Self-Care - Step no 1 - Be YOU


I am reflecting over what self-care means, to me. 

I define it as a will and practice to give yourself what you need. To fill your own needs, but also be able to ask for those things you cannot do (for) yourself, or on your own, that is – to let yourself ask for – and receive help.

self careThat definition rests on the assumption that you know yourself. If you do not know yourself, you cannot know what your needs are.

It also rests on the assumption that you dare to be yourself. In front of yourself, and in front of other people (and other beings).

The very short definition of self-care is – to take care of yourself. Two words – “self” and “care”. So to find out what self-care looks like for yourself – you need to figure out who “self” is – and what “care” for this particular “self” means.

When I first heard about self-care, I found the concept stupid and bewildering. I could not understand why I would want to, why I “should” take care of myself. Because I had no self-worth. If I weren’t worth anything to myself, why would I take care of myself?  I had also very little understanding or even knowledge about who I was. I didn’t even know much about HOW I was...

I did know – however – that I was different… and that I did not want to be that. I wanted to be normal. Have a normal life. Do normal things. Find my place in life as a normal person. So I could start to contribute – to make the world a tiny, tiny bit a better place.

But I couldn’t. I failed repeatedly. Only confirming my low self-worth.

I knew my way of being different had to do with my traumatic background. But I did not want that background. So I hid it, pretended it wasn’t there.

It did work to some extent. The old soul in me gave me, at times, an air of wisdom, my thinking head – made me, at times, successful as an intellectual. My creativity made me very often, useful to others.

When I as an older adult re-started going to therapy – I wanted the trauma out of my life – and all the parts of me that belonged to that. That was my idea of what therapy could do for me (you are allowed to laugh 😊) So I basically took my traumatized parts to therapy – and did not count on me needing to be very involved. I kind of knew that my parts and I somehow were connected, but also, not really. I knew we had traumas – in some sense – that it was our traumas – but I had just been an observer (and hardly that), I though. My role was to observe the signs that would lead up to abuse, I “got out” as soon as it started to be felt (most often the feeling I felt was fear). I was also tired of all these “parts” – I had played a rather small role in it all – and I figured it was my turn now, to live more, to decide more things. Self-care, quality of life, seemed to me, to be about getting rid of all the distrubing "parts".

When I re-started therapy – I came with a heavy “treatment luggage”. I did survive my traumas, and I did survive the treatments I received, in both cases – barely. I came out of that first round of treatment (as a 13-year old), and the second round (during my twenties), acknowledging, there were never going to be a way for people to understand, hear, or help me. So – I started project “normalcy”. I went into it completely. And being a master at adaptions, a human chameleon, I did rather good (on the outside).

So, when the concept of self-care was introduced to me, when I re-started thearpy – I had no idea who this “self” was, neither did I have a clue about what receiving care was about… and no idea about what I needed. What I knew – was that I wanted to live another kind of life. I was tired of being scared to death, tired of my internal chaos. And I so desperately wanted to do for others what no-one had done for me. I wanted to help out, I still want to help out. Which I, in some sense, now do, in my professional life.

The long journey to get to know myself started, as the long journey to accept my past as also mine – to feel what needs to be felt, to learn to separate out what belongs to the past and what is going on in the present.

Self-care, to me, has become to mean – being me. Which means – being we. All of us, all of me. I fight my shame of my traumas and how it made me be and function – by turning towards my traumas, and their consequences – and all of me – and say – it is okay. We are okay. After that, I can start to deal with what we need. And we do, at times, need things most other people do not need, perhaps. We function differently, at times.

Self-Care can also beSelf-care for me right now is about radical self-acceptance. From that springs my ability to self-compassion. In self-compassion – I can stop and ask – what do you all need right now (addressing ourselves internally). I cannot always solve what they need, or what they (we) perceive we need – but I can listen. I can refrain from judging it. Ridicule it. Punish it. And instead be with ourselves.

Self-care right now is about “coming out” – again, and again, when I feel safe to do so. When I do that – I also need to hold my own fear of that “coming out” – showing us, stop hiding us – will have a negative impact on my professional life.

Self-care is about meeting my own authentic needs – and right now – it has a lot to do with allowing myself – ourselves – to be us – a we. And in that accepting maybe that is normalcy for us.

We did not choose to be a “we” instead of a me (still a we – consists of many mes…). Self-care is not hiding, it is being us, talking about us and our traumas (when appropriate), staying grounded, so we can do it authentically.

It is also allowing us to express ourselves, it is about giving our perspectives on stuff we care about. It is allowing the mix of pronounces to be there.

… and it is about allowing to be seen, to be included, to belong. On the inside, as well as on the outside.

In allowing us to be us – we are giving ourselves a chance to respond to life in a more congruent way. I can not access my own internal resources if I also do not allow all of me to be accepted, valid and valuable.

I also want to acknowledge that we are where we are on this journey. And that it will take as long as it takes, that we will arrive wherever we will arrive – allowing myself to stay curious on who and how we are.

Text and pictures are copyright protected © Katarina Lundgren, Live the Change 2020. Header photo is copyrighted by Roland Gudinge, MoodFrames.

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Thursday, 25 July 2024