Thursday, October 29, 2009

Self care or Selfishness... Which One Is It?

my self care remindersImage by CatrinaZ via Flickr

Self care... what is it? Is it being selfish? Is it putting myself before others? How do I know how to do it? What do I do to practice self care?

These are all excellent questions. Self care is all about learning to take care of ourselves so that we live balanced lives, avoid feeling overwhelmed and don't allow other peoples drama to control us.

That is a real mouthful. Learning to practice self care is a process. During that process we learn tools... actions to take to reduce our stress. We also learn boundaries... where we end and another person begins. Additionally we learn discernment... the ability to pay attention to our gut and our own innate capacity to know when, how much and whom to trust.

Learning these skills takes time and effort. It is a lifelong process that we continue to practice in our daily lives. We begin with tools. These are actions we can take to reduce stress. We learn deep breathing, guided meditation, visualization, affirmations, and techniques for self soothing. We begin to appreciate the quiet gentleness of taking a scented bath, reading a novel, sharing a phone call with a dear friend, having our evening meal by candlelight even when we are alone, taking a long walk, listening to the roar of the ocean or the breeze through the trees.

Boundaries... where we end and another person begins... can be a difficult lesson. We have control over one person in our lives... ourselves. We can cajole, beg, plead, order, dominate, manipulate, cry, scream, rant and try all methods of controlling others to no avail. Eventually we have to learn to let go. When we do we find that we are capable of saying no to requests we don't wish to indulge. We can ignore the behavior of others who are trying to control us and remember that we own our power. As we learn to respect others boundaries and our own we will reduce the drama in our lives and become more peaceful.

Discernment can be the toughest lesson of all. We have let others delude us for too long. We have believed the unbelievable, trusted the untrustworthy and forfeited our ability to trust ourselves in the process. Slowly, as we practice self care, we will come to trust our gut... to know when someone is not being honest... to listen between the lines... to pay attention to body language. We will learn once again how to trust ourselves, for that is the reality of our loss. We no longer trust our ability to discern the truth from lies.

As we practice self care we increase our self esteem one notch at a time. Like steps on a ladder we inch our way back to health and joy. We cannot underestimate how much we have lost, but we are on the road to recovery. In time we will find a healthier, happier self whom we can rely upon and trust.

These are the lessons of self care. We practice self care in our daily lives, using our tools, setting boundaries and slowly coming to learn discernment as we begin to trust ourselves once again. In this way we give ourselves the gift of increased self esteem.
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