Self Care – ‘Walking the Talk’

The concept of self-care is still riddled with the attitude of it being self-indulgent and selfish. We often champion the idea that putting others before ourselves is something to aspire to, and perhaps there is nowhere that this is more pronounced than with mothers, who are applauded and celebrated when ‘putting the children first’.

The thing is that most of us know that we learn so much more by example rather than by being told – so the natural extrapolation of this is that if we look down on the activity of self-care, we are creating a framework that says:

  • Don’t respond to, or respect how we feel
  • Don’t listen to what our body is telling us at any given time
  • Push through in disregard of ourselves to take care of others.

There is one super simple point which is played out all too frequently: if we do not take care of ourselves, there comes a point when we are not in a position to care for others, either because we have become unwell or because we have imploded with the resentment of martyrdom.

So, not taking loving care of ourselves is actually, perversely maybe, an abdication of responsibility. And again, nowhere perhaps is this more keenly felt than in parenthood, which is the foundation upon which our children grow. If we do not take responsibility for ourselves, we often feed a social framework of victimhood and expecting other people to solve the mess we get ourselves into – either through driving ourselves to ill-health or blaming others for our conditions or circumstances.

As an experiment and moment of self-study, I tried this exercise: I took one thing I did in my everyday that I could identify as taking care of myself – over time it included super simple and ‘mundane’ things, like brushing my teeth, putting cream on, getting dressed, boiling the kettle, cooking etc. – and I gave it a bit more attention. I asked myself, “Is this just a perfunctory habit… getting things done, or is there more to it? And is there space for deeper care, observation and self-respect in this task?” Over a period of a week, I simply clocked what was going on:

Was I:

  • Distracted, or present with myself?
  • Thinking about a multitude of other things?
  • Attentive to what I was doing right in that moment?
  • Already focusing on what I was going to be doing next?

And over these days, I started to clock if anything was changing.

My experience of doing this has been really profound. In the most mundane, repetitive of tasks I have found extraordinary opportunities to take care and get to know myself on a whole new level. The way I open doors has been a big one. Do I do it in such a way that hurts my hand, or in a way that feeds me back respect, care and tenderness? Maybe the experience is somewhere in between these two, but it is always an opportunity to observe and to learn something.

What I have found as a parent and teacher is that by putting into place basic strategies for self-care, my children and students have stepped up to taking more responsibility for themselves. The knock-on effects are significant.

We have a joke in our family that when I was cold I used to ask the kids to put on jumpers! Well now I dress myself appropriately for the weather and, hey presto, they have taken to doing so too, or running back and getting a jacket or jumper when they step outside and realise it is colder than they thought.

In school, having a bottle of water on my desk and sipping it frequently led to the students all bringing in water bottles and drinking from them regularly too.

It is the really simple things that make a foundational difference and we cannot escape the fact that we have to ‘walk our talk’ for the ‘talk’ to be in any way sincere or inspiring… and when we do, the ‘walk’ does a lot of the ‘talking’. I am certainly inspired by many others in this way.

By Matilda Bathurst, Registered Midwife & Nurse, Teacher and Mother of 3 boys, Hampshire, UK

Related Reading:
What’s all the fuss about self-care?
Self-care and Learning To Respect My Body
Self Care Tips














1,577 thoughts on “Self Care – ‘Walking the Talk’

    1. That’s right Gabriele we can feel this from a mile away. I find children are especially perceptive at sensing when adults ask them to do something that they are not willing to do themselves.

  1. ‘We cannot escape the fact that we have to ‘walk our talk’ for the ‘talk’ to be in any way sincere or inspiring… and when we do, the ‘walk’ does a lot of the ‘talking’. I love what you express here Matilda and this is something that we do tend to avoid. Without living what we are talking life becomes about being right and history has clearly and repeatedly shown that being right is definitely not being true.

  2. When it comes to living life, we learn by reflection and from role models rather than from books or expert information. Knowledge has to be lived; if it is not, it can only excite the mind but doesn’t truly inspire the being.

  3. Observing all the practical things that we do each day and seeing how we can bring greater awareness and care to them is the first steps in the “how to” of self care.

    1. Thank you for sharing this Elizabeth, you have inspired me to deepen my self-care in a very practical way. I know self-care can be practiced throughout my day with everything I do and it doesn’t have to be just limited to certain times of the day.

  4. “What I have found as a parent and teacher is that by putting into place basic strategies for self-care, my children and students have stepped up to taking more responsibility for themselves.” Children learn by watching others so we are all parents and teachers and have a shared responsibility to inspire others to take responsibility for their own well-being and self-care.

    1. Yes I agree we are all parents and teachers and equally all students who never stop learning from ourselves, each other and all that is around, before and behind us!

  5. Talking about the weather and clothing, I was having a chat with someone last night and he said there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. It made me smile as I considered that I now really wrap up warm for the winter and have an electric blanket so I don’t have to get into a cold bed at nights. All of these little things I consider to be part of my self care.

  6. “Is this just a perfunctory habit… getting things done, or is there more to it? And is there space for deeper care, observation and self-respect in this task?” This is gold as it takes us to the very heart of the matter of the responsibility we all hold to be fully present in all that we do and express, and the effect this has both on ourselves and everybody else.

  7. There is a certain irony that in order to ‘get ourselves out of the way’ and be of service to humanity we first need to focus so astutely on ‘the self ‘by way of loving, caring, nurturing and adoring ourselves so that when we come to care for others, it is done from this deep well of self-care that is in-truth, a reservoir of love.

  8. How can anyone say it is selfish to care for ourselves does that mean it is generous or considerate to abuse ourselves????????

    1. I love your many questionmarks Nicola. hahaha . As ridiculous as it sounds ( that´s why your questionmarks makes sense) , but for many it is generous, if you don´t care for your body and instead do something for another from that place. They call this “love”- giving yourself away, knowing that you need to compromise yourself. “You must love me doing this for me”- isn´t that a sentence we heard many times?! Question is, how can you interpret this as love, when love starts with you loving yourself, before you can truly and sincerely love another?

      1. Don’t start me on the misuse of the word love!!!!!! How about I suicide and kill lots of people for the “love” of my religion, or I beat my partner in the name of love or I love to eat and drink lots of things that harm my body?????????? Yes many !!!!!! and ??????

  9. Normally you get championed when you don´t care for yourself in society. It definitely needs more role models like you!! The magic is to live it and let others clock it and let them decide with space if they are seeing the benefits of it or not and if they want to live those aswell.

  10. Matilda, your words highlight for me the importance of reflection. That is, the way we move carries more weight than the words we speak and this is because while the mind can concoct a lie, the body cannot. Through movement everything is revealed – the way we sit, stand, blink, eat, walk etc. all carries a quality of energy that is being picked up by every eye that receives the reflection. Every movement of ours is being clocked by others. This is especially true around children as they look to the adults to see what is ‘allowed’ or can be expressed in the world and what is/can not.

  11. Foundations are just that, a way of living that is to be established as a way that is wanted and needed in the future, so the expansion and development of who we are can be then launched from there.

  12. I am so inspired to choose an aspect of caring for myself and pay close attention to how I am when doing it to see if the mundane is actually magic. So many things to choose from. Cleaning my teeth is a great one as I usually do this whilst walking around the house doing other tasks- especially getting ready in the morning!!

  13. It is absolutely true that the more we take care of ourselves the more taking care is part of our natural way of being that extends to others also. Others feel and see our reflection and have the opportunity to appreciate and follow suit, that is be inspired.

  14. The permission this reflects to others can’t be under estimated, sometimes slow but like a glacier over time it cuts through any pretence that though feels great.

  15. What a great experiment, to choose to really be aware and present when brushing your teeth, putting cream on and getting dressed etc. This is something that I have been working on and would fully recommend this to be introduced to children and adults alike, to help deepen their level of self-care.

  16. Paying attention to the simple and finer detail of things ensures we are supporting ourselves by truly nurturing our body. It makes a huge difference to the way in which we hold and value ourselves.

  17. In the simplest tasks that we do every day we can incorporate our self-care because self-care is really about the quality that we do everything in.

  18. It never ceases to amaze me how much expansion is in mundane tasks. When we move and deepen within we see divinity in all we do.

  19. So true, we cannot tell people to take care (or anything for that matter) when we don’t do so ourselves, it simply won’t get heard. It’s the livingness that enlivens the words we utter.

  20. Beautiful example of the ripples we create when we walk our talk. It is not the words one responds to but our movements.

  21. It seems that a big part of the world does their convincing of others by talking, while walking the talk is so much more powerful. You could say that marketing is a way of talking to people, while people get more convinced by seeing other people using or doing things.

  22. There is this underlying ideal of self-sacrifice in parenting and other relationships, a behaviour considered to be good and self-less as it serves others over one´s personal needs. The moment we bring quality of care and love to the scenario we get to recognise the lovelessness, harshness and actually recklessness of such ‘self-less’ behaviour, even seeing that it is not selfless but full of a self that doesn´t feel worthy of taking care of it self, not worthy to be loved and loving without needing to prove one´s value as a person by over-doing and being hard on oneself. Bringing love and care to one´s movements and actions means to value oneself and others equally, reflecting and inspiring others to also feel worthy of being loved and loving.

  23. I would say we only learn by example and personal experience, everything else is knowledge but not really learned and thus not known; same with self-care – you only know what it really means when you practise it and hence get to experience the difference it makes.

  24. Deciding that you are worth caring for, really worth caring for, changes the approach to self-care. No longer are you cleaning your teeth because you have to, but because you are simply worth it.

  25. What part of self care does not have self in it? We cannot be truly caring for anyway much less understanding what true care means if we are not equally as loving and as caring for ourselves first.

  26. It appears to be normal in this world to put the care of ourselves secondary to the care of others, as if we don’t matter as much as they do. I learned the hard way what a damaging belief this is and one belief that needs to be dismantled, and fast. It makes sense that if we care for ourselves first that the care we bring to another is of a quality that can support them in their healing while at the same not draining our precious energy; it simply makes sense to care for ourselves first.

  27. I can so relate to this as my truth, recently I found that I made some poor choices with food. Then I found that in some situations I reacted more and did not have the usual steadiness that I enjoy.

  28. “So, not taking loving care of ourselves is actually, perversely maybe, an abdication of responsibility.” – This is very well put and is truly worth stopping to consider… If we disregard ourself then are we truly being responsible?

  29. What I have learned is the strenght of reflection. Of when something is shown to you by another or something – making you realize that you are greater than you thought yourself or something to be.. Grand possibilities arise when we open ourselves up to reflections all over! Shining on us.

  30. I love the simple wisdom of this blog, something we can all be with in our day. There are so many tasks that can have more love and care brought to them… and this truly supports the quality of our lives.

  31. I was talking to a family member who is much older than me and she has befriended someone who has a debilitating disease and she spends a lot of time with this person as an un paid companion and helper. They have always naturally looked after people who are not able to look after themselves quite so well. But this is actually putting their own health at risk. They are more caring of others than of themselves. So we had a chat about bringing some of that love and attention back to their own bodies. My point being if they do not look after themselves they will not be able to look after others. This is quite an ingrained pattern to break for most women including myself as we were raised to believe that looking after others was the most important role of life.

  32. Matilda, this is really inspiring to read. I can feel how often we tell children what to do without first living what we are telling them, children are often very sensitive and it makes sense that it is through reflection rather than being told that they will be inspired and learn; ‘What I have found as a parent and teacher is that by putting into place basic strategies for self-care, my children and students have stepped up to taking more responsibility for themselves. The knock-on effects are significant.’

  33. Super simple self-caring measures can have some quite profound very wide implications that can shift someone’s life significantly.

  34. “or because we have imploded with the resentment of martyrdom.” he he, I know that one well and I don’t think you and I are/we’re alone on this one. Who has done something (the dishes, cleaned a house, did a job etc…) filled to the brim with martyrdom, to not have it ‘duly recognised’ and then feel like you are going to burst in resentment. It’s not great for our bodies….much easier to let go of the martyrdom and start to take greater care of yourself.

  35. Our walk so does the talking, it communicates much more than we can even consider. Which then begs the question – what conversations are we starting with our walks? What are we sharing with the world about the way we walk?

  36. There is alwas such learning on offer, when we decide to pay attention to how we are in each moment. I find that the more I do this, the more the relationship with myself and my body deepens. It feels like my body is talking to me more loudly, but actually it’s probably always been trying to communicate with me. The difference is that now I feel more tuned into its messages, and much more willing to respond, instead of override. The cool thing is that the more I do this, the more my body supports me in return: a feeling of steadiness starts to become my normal, baseline state of being.

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