There is a common underlying theme in many of my conversations with coaching clients, yoga students and friends: our inability to really take care of ourselves. We’re stressed, overworked, fatigued, spend way too long working and feeling overwhelmed. If you are unlucky to travel on the tube or bus at peak hour in the evenings, I dare you to look up: the view is quite the horror movie. Zombies, on our phones, staring in space, with long miserable faces, dragging our bodies home, looking for something to make us feel better – fast. We skip exercise, snooze way too many times and rush through the parts of the day that may otherwise offer much needed nourishment. Those parts that would normally provide refuge, like a nice, long shower or bath, moisturising, eating a home cooked meal, reading a book, drinking tea. Even going out and doing all those things that make you feel alive, like walking in nature, meeting a friend and having a real life conversation, or being intimate with your partner.
Earlier this month I was talking to one of my brilliant coaching clients and she said that she would always makes sure her commitments are met even if that means cutting down on the time she could dedicate to take care of herself. Another client wondered whether she’s allowed to celebrate her achievements in relation to her goals, if she’s not met her whole goal yet. And it really makes me sad. The whole thing is a fallacy. We’ve been taught we need to prove that we are worthy before you can feel worthy; worthy of success, of money, of fulfilment, of good fortune, of love. When you are good, study hard, work hard and clean your room, you get a nice gift and your pocket money. When you’ve ticked the next box according to your age range, you can allow yourself to feel worthy of where you are. Yet not for too long, because ultimately the belief we are not worthy until proven otherwise is so toxic that it underpins most of what we do. Needing to prove your worthiness can manifest in so many different ways: in how you connect to people, how you communicate, how you put yourself forward in business and work, how you act as a parent and a partner, your relationship to money and success, and so on. Combine the belief you’re not worthy of self care until you have completed your ‘tasks’ with a weakness for wanting to please others and you have a cocktail for fatigue and burnout. The truth is you are worthy. I believe with all my heart that we are all born worthy of everything. It is your birthright to feel good, to belong, to be happy. You are allowed to feel good, even when you haven’t answered your 23682691 emails. When we look at a baby, we know that tiny human deserves everything. Yet somehow, at some stage, the system kind of breaks down. We start adding expectations and conditions: If I get all of it done, I can go and play with my friends. That’s all good and it’s healthy to set goals and objectives to motivate you to grow, as long as it’s not misinterpreted as a measure of worthiness.
Shoulds, musts, have to’s. Oh, how they torture our little souls! All these expectations of ourselves which, although stem from the best intentions and may motivate us to be the best version of ourselves, ironically they have the complete opposite effect. I know I should go to my yoga class on Monday morning to start the week right. I should cook more during the week. I shouldn’t be struggling so much with this. I should know better. And so it goes.
I have shared many times how I have struggled to prioritise my needs. I have ignored signals that my body is giving me to slow down and have relied on excuses to avoid discipline. I have set half-hearted intentions to get my act together, but forgot them by day two. I have been so distracted and excited by all the projects I’ve been working on, I forgot without my foundations of consistent self care, I am holding myself hostage in this vicious cycle of self sabotage.
The body will always stop you. One way or another it will try to communicate that you need to slow down. It will try to do it nicely at first, but eventually when you continue marching on despite the warning signals, the body will make sure you STOP.
Self care is your foundation, your roots that ground you, support you and keep you stable and strong so that you can rise up and shine from there. Without self care, your whole structure collapses. What I teach my clients and what I firmly believe is that how you show up for yourself and how you prioritise your self care is a measure of how worthy you feel. By committing to up-ing your self care you begin to show yourself that you are worthy of being taken care of. If you don’t prioritise taking care of yourself, you cannot be there fully and mindfully for others. You become an auto-pilot machine and ultimately lose your essence. Self care is non negotiable and we know now that it includes much more than sleeping and eating well. It is about making time for all different aspects of your being: your body, your spirit, your mind and your heart. We deserve a treat, every day. Yes, every single day. We deserve a treat because our lives are filled with pressure and shoulds/musts/have to’s. Once you realise that it is not actually a treat, but a necessity, you align your priorities and choices with that balance. And things start to flow.
My yoga and meditation practice is not a luxury; it is my fuel.
Taking time off and resting is not an indulgence; it is vital to my being.
Investing in my health and wellness is not secondary to paying rent; it is number one on my priorities list.
Prioritising my spiritual and mental health is not extravagant; I am whole and in balance when I empower all aspects of my self.
Laughter, connection and love are not optional; I devote time and energy to nurture their presence in my life, every day.
Ask yourself these questions::
// Which aspect of my self care have I neglected?
// How can I prioritise myself today? This week?
// What do I need to do/plan/book/cancel to create space for my body/mind/spirit/heart to grow?
// How can I invite more balance into my life? What do I need to do?
Remember that to make changes, you need to come from a place of love, patience and grace. If you set an intention out of punishment for being bad, you create a negative energy that is bound to explode in your pretty face, believe me. Encourage a sense of gratitude for where you are and start small.
Photography: Hayley Richardson