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

 

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1,606 thoughts on “Self Care – ‘Walking the Talk’

  1. ‘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.’ When I have dropped the ball in taking care and nurturing myself I always come back to these mundane and repetitive tasks you speak about, it makes me feel my body and the quality I choose to live with.

  2. The NHS spent £13 million last year on prescription items that could have been bought by patients and are now encouraging people to take responsibility for buying their own. A step in the right direction, certainly for those who can afford it at least, although if we were serious about taking full responsibility for our self care then we wouldn’t need prescription items in the first place, or at least not on a routine and regular basis.

  3. ‘We have a joke in our family that when I was cold I used to ask the kids to put on jumpers!” If only we would care for ourselves as we do our children, this already make a significant change.

  4. If we do not care for ourselves this quality is what we are sharing with others. Not only that, not caring for ourselves leaves us empty and needy and so the care we give to others has this as a foundation rather then the abundance of love that could otherwise be if we truly cared for ourselves.

  5. The quote ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ springs to mind reading this today. If we want more caring people in the world, be one, lead the way.

  6. One of the most self-caring things that we can do is be present in our own bodies because in doing this we can access our divinity.

  7. I love to come back to this blog and just read through and feel the simplicity of self-care. It is so simple and it includes everybody.

  8. “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’. I so agree, I did this over thirty years ago now and ended up drained and exhausted and not much fun. Now with my grand children I am living a different way and thus presenting a role model to them that we need to deeply take care of ourselves.

  9. “The concept of self-care is still riddled with the attitude of it being self-indulgent and selfish.” This concept is still so prevalent, yet if we don’t take care of ourselves how can we possibly bring a quality of care to others?

  10. I can do a lot of talking at times and not much walking when it comes to parenting and gee it has the opposite impact to being inspired. Whenever I just get on with what I need to do and stop getting into what my sons are doing or not doing, then to me that is a form of self-care because I’m not wasting my energy. Time and time again, it then shows me how powerful our choices are to those around us, as my sons will then independently start looking after themselves too.

  11. We support ourselves so much in how we are in what we do, the quality of how we do simple things, observing ourselves as we do so and allowing ourselves to feel how taking that extra care feeds us back and deepens our relationship with ourselves and with all others. There’s a whole world to explore with self care and as we do so we inspire ourselves and others to deepen their own care, it really is about leading by example.

  12. “Do I do it in such a way that hurts my hand, or in a way that feeds me back respect, care and tenderness?” I love this as it brings us back to the simple physical law that everything has an equal opposite force, that what we put in will be the quality that feeds us back. So I can determine the respect, care and tenderness I receive in every moment by bringing this care and respect to my every moment.

  13. “Don’t do as I do, do as I say ” these words from the past have a somewhat hollow ring to it, totally missing the point that everything is energy, it is the energy that is in our movements that people can feel in their bodies, the body cannot lie but the mind sure knows how to.

    1. ‘The concept of self-care is still riddled with the attitude of it being self-indulgent and selfish.’ It sure is and although we know deep down it is true to care for ourselves we don’t love ourselves enough to take these small steps towards self-care, at least that is what I see in working in the healthcare system.

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