Self-care Vs knowing yourself

by Nov 7, 2018Personal Development

Why self-care isn’t as caring as it appears.

At the moment my social media feeds are full to bursting with articles and advertisements on the importance of self-care.  These articles go into how important it is to look after yourself and what could happen if you don’t, before eventually going into ideas of different things that people can do to look after themselves.  That might include things like:

  • Setting aside ‘me-time’
  • Meditating every day
  • Going to yoga or pilates
  • Taking time out with friends or family
  • Practising mindfulness
  • Clean eating

All worthwhile activities, many of which I engage in personally.  However, there is a problem with the nature of the self-care message.

By promoting the idea that self-care is important, and that if we don’t do it we’re in trouble, we’ve created a society who now feel stressed because they don’t have time for the self-care that they believe is essential to their wellbeing.  Or who are taking part in self-care activities but with a huge expectation on what they should be doing for them. Something is a bit off here, so let’s investigate!

self care meditation

No time for self-care

If you believe that your worth, well-being, happiness and security comes from what you do in life, what you get out of life, your external experience and being ‘good enough’ (which, let’s face it, we’ve all been conditioned to believe is the case), then all things that you think you need to spend your time doing in order to be okay all still look really important.  So self-care is another thing on the to-do list.  Another thing to get ‘right’.  Another thing that there will be trouble if it’s not done.  Gulp!

So while we might engage in self-care activities from time to time, how beneficial are they if there is a fear of not doing them attached?  And if we are still looking at a million other things that seem important?!  So our behaviour might change, but how we feel doesn’t.

High expectations of self-care activities

In my experience, I have noticed that there are 2 outcomes to having high expectations of self-care (some people will experience both).

  1. The expectations of what the activity should do for you are so high, that you are frustrated and disappointed by it often.  This is experienced because the idea that we need this activity to create a certain feeling means that we start it with an absence of the feeling, and the harder we chase it, the more frustrated we can get.  By spending the activity waiting for the arrival of the good feeling we spend the activity experiencing ‘not having’.
  2. Sometimes the activity does seem to bring about a good feeling.  Here’s why.  If you believe that you need to go to yoga to have peace of mind, then – until you go to yoga – you will experience the absence of peace of mind, because you believe you need the yoga to achieve it.  Once you’re doing the yoga, you temporarily believe you have what you need, so the seeking stops and peace of mind follows.  So it’s not actually the self-care that creates the peace of mind, is the relief from the idea that we need something that we don’t already have.  And if it looks like this peace came from the activity, then it won’t be long before we think that we need the activity again and experience a corresponding absence of peace.

Great, now I have NO idea what to do!

Without a change in your understanding of who you are, what’s important and where your wellbeing comes from, our reasons for doing the things which mean we don’t have time for self-care, do not go away.  If we’re suffering because we believe we need to do x many hours of work, please/look after y people, achieve z goals – no amount of walking in the woods is going to change the tension that comes with those beliefs, so any benefits experienced from self-care will be short-lived.

You can see the truth in this, but it doesn’t feel that helpful to know, right?

So let me point you in a direction that makes sense.  By all means, engage in any of these activities, especially if you really like doing them.  And whilst engaging (or not) remember that the most caring thing you can do for yourself is changing your understanding of who the ‘self’ is, and what this ‘self’ needs to be okay.

The self that thinks it needs care is not who we really are.  It’s our ego.  We are buying into the thoughts of a completely unsatisfiable ego that believes life needs to be a certain way for us to be able to be okay.  Lasting peace and wellbeing doesn’t come from satisfying the ego.  It’s can’t, because the ego cannot be satisfied!  The good news is that lasting peace and happiness comes from recognising that the ego isn’t who we are.

Consider this:  If you put aside of all your thoughts on what you need, and what you are trying to achieve, what is left behind when it comes to “I”?  Without a name, a body, a gender or agenda – this “I” is peaceful, content, happy.  That’s the true ‘self’.  That self doesn’t need anything.  Want to take care of yourself? Look back to who your ‘self’ really is.  Look there whenever you remember, and rest in that space for a little while.

Want to know more about how I can help? Drop me a line or give me a call. A successful coaching relationship depends upon a great rapport, so it’s important to talk. I want to get to know you, see inside your world and we can assess how we’d go from there!