HOW TO START A SELF-CARE PRACTICE
The first time someone said that to me, it was almost incomprehensible. "Gentleness and love? To me? - Pshhh, that sounds pretty weak." This was the reaction from my egoic inner voice when I attempted to feel into this idea of gentleness. It felt… ineffective. I'd been working soooo hard to PUSH through all my perceived shortcomings and lacks. Pushing through depression and anxiety, pushing through feelings of being lost or unsure. The only way I'd been able to "carry on" in my life was to muster up a bunch of strength so I could step up and measure up to those nasty inner dialogues constantly telling me how poorly I was doing and how badly I needed to step up in my life. Then I took over and proceeded to bully myself into "step-up" shape. And what was it all for? To be good enough, to look good enough, to perform good enough to be - well, enough. Enough that I would survive and be accepted in the world, be loved in the world. I wasn't completely aware of all those details at the time, but eventually I was able to see what I was doing to myself. It was BRUTAL! And this all new idea of being gentle to myself made me immediately pull back, hold my breath and feel my entire system of survival would fall to pieces and I'd end up going ….absolutely….nowhere.
Now that it's all said and done - This couldn't have been farther from the truth. But what did it take for me to see this differently?
For me, I had to FEEL the difference between gentle and non-gentle self motivation. And because I like to drill into words and meanings, I had to break down what I was doing that wasn't gentle and take a good deep look at what it really was - SELF ABUSE.
First off, we can only really thrive and flourish from a place of gentleness, safety and love. A place that allows us to cocoon when we need to - to rest and rejuvenate… to SELF CARE and self nourish. That simple first-time advice I was given included something I now say all the time: "If you need a nap, give yourself one, if you need to cry, let yourself cry. "Say what??? Take a nap? Who even does that?" I thought. Lol, back then I couldn't see myself having time for any of those types of "indulgences." I was way too busy on that push track. Go go go, and if I don't, I'm failing. But - I was there to learn new ways, try new things, let go of the difficulties in life, SO after getting this advice, I tried it, I felt my way into it. After a particularly deep session with my then therapist, I went home and GAVE MYSELF A NAP! I had to admit, now that I had permission to do this, it actually felt pretty nice. Who would have thought? So I kept doing it. Rests, naps, cries, pauses, I was giving this thing a try.
Next the word-breakdown came into play. Being hard on ourselves through those nasty inner dialogues feels nowhere near what a place of gentleness and love feels like. It's the difference between feeling like a kicked dog out in the rain versus a freshly watered flower blossoming in the sun. We're trained and taught through cultural standards in families, schools, sports, religions, etc. to become SELF DISCIPLINED. We're told that through "self discipline" we'll be successful in life. But just think about that two-word phrase - SELF DISCIPLINE. Here's the top definition of the word DISCIPLINE: "The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience." Woah, harsh! If we're not careful, "Self Discipline" can become a slippery slope into patterns of SELF ABUSE, especially if we've seen or experienced abuse in our lives. Well that was enlightening.
Now years later, I've swapped out the idea of Self Discipline for SELF MOTIVATION and PRACTICE. I like being self motivated, when it's my choice, when it comes from an inner voice whose on my side, a cheerful, loving voice of kindness and respect. Bringing myself into connection with this feels more like a Practice. I'm NO LONGER WILLING to beat myself into submission through a nasty abusive pattern of self talk.
So what is a Practice and what does having one look like?
Having a Practice really means determining my true needs and putting those needs first by finding support for them. Giving myself permission to support my needs without guilt or shame. Yes, in the beginning of this Practice, taking time out for deep self care made me feel guilty and ashamed THAT I EVEN NEEDED IT. I was supposed to be so STRONG. After all, I made it through all my traumas by being STRONG, right? …right? Hmmm… wait a minute. What if all that strength was really just my inner sad kid clamoring for approval from that nasty demanding, not-nice-at-all voice? That voice that was shaming me, calling me names like lazy, weak, unaccomplished, lost, ugly, fat, gross, etc. Yeah, the more I felt into it, the more I saw how that voice was downright abusive and a bit of a slave driver. You're tired? Sad? Tender? Stressed? So what! Get back on track ya loser! - Yikes!!
And THEN I realized those voices weren't mine at all. They were shadows and remnants from voices of the past. Voices of ancestors who had to be strong to survive, voices of parents who'd been given the same programming, voices of teachers, aunts, uncles, etc. Voices from characters in books, movies or on television. Voices that all came from OUTSIDE OF ME. These were a multitude of voices that the ego had taken on so as to actively beat the shit out of me day in and day out.
And even though Eckhart Tolle's books had taught me about unpacking these voices, I still hadn't embodied the concept and act of being "Gentle" to myself.
I mean, why was I complying with those nasty voices anyhow? Why had I taken on behaviors rooted in self criticism and being downright mean to myself? Most definitely not because of gentleness and love. Was I thriving and flourishing? No! Even when I was forcing myself into the molds I was being told I needed to fit into, I was feeling like crap - pretty much most of the time. I was second guessing myself so much. I didn't trust myself or others.
Despite always having had an inner rebel - I started seeing that a big part of me was in a mindset conducive to submission, obedience, and a desire for acceptance and praise from those nasty voices. What a HUGE difference between that versus a place of gentleness, safety and love. I was beginning to FEEL into it. I was now entering a place that allowed me to cocoon, to rest and rejuvenate; to self care and self nourish. The result? Discovering more natural energy to channel into what was truly good for me, to give myself what I actually needed, resulting in better mental, emotional, and physical health. I was resting, stopping when I needed to, speaking nicely to myself, cheering myself on and giving myself credit for even the tiniest job well done. I was being kind to myself when feelings and emotions showed up. Allowing space for tender or difficult feelings instead of getting so angry at myself for feeling sad or bad about things. I wanted to be good for myself. I began to feel so much more authentic and legit, solid and self directed. I was being me and I liked it. Over time, the feelings of being lost were replaced by feelings of true decision making - knowing clearly what I'm willing and not willing to do to myself and what I'm willing and not willing to accept from people and situations around me. So so different than the beat down I'd been giving myself for years - decades. SO MUCH BETTER!
So now I pass this bag of butterflies over to you. It's your turn to learn to live and thrive from a place of gentleness and love through inner listening and self care. Take some time to look deeply into whether you're self disciplined or self motivated. Whether you're being beat into submission by some nasty inner voice or if you're creating a loving, nourishing SELF MOTIVATED PRACTICE to help you move through your life authentically. It's a huge first step in Releasing and Recreating your subconscious programming.
MY WISH FOR YOU is that you discover your very own authentic self-motivated Practice that works for YOU every day.
IN GRATITUDE AND WELLNESS - STACEY
Photo by Stacey Lara