Tammy T. Stone in Kyoto.
I’m not a natural-born self-care provider — and I don’t think I’m alone here. I’ve always erred more toward the spartan end of the spectrum when it comes to attending to my own needs. They are all too easy to cast off in the name of caring for others, earning a living, and generally getting by in life.
But I’ve started to observe that the longer we go without caring for ourselves, the more these two things happen: we start to fall apart, and we become less and less interested in the world around us.
This is not an ideal state of affairs — yet we all yearn for the gold at the end of the rainbow. We all want to be happy.
The potential results of self-care, just like the happiness ideal we pursue, are not a guarantee in life. They don’t just spontaneously erupt into something wonderful. We have to put in the work, and the work can be at once extremely simple and incredibly difficult.
If we falter at the foothills of the enormous mountain of self-care we have to climb, may we at least take comfort in this: it gets easier, and it becomes downright fun once we truly begin to know why we are working so hard at caring for ourselves; once we know our motivation.
So, why self-care?
For me, I don’t think it’s about deserving a treat once in awhile. (Though I do. We all do.) It’s not just about owning our uniqueness and honouring every single thread of the one-of-a-kind fabric that is us. (Though we should work, very hard, at this.) It’s not even a lesson in self-love and self-worth. (Though these things need to be learned over and over.)
For me, while self-care is absolutely related to all these things, it’s also about something much more basic, and common-sense.
Self-care is about being human.
As a human, I am no less than you, and I am no more than you.
We are equally human, and sometimes this is the hardest thing to remember, and to base a life on.
As humans, we have the power to contemplate the nature of self, our place in the world, and how to contribute towards the good of other beings.
These are not qualities bestowed on every gorgeous species around us. This is why it’s so precious.
We have the power of consciousness and self-examination. We can work toward finding the organic rhythms of the world, and matching our actions to them.
We have the privilege of not living by rote, and of learning how to tame our at-times-monstrous minds; to settle into the quiet space of our own cosmic beings; and to be in the world with great gentility, humility, mindfulness and awareness.
Yes, we have this great ability to effect change, and watch the world evolve as our own happiness – stemming from peace of mind, and a generous and grateful attitude — grows.
We might want all these things, and yet we haven’t wholly achieved them. Why?
Because change is not a post-it note we can tack onto our lives, or a self-help book we can skim. It must come from deep within, and must operate on every level of our existence, and here is where the hard, but beautiful work of self-care comes in.
How many of us can honestly, like from-the-bottomest-of-our-hearts, sincerely declare that we love ourselves? And not only that, but every part of ourselves?
How many of us can look in the mirror, gaze deeply into our own eyes, and say “I love you?” I try to practise this, and I cry. Every time. Because I find it so hard.
So we care for others, maybe guided by the deep-seated notion that they are more deserving than us, that it’s wrong to put ourselves before anyone else. Yet confusion reigns: Why aren’t I worth it? Why is no one attending to my needs? What’s wrong with me?
So, caring for others becomes unexamined self-neglect; maybe even a pile of blame and resentment.
Care is not something we can reserve for ourselves alone, nor give it exclusively to others. We need to preserve the integrity of the whole, and we are as much a part of the whole as everyone else.
Until we can overcome our blockages and come to real terms with self-love, how can we hope to love the world, and every sentient being in it? How we can stop the violence — both to ourselves and to others — from unfurling?
I don’t mean to imply that self-care is a tedious chore or insurmountable task. It’s the opposite – it’s about discovering the bounce in our step, the joys of realising life doesn’t have to be so complicated, about enjoying ourselves. Additionally, taking steps to discover who we are and how we can bring our potential to light will take us leaps and bounds toward the healing of us — and by extension, the world.
We should never feel guilty about carving out time in our day to practise mindfulness; or falling in love with what we see in the mirror; or going easy on ourselves when we need to, without becoming complacent.
If we don’t learn that our own happiness and peace are also the happiness and peace of the world, we won’t have the luxury — or the privilege — of developing compassion, becoming caring members of our communities, and watching the world morph into the place of our dreams.
And we all deserve our dreams.
This article was first published on a beauty full mind.