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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1,548 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.

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