Recently, I read two pieces about respecting our natural tendencies and needs.
In one Therese talks about being a highly sensitive person (which I totally am) and avoiding the things that only heighten this sensitivity (like the mall!).
In another Jen talks about honoring her current desire to slow down.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
These articles are reminding me about the pivotal parts of self-care: listening to ourselves, acknowledging what we’re going through, understanding our needs and responding to them.
But I also have a hard time reconciling these different parts of self-care: the part where I challenge myself (and try to find comfort in the discomfort, as a yoga instructor said in a class this week) and the part where I respect my natural tendencies and protect myself.
Because protecting myself and my natural rhythms helps me to be well: not watching scary or disturbing movies so I’m not ruminating about them later (or having nightmares); wearing ear plugs so I can fall asleep; taking longer breaks after I’ve finished my writing for the month; avoiding caffeine (unless it’s in dark chocolate…yum); moving my body on most days because it feels fantastic (and minimizes anxiety and boosts my mood).
But pushing myself out of my comfort zone also strengthens my self-trust and shows me that I’m a brave person (which is a story I never used to believe). These acts of bravery are small, but they’re meaningful to me. They’re everything from doing a podcast to trying a new yoga class.
These slight nudges are self-care, too. Because I don’t want to sink into a state of avoidance, easily intimidated by everything and so rigid that I break. And because past my comfort zone is growth.
This week I’m reflecting on this question, on the question of “how do I know when it’s best to cross my own boundaries or honor my natural needs?”
As I do, I’m brainstorming various questions to help me navigate self-care and make the best decisions for me. Some of these may be repetitive, but I think of them as tasting different flavors of the same food:
- Will this help me grow in positive ways?
- Will this lead to long-term well-being?
- What potential lessons can I learn?
- Am I playing small because my self-doubt is convincing me to (and I’m all ears)?
- Am I seeking short-term safety at the expense of long-term blossoming or growth?
- Will this challenge my body or hurt it?
- Am I being honest with myself about what I truly need?
- Is this taking self-compassionate responsibility or am I choosing to swim in self-berating blame?
- Am I doing this because someone said I should or because I think it’s truly helpful?
- Will this rejuvenate or invigorate me?
- Does it bring profound happiness or joy?
- Does it contribute to my deepest desires?
- Is it creatively satisfying?
The more I contemplate my self-care practice, the more I realize that while it includes blissful relaxation, it also includes challenging myself. It includes challenging myself to move beyond my comfort zone, with small, self-compassionate steps.
And I only choose to move this way if it helps me grow and blossom.