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














1,672 thoughts on “Self Care – ‘Walking the Talk’

  1. Leading by example is often the most powerful way for another to learn – they see, they observe and over time they register what and how you do things, and then they may begin to adopt this for themselves. People are watching and clocking all of the time – even when we are making choices that are not so supportive. So in any choice we make people can and may use this as an example of how to live. And so, this reveals the fact that there is a responsibility we each hold all of the time in terms of the reflection that we offer to those around us.

  2. Wise words for every mother and mothering type to be reminded of “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.”

  3. There is nothing more powerful that the lived reflection of another who is caring for themselves in a simple but deeply caring way. We can preach all we like to try to convince another that they need to start caring for themselves, but this is more than likely going to turn them off, whereas if we choose to live in full what we know, the chances are they will eventually be inspired and begin to make the changes for themselves. Walking it, is certainly way more powerful than talking it!

    1. I agree with you Ingrid, to be honest I used to preach to people about the health benefits I was feeling in my body and wanting them to have the same benefits too. Trying to convince someone to take care of themselves I noticed just made certain people more obstinate. Now I just leave them be and because there is no pressure they are making small changes in their own way and time. This proves to me to just take care of myself and to have no attachment to others ‘getting it’

  4. Lack of self care and the ideal of placing others first is very generational. Parents can feel it’s a good thing to place their children first and that it’s very loving for the children to experience this, unfortunately the reality is children model themselves on this behaviour and then can repeat the pattern as adults themselves living in a self sacrificing and disregarding way.

  5. It has taking me a whole lot of years in this life to realise that the societally accepted belief that it is selfish to look after yourself first is behind so many of the issues facing us in the world today. For instance, we have a world-wide plague of exhaustion. Yes, people are living in a much faster paced way, but from where I sit, I see them doing this for everyone else’s benefit and not caring for themselves in the process. It is actually quite simple, if we don’t care for ourselves first and foremost, we are at risk of running out of energy – ie, we exhaust ourselves – and then it naturally follows that everything we do comes laced with that exhaustion. Life as we know it is definitely ‘upside down’, and I am very sure that if we all began to look after ourselves first, that soon it will be the up ‘right way’ before too long.

    1. It would be like caring for everyone else’s car, making sure they were serviced, and then continually driving our own without service until it breaks down. We know this would not make sense in car maintenance, but we don’t see things as clearly in our body maintenance because we can be so clouded by our beliefs and ideals.

      1. A brilliant analogy Melinda, making so much sense of the ridiculousness of the, ‘you’ve got to care for everyone else first’ belief. It might seem quite laughable to some, but it’s only funny until it’s our ‘car’ which breaks down.

      2. The astonishing thing is our body is the only one we have, we can’t go and buy another one like we can with a car, yet we all live in such disregard of it and are unable to appreciate how precious our body is.

  6. The simplicity of self-care and the beauty that is in each moment when the way that we hold ourselves in each moment is as important as what we may be doing. Self-care is then is a joy.

  7. I know that if I don’t take care for myself and let this care deepen continually that I get tired and then I can get tetchy and not want to do the things that need to be done.

  8. It is so funny (not) that you start with the sentence: “The concept of self-care is still riddled with the attitude of it being self-indulgent and selfish.” because it is very self-indulgent and selfish of us to not care for ourselves – so much if not pretty much all of life is twisted and based on the opposite of truth these days. You could almost take a standard statement and apply the opposite if you want to be a little closer to the truth!

  9. It is fascinating when we start to bring awareness and presence to the smallest details as you describe because the more aware we become the more aware we become of how unaware we are we being.

    1. Equally the more present we become the more we become aware of how often we are not present so we become more present to not being present!

  10. Looking back, when I was growing up in the 50’s and the 60’s it is now so obvious that as a result of the deeply entrenched belief that it was selfish to look after yourself first, so many, especially women, were living in a way that totally disregarded their needs and the needs of their bodies. It took me a long time to come to the understanding that it is of the utmost importance to care for myself in a very loving way first, as if I don’t what is the quality of the care I offer to others?

  11. We were not raised learning that we have to take care of ourselves. At some point this has to start. The thing is that what we do with ourselves is what our kids learn. So, if they learn from us to take care of themselves, they will be in a much better position to provide care for themselves and others.

  12. Being present with what we are doing, paying attention to how our body is experiencing that doing feels so nurturing.

    1. Yes there is an exquisite quality in presence that is deeply nurturing and caring and what is also lovely is to observe how there appears to be no limit in that we can continue to deepen our presence and quality.

  13. Thanks Matilda, I’ve also been looking at my self care routine during the day and seeing opportunities to bring more care to mundane tasks simply by being more aware of myself, being present with my body and how it wants to move, and bringing forth a deeper energetic quality of my inner grace and stillness into the way I move and express myself. There is more love and care to be lived, even in the way we fill the dishwasher.

  14. Love the practical detail in your experiential self-study Matilda. We may have ideas about what it means to self care though to truly embody this in our movements offers a quality that is known.

  15. The greatest form of teaching is by example. If we are not aware of our example we can teach the very things we would prefer not to be taught.

  16. I think it’s a great point to present that it’s actually responsible to take loving care of ourselves, and that responsibility isn’t about disregarding yourself in a mission to care for everyone else instead, we are all equally important…

  17. To be self-caring is an energetic vibration that we align to, we can do any act in that alignment and it will be of care for us and our bodies. Or we an do all of the tick-box exercises of what “self-care” looks like, but if the energetic quality of care is not there then we’re not really doing anything.

    1. I agree Viktoria because you could take two lives that live in similar ways, eat healthily, sleep early, a tidy and clean house, etc, yet the energetic quality behind the self care may be very different. Personally I find the true energetic quality of care and love in my self care is what makes it feel so healing and supportive.

  18. Without a doubt the greatest form of teaching is by example and one of the best things we can teach is self-care and to do that we have to first learn and practice it ourself.

  19. I have noticed how self-care has become a fashionable phrase to use, with many books and courses available. But it is always worth discerning how deeply self-caring a person is before following their lead, because it is possible to be deeply wholly in love with oneself and to let this be the foundation of your self-care, or there is mere functionality which makes it look like everything is being done right.

    1. I agree Shami, rather than it being a set of instructions I’ve found the self care philosophy of Serge Benhayon very self empowering, as it’s a relationship between myself and my body, and the energetic quality I am in. There are no experts except our own bodies!

    2. It certainly ‘has become a fashionable phrase’ but it absolutely pays to ask if what we are being presented with is actually true care for ourselves. There are so many in the world who jump on the latest fashionable bandwagon simply to make money, but it is up to us to discern their motives and intentions before jumping on the wagon with them.

  20. While it is self caring to take time for ourselves or prepare for our day ahead looking at the how we do what we do I feel for myself needs that greater attention. The more focus I bring to one area of life then I start to see others changing in that same area. We are in no way little islands separated from each other.

  21. I feel like the ‘selfish’ reputation that self-care has is because we’ve made self-care about pampering ourselves and not about how we live each day, like you say Matilda, it’s in the mundaneness of life that our care can be deepened and expressed.

    1. Great point Rachael, Caring for ourselves and bringing quality into the detail of life is simply a responsible way to live as everyone is affected by the quality we hold and live with.

  22. I love your example of bringing a bottle of water in to the class and sipping it often led to your students doing the same. I sometimes am amazed at how I have influenced others without realising it at the time. Every little thing we do matters and we can have a great influence just by being ourselves.

  23. Taking care of ourselves in order to take care of others, definitely a responsibility that we have to continue to expand the way we care for ourselves.

  24. It is an interesting cycle when we don’t care for ourselves because we then need other people to care for us and probably they don’t take care of themselves either so need someone else as well. This creates a whole society of people being needy for care and thus leaves us very vulnerable even though we could simply give this to ourselves from the start.

  25. It used to be the case that as soon as life, or work, got too busy, self care would be the first thing to drop. I would prioritise getting work done over looking after myself to not drop the ball and appearances – wanting to be seen as being able to handle everything and anything at all times – so my body copped it – no time to cook, eat properly, dress well, exercise or do anything that supports me to stay steady and productive. Now I find that I can’t work that way – I just don’t have the energy to keep going if I haven’t looked after my body. I actually don’t resent ‘having to’ take care of myself in this basic way anymore because it feels super lovely and, as an added bonus, I end up being more productive, less stressed and more connected to myself and everyone around me.

  26. As a woman, one of the greatest lies we are fed is that we have to put other’s needs before our own. It does not work – we need to learn its not about putting ourselves first and in front of another, but to meet our needs equally so with all others.

  27. These are such wise words: “not taking loving care of ourselves is actually, perversely maybe, an abdication of responsibility” words which really draw to our attention the duty of care we owe to ourselves, not just every now and then, but always. For as you have expressed so clearly Matilda, how can we possibly care for another with the quality they deserve when we are not caring for ourselves with that same quality?

  28. We do pick up a lot from each other by reflection – by actually seeing how another lives and their actions and the energetic communication that is always there.

  29. I’m experimenting with self-care as I work longer hours currently…usually when there’s more work, self-care is the first thing that goes out of the window because ‘I’ve just got to get this done’ – but where is the quality in that, and is it really worth it? When we work at the expense of our bodies, instead of in line with their rhythm, it doesn’t sustain, and the quality and our mood, drops. Working in a light and inspiring way and sustaining that over the long-term can only happen when we also take deep care of our bodies.

  30. Matilda I can also say, as I put strategies in for self care for myself, it started to pull everyone around me up too, my husband, family and staff. There is a great responsibility here that is felt by others when we say yes to deepening our self care.

    1. Yes absolutely it is through our livingness that makes a difference, our reflection is felt by others when we live what we talk. We can only inspire by reflection of the livingness in motion, we cannot just talk the talk as that is not felt, the walk is felt through vibration of movements.

    2. Exactly Suse, this is how we inspired others, not through our words but through our living way. My children constantly remind me of this. They are not shy to point out when I am telling them to do something when I am not prepared to do them myself, they openly call that behaviour as being hypocritical.

  31. We certainly do need to return understanding the true meaning of self-care and the value it offers us and all. It is interesting to observe that when we connect to the love we are in essence, we can feel how precious, sacred and truly valuable we are and that this connection is worth honouring as such self-care then becomes a confirmation and an honouring of the sacredness we innately are within, so it is this quality that can then be lived in our lives and with all others.

    1. It certainly seems to me that the understanding of what most consider self-care to be is very different from what true self-care actually is. And this level of care becomes so natural once we are connected to the “love we are in essence”, so much so that anything that is less than true self-care is instantly felt in the body. True self-care is the best medicine we could ever introduce into our lives as it honours the wisdom and the preciousness of our amazing body.

  32. I’ve noticed in my life that I often don’t question things that I think are “good” and make me a “good person”. Putting others before myself is a classic example of a behaviour that comes from the ideal of “doing good”. Whilst I’m focusing on ticking the “good” box I can’t see all the harm I’m doing to myself and others, but since I have begun working on my own self care and challenging those ideals of placing others before myself I can see and feel clearly the illusion of it all. Putting others before myself has resulted in a lot of self neglect and harm on my health and wellbeing, and has been imposing in relationships. And because being “good” has an opposite, being “bad” or “not good”, the opposite of caring for others selflessly is caring for ones self and coming first, with the connotation being it’s selfish, indulgent, and something to be ashamed of and guilty about. The truth is caring deeply for ourselves is necessary for our bodies, and it is how we role model and can inspire others to do the same – rather than role modelling self neglect and martyrdom under the umbrella of “good”.

  33. “….we have to ‘walk our talk’ for the ‘talk’ to be in any way sincere or inspiring… ” This so true.

  34. There is a lot of talk nowadays about self care but if we do not do it from a place of true connection with ourselves then it will become just another functional thing that we do that is devoid of quality.

    1. So true Elizabeth, there has to be true connection and with that we build the quality of the self care that is felt in its truth, and becomes a reflection or inspiration for others.

  35. That is so true.
    When we do not care about us at the end others need to take care of us.
    This shows how irresponsible it is and not selfish at all to take care of ourselves lovingly .
    Our body is our vehicle through which we can bring the love.

  36. When we allow ourselves to feel how we do things we can open up another level of relationship with ourselves and thus others and the reminder that how we do thing feeds us back and leaves an imprint for both ourselves and others to come back to, really brings it home that there is so much more to life than we often consider and allow and that every movement we make matters.

  37. “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.” The effect of not caring for oneself in one potent sentence. It is as simple as that, and simply shows how everything starts with ourselves, that then ripples outward to everybody else. So it simply and logically comes back to the quality we choose to live in every day and in every moment, as that is what determines how we feel and how we are.

  38. When I was reading this section about you asking yourself these questions:
    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?

    I was like woah, I am all of these things right now. And then I was like focus, and then I was like distracted again! It is a good exercise to be fully present and feel what is needed to do/take more care in each situation.

    1. What I have noticed that when I am present with each moment of self care, the depth and quality achieved is awesome. Concious presence in the moment supports quality.

  39. ‘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.

  40. 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.

  41. ‘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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

    1. Absolutely Sarah I agree. We cannot underestimate the power of reflection, a power that we all have access to live with by honoring and being who we are, in the truest sense.

    2. Sarah so true, we have to lead the way, so best place to start with is Self Care, when we can self care and build a foundation, we can inspire others through our livingness.

    3. Hear, hear Sarah, I love what you shared and it reminds me that we are responsible for how the world is, and it is where it is due to our choices and the way we have chosen to live.

  44. 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.

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