These days, I tend to get really caught up in my life. Things will get good and then I’m off and running with work and errands and family time and friends, and pretty soon I will notice that I’m running on empty and that all of the stuff I’ve been up to and doing, while great, has become a distraction from ME and I will begin to feel distanced and detached from myself.
In the past, when things were hard – when my relationship was suffering or finances were tight or there was something going on inside of me that I wasn’t ready to look at, I had a tendency to check out. Sometimes I did that through work, sometimes through reading, a lot of the time with alcohol or cigarettes. While during these periods I had the time to nourish myself, I would unconsciously (yet intentionally) deny myself. Taking care of me was the last thing on my mind.
Both scenarios, whether “good” or “bad” create situations in which I put my own welfare on the back burner. In both cases, I forget the importance of self-care and nurturance. I forget that if I’m not taking care of myself, there will be a ripple effect of discord through every aspect of my life.
For a long time I just didn’t believe that I deserved to nourish myself. I didn’t believe that I was enough, that I mattered. And because I didn’t matter, I made very little investment in my personal wellbeing. I might look for things outside of myself to fill the void – purchases, brownies, alcohol – but I did very little to authentically nourish or nurture myself.
At some point, I realized that I had to shift the focus. I was so accustomed to living my life outside of me – focusing on others and problems and things – that my insides were like a vacuum. I didn’t know who I was or how I was. I kept looking to others and to things to define me for me, to show me who I was and what I liked and how to present myself to the world.
It wasn’t until I started to take time for me in my life that I was able to shift this (along with a lot of healing work to begin to understand my intrinsic value and enough-ness). I had to show myself that I mattered enough to fill myself up from the inside out rather than making yet another futile attempt to do so from the outside in.
Nourishment comes in many forms. I noticed that I didn’t take much time with my food – I either ignored it or quickly ingested it, often while standing or engaging in some other activity. It felt like an obligation to eat rather than an act of self-love. I wouldn’t find time or money for things that I loved to do, thereby effectively depriving myself of the opportunity to do something that felt good for me, while simultaneously reinforcing a “woe is me” mentality.
I had to slow down. I had to take stock. I needed to make space for me. I had to force myself to do it at first and I had to commit to doing the healing work that went along with it. I had to pinpoint the “whys” around my reticence to care for myself and I had to look at a lot of my past and release and express a lot of emotions. I had to show myself that I cared enough to heal.
And then I had to do things that authentically felt good to and for me. I began to buy myself flowers every week because it was an expression of self-love. I slowed down (mostly) with my meals, I took more time for baths, I made my bed every day and I went to the park and lay on the grass with no other agenda than to fuel my energy body.
On the other side of the spectrum, I questioned my habits. I asked myself why I wanted to buy something, eat something or add yet another activity to my day. I got to the core of my emotional state and asked myself what the hell was really going on. And I listened for the answer and then (mostly, if I’m completely honest) respected it. I stopped being so hard on myself and instead of judging my emotions (that was a big one!), I asked myself what I needed to do to honor them.
This was by no means an easy task, but it was a simple one. It required diligence and patience and self-compassion along with a lot of personal commitment. But once I started and got through the initial discomfort, it felt good. It actually felt really great to help myself feel good. I began to cultivate the seeds of self-love, and as I nurtured them, they grew and they grew and they grew. And they are still growing today.