Self-Care Means Loving Yourself

The degree to which we mistreat ourselves is mind-blowing.

In the name of trying to get what we want (inner satisfaction, love, safety, security, and more), we do a lot of different things that take us in the opposite direction. For example, we may choose repeatedly to put ourselves in the line of fire with people who don’t support us. Or we may judge ourselves harshly with negative self-talk. And we find other options that get us off-track, such as over-working to the point of exhaustion, harming our bodies with too much or not enough food, consuming too much alcohol or too many drugs, avoiding exercise, or using the internet to ‘check out.’ Perhaps we push ourselves too hard (think: perfectionism), try to control outcomes, or give our power away to endless other external things and/or people. We can find far too many methods to derail ourselves. And this is not an exhaustive list, by any means.

Have we lost our way? Perhaps. So, how does that happen?

Most of us — myself included — get side-tracked from self-care because we’re conditioned from childhood to locate our ability to feel satisfied outside of ourselves. As children, we’re literally dependent on the adult caregivers in our lives to provide what we need to survive, whether that’s food, clothing, shelter, emotional care, or acknowledgment, which often comes in the form of praise and attention. If we don’t get those aspects of basic care in our early development, we won’t learn how to be loving adults to ourselves and we’ll continue to look only outside of ourselves for that validation.

Can we change this unfortunate dynamic — our tendency to look only outside of ourselves for validation? Yes. Of course.

First of all, we can consciously fight against the strong current of societal norms and move beyond the expected default settings of faster-faster-faster, better-better-better, more-more-more. It’s kind of ironic to notice that we go balls out to achieve what we think will make us feel better, only to burn out along the way. Even globally, we are so tuned in to and concerned with the sustainability of our planet (and, therefore, our species), yet we’ve got blinders on regarding the day-to-day sustainability of our own well-being.

Then, when we remember Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy-of-needs pyramid, we recognize that tending to our own basic needs enhances our engagement in ‘higher levels’ of participation in life — including our ability to be of service to others and our capacity to practice spirituality.

So, what’s our next step? How do we reconnect with ourselves?

We must intentionally work to change our perspectives and actions, because that helps us stake out important boundaries and preserve our bandwidth for the long haul.

We must also relocate our sense of worth and well-being to the inner planes where it truly belongs. The shift from an outer-identified view to an inner-directed sense of self may take time, but the results are well worth the effort. After all, shouldn’t you be the one who decides if you’re good enough?

Being more present with ourselves — attending to our needs (our self-care) moment to moment — begins to allow us to live in real time with ourselves. These are the kinds of activities that add to our bandwidth rather than deplete it. What could be more loving than that?