"If your compassion does not include yourself it is incomplete" Jack Kornfield
Maybe, like me, this week you find yourself naturally reflecting back on the year that is coming to its end. Maybe you also look forward to what the next year might bring. I really enjoy letting this natural reflection happen in the time between Christmas and New Year, and will often plonk myself for hours in a favourite coffee shop to ponder and make some scribblings to myself as they come to me. What I realised today is just how different my 2018 turned out to be compared to what I imagined it might. What I foresaw as being a year of action and energy, turned out instead to be one that was in reality much slower and quieter than I had pictured. But it was also a year of incredible self growth. This year has held many precious lessons that I would have missed if I had ran at it with vigour and focused on outcomes. In hindsight 2018 turned out to be my year of self-care, something that has been much needed for much too long.
Self care might conjure up thoughts of calming music, candles, oils, maybe a yoga class or two (maybe even my classes!). These are indeed elements of self care and it so important to take time out to pause and focus on yourself in amongst this crazy little thing we call life. What I learnt this year is that self care goes so much deeper and is about learning how to manage your energy and needs in the long term, so that you can live the best life that you can DESPITE all the busy-ness and craziness going on. It means choosing to get off the exciting rollercoaster with the big queue at it and learning to plot the best path for you. Some days that doesn’t feel as immediately nurturing as a candlelit, essential oily bath does (although they do help!).
What all the motivational quotes out there don't tell you about self care is that it really means looking at who you are and accepting where you are not being true to yourself. It means saying no to some things and people even though you want to help out. It means saying yes to some things that feel scary and unknown. It means making decisions based on your long term health and happiness and not necessarily taking the shorter term more comfortable option.
Self care for me has meant a gradual acceptance that I actually cannot do everything. It’s been a challenging conclusion for me to reach as I don’t easily accept limits. When I finally recognised the drain that this pattern has been causing me, it was immediately followed by what was in some ways a grieving process. Letting go of what could have been, who I thought I might be and some long held dreams felt like I was giving up on myself. I came to realise that these possibilities were based on the beliefs of a version of me from decades ago, and holding onto them was actually stopping me from living as the wiser, more experienced, and most 'me' version of myself that I am today. It then felt liberating to let go and focus on who I am now, allowing myself to change and grow on a daily basis. Moving less linearly and without a plan or structure to follow has felt scary, but ultimately much easier. To learn to trust has been one of the best lessons I’ve learnt, but one of the hardest to get to.
'Self care' means caring for your self, but it does not mean doing it alone. Self care is NOT 'self –solution'. My 2018 involved asking for help and support – from a therapist, a body worker and from my family. The gradual untanglings of my inner thoughts and physical workings needed someone by my side. Stupidly I believed I was supposed to do it all myself because I help other people and I should know how to look after me all the time too. How ironic to support others on a daily basis with compassion and with no judgement, yet I judged myself so heartbreakingly harshly for not being able to do it all myself. But these lessons have been learned and I have these past 12 months to thank for that.
I hope your 2018 has been a year that you can reflect back on and find growth in. I hope that you were kind to yourself even if sometimes it felt easier to be kinder to others. I wish you a wonderful 2019, whatever it holds in store.