THE OTHER SIDE OF SELF-CARE
The year 2021 was particularly challenging for me; a combination of internal and external struggles often left me feeling weak and demotivated, followed by long periods of self-doubt, crippling anxiety and an endless urge to shut the world out.
Interestingly, 2021 was also my most progressive year yet. It was a year where I found my purposefully-driven self, took deep dives into self-discovery and made remarkable strides in my profession.
There’s the innate tendency to focus on the negatives. It’s a human trait written into the brain cells right from birth and improved upon by aeons of evolution, boosting our chance of survival in the world. Our pain receptors pick up on the most minor discomfort much faster than noticing ease in the body/mind.
Self-care has been defined as taking care of oneself with behaviours that promote health and active management of illness when it occurs.
Alexander Segall; Jay Goldstein (1998). “Exploring the Correlates of Self Provided Health Care Behaviour”
How can there be other sides to self-care?
In recent years, the word “self-care” has become a movement of perfectionism. The wellness and well-being mantra can be so easily co-opted by subjection to self-suffering; when one fails to measure up to the positivity preached across online media channels, it can lead to reductionism rather than the intended healing of the self.
What then is the other side to self-care?
You can’t take the ugliness out of the healing process; you can only blur it out away from the sight of others. Self-care involves handling the many ill-traits and negative self-talk that have built up over time to become almost hard to notice. It involves the little lapses in behaviour, the going back to negative habits, the return to bad decisions that have become a cure to pressing problems. And at the end of all of these ugliness sits a kind and gentle inner self, willing to take note of the many failures and continue the healing process without self-judgement. This is the most radical aspect to self-care that exists; I call this other side, self-compassion.
How can I find this other side?
It begins with Awareness and ends with Kindness. Think about it, how can you know when you’ve slipped into trash-talking yourself because of a decision you made that turned out bad? How can you know when you’ve condemned yourself as a failure?
Awareness: This is the knowledge or perception of a situation.
Kindness: The quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.
To be able to spark positive change in the self, you first have to be aware of behaviours, good or bad. Out of this knowledge then comes a gentle hand to stir back on track regardless of the many detours.
- How often have I had to reread a paragraph on this article because I got distracted?
- How gentle was I to myself when I realised that I’d fallen off-track?
- How kind was I to pull myself back and continue reading regardless of how many times I lost track?
Wherever you are in your journey into self, however many difficulties that may have drailed you and threatened harm, choose to take note, choose self-compassion. Healing is within grasp, and it takes travelling down a long and arduous road with a worthy destination in view.
May you be well. May you find lasting peace within yourself.