for me, they need to occur in this order:
First, I need to accept myself right now, who I am in this moment. I know I have more growing to do, and see the improvements I've already made.
Accepting myself as perfect doesn't mean that I can't make mistakes or have room to improve. It means that I accept the perfection of the version of myself I am today, knowing that I have the power to learn, grow and change. I've found that until I accept myself as I am now, I can't begin to change.
The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best. — Yiddish Proverb quoted in Finding Joy by Dannel I. Schwartz and Mark Hass
Second, I need to learn how to BE myself (most of the time). That means saying “no" when that's my choice, not automatically doing what everyone else is doing just so I won't look different. It also means challenging my lifetime of learned behaviours in favour of something healthier.
This is a very important practice. Live your daily life in a way that you never lose yourself. When you are carried away with your worries, fears, cravings, anger, and desire, you run away from yourself and you lose yourself. The practice is always to go back to oneself. — Thich Nhat Hanh in Going Home
And finally, I need to learn more about myself and discover who I am truly am, at my core. I do this by observing myself, objectively and from a place of self-acceptance. Good things to notice? Things that make me sparkle and feel more alive; those will be closely linked to my “heart's desires", my “life purpose", and my core values and beliefs.
Also good to notice are the things that get my blood boiling, that I can't tolerate – if it's in someone else, it's usually a reflection of something I wish was different about myself. Or it's the OPPOSITE of one of my heart's desires.
From there I start the process all over again, of accepting this new version of myself that I'm continually defining, redefining and evolving.
TAKING IT TO YOUR SELF-CARE PLAN
Smile at yourself in mirror three times every day. I've read that just the act of smiling (and for triple the impact, laugh out loud!) shifts us into a more positive mood. Share those positive feelings with the person in the mirror.
Send yourself a THANK YOU card for something you did for yourself. When you do practice self-care, make a healthy choice or stop a negative thought in it's tracks, reinforce that behaviour, help yourself feel good about it, and you'll keep doing it.
At the end of the day, write down something that you wished you'd done differently and then forgive yourself for it (this would be a great addition to your gratitude journal).
If you're not sure how to forgive yourself, imagine that your best friend was telling you about something they wish they'd done differently. What might you say to make them feel better? You could also spend some time writing about how you could choose to do it differently next time.
So many people have “blind spots"; behaviours or personality traits that are having harmful effects that they don't even realize. If you're aware of something that isn't how you want it to be, that's truly something to be glad about, because now you can move on and choose something different.
(c) Copyright Linda Dessau, 2005.
Linda Dessau, the Self-Care Coach, is the author of “The Everyday Self-Care Workbook". To find out more about the book, or to receive her free monthly newsletter, “Genuine Self-Care", visit http://www.genuinecoaching.com/resources.html