Published on Mon, 14/02/2022 - 11:12
Emma Ryan

How to start a blog about self-love? I don’t want to come on too strong, too early, but I feel so strongly about this topic. I’ve already deleted ‘how do you take care of yourself?’ (Too weak), ‘how do you love yourself’ (too strong and possibly wrong forum) and ‘Selfish or self-care?’ (too bloggy).

As a Thresholds Facilitator I get the absolute pleasure of supporting women in articulating what their lives would look like if it was exactly as they wanted it to be and incorporate the notion of balance. Asking them what and who brings them joy and how do they manage their energy. The joy for me isn’t in what they say, although I am always struck by the common themes of having more time to be in nature, serving communities and being with family. It is in watching peoples’ faces light up, their body language shift from ‘little me’ to taking up space as they give us their vision of their best selves. They are excited, energised and lifted.

After a whole day of focusing on themselves, we so often hear the reflection of how good it felt to have that time. Many also say something like ‘it feels a bit selfish’ or ‘what a luxury!’ I’ve found myself leaning heavily on this as a response: “it’s a bit like putting your oxygen mask on first, if you take this time to focus on yourself you can be your best self for those around you”.

Hold on. So, it’s OK to focus on yourself because then you can be at your best for your colleagues, friends, children, partner, parents…?

What if, it’s as simple as ‘You need oxygen to breathe. Otherwise, you die’. I told you I felt strongly about this. What if (taking a less aggressive stance), it’s as simple as “blimey breathing feels really great, I’m going to do more of that!”.

I’ve been paying particular attention to this recently. Partly because I have seen over many years of working with women how hard we can find it to put ourselves first; to love ourselves; take care of ourselves; to simply respect ourselves, and partly because I have had to start actively carving out time to take care of myself. Anxious thoughts in my head and heaviness in my chest have emerged to let me know I need to rest and heal, otherwise I physically feel it.

When my lovely dad died at the end of 2019, I wanted space every day to meditate. Ten minutes at the start of each day while the girls got up and sprinted into their days with my husband trying to catch them up and help open the milk.

Oh, the guilt! Oh, the discomfort of asking my husband to do that, every day. Ten full minutes. I noticed I was justifying it using my old friend the oxygen mask; this time each day makes me a better mother, a better partner etc. Which was certainly true. It also felt frickin’ great; the act of meditation, the spaciousness, the acceptance. But also, and surprisingly for me, the act of self-care; at times I felt emotional about what it meant to give myself those 10 minutes.

Since then, I have gained more confidence in treating myself with love and care because it feels so great. It really does. Yes, there’s part of me that loves feeling like I’ve got more to give to others around me when I’m ‘topped up’. But more fundamentally, those acts of self-care make me feel love differently to when it’s love from somebody else.

Over this winter I’ve sunk into the cold dark days of hibernation, and you can sometimes find me having a midday bath while the girls are going wild downstairs. Sometimes I make myself a hot chocolate and light a candle to write in my journal. In January I did 30 minutes of yoga every day, it felt difficult at first (every day?!) but then so good I couldn’t stop. I almost went to the beach to be somewhere beautiful to write this blog but I still have some work to do as somehow that felt a little “luxurious”. And yes, sometimes my bath ends up with 3 children in it. Baby steps. But they’re feeling great. This oxygen is feeling great.

So, what does showing yourself some love mean to you? We all have many plates to spin but where is there time in your day, your week when you could take yourself off, rest, rejuvenate, heal? Do something that brings you joy? A lunch break walk? An evening without Netflix in the bath? A new journal? A 10-minute break playing the guitar? I have no idea what floats your boat but I invite you to carve out time each day for the rest of February. Just for you. Imagine where it could lead us...

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