What do you think of when you hear the words, ‘self-care’?

What does ‘self-care’ even mean?

From my experience there are many different understandings and levels of self- care.

I know I have always practised self-care in one way or another, even when I was not conscious of it being a ‘thing.’ The question is, “Could what was considered to be self-care in the past, now be considered as disregard or self-abuse?”

As a child I practised the basics that were to shower daily, wash my hair and clean, file and paint my fingernails and toenails. I ate food that I thought nourished my body. As a teen I would take the time to apply my makeup and choose beautiful outfits to wear. I had little rituals like moisturising my lips and always doing some form of exercise so my body was strong.

As I grew into adulthood, I continued this basic level of self-care and added in some newfound practices of self-care as well. I became interested in eating healthy food, continued with exercise in the form of yoga and different styles of dance.

I was also living an outdoor lifestyle that at the time I considered to be a healthy way to live after having spent my first twenty years living in a house in the suburbs with a television on.

At that same time I also began to choose some behaviours that I now consider quite harmful to the body. Given that a lot of people around me were also doing it, they were considered normal. For example, drinking alcohol.

As time moved on I became committed to certain self-care practices that I lived religiously, like drinking a fresh fruit and vegetable juice every morning, practising strong yoga poses every day, and drinking lots of water. Other practices I considered healthy at the time were swimming in a cold creek/beach for my morning shower, drinking one cup of coffee in the morning and none for the rest of the day, having honey or maple syrup instead of sugar and not eating red meat.

Whilst these practices were important for me at the time as part of my self-care routine, I can now see that they were a counterbalance to the abusive behaviours. Although some of these so-called rituals that I had practised for many years were not what I now understand true self-care to be, they did in fact build a foundation for me to stand on and develop a deeper level of truly caring for myself. After attending a local Meditation Group a few times, where we practiced the Gentle Breath Meditation™ (presented by Serge Benhayon, founder of Universal Medicine), I started to develop a deeper connection with myself and my body.

In developing this deeper connection, the harmful behaviours started to drop away. 

It was this deeper connection to myself that showed me very quickly and obviously that the use of caffeine or alcohol or eating certain foods was, in fact, harmful and destructive to my body and well-being. But after living more lovingly and making choices based on how I felt in my body, many of the so-called ‘self- care’ practices of the past also dropped away.

The level of ‘self-care’ I now live continues to refine and deepen. When I first started to feel a newfound love for myself and wanted to practice this in the way I lived through ‘self-care,’ I changed my morning coffee ritual to a morning chai (spiced soy milk low caffeine tea with honey). Less caffeine but something very yummy so I could cope with not having my morning cup of coffee, or liquid gold as I used to call it. At the time, this was definitely a more loving choice than the strong caffeine hit I had been assaulting my body with for over a decade (I continued to drink decaffeinated coffee in a café sometimes because I liked the taste and the ritual, although that also went after about 3 years.) After a year of morning chai, I woke one morning knowing that I could not drink another. The ritual changed to a cup of Rooibos tea with soymilk. Soon the milk changed to homemade almond milk. Then after some time, it became a herbal tea without the milk.

Now, some six years after the last cup of full strength coffee, I drink my two cups of warm water upon waking (which I have done for decades, as this has always felt like a loving and supportive way to begin my day) and I actually don’t need the tea at all.

So as you can see from this example, as my level of ‘self-care’ deepened, what was considered self-care a few years ago I can now feel as disregard. Now I almost never feel to have hot, sweet milky drinks. And if I do find myself wanting such a thing, I know that there is a reason I want it, which is to feel comfort from a situation, or that I am not wanting to feel something I am not willing or ready to face.

This is just one simple example. I have realised that self-care comes into every aspect of my everyday living. For me, I have changed and continue to change the way I move, the thoughts I allow in, the way I exercise my body, the work I do, the way I am in my relationships, the food I eat, my verbal expression, just to name a few. The more I deepen my relationship with myself and the more I feel the love that I am and feel my body responding to this level of ‘self-care,’ the more aware I am if my self-care needs further refinement.

So ‘self-care’ can never be about a set of rules and regulations that are fixed, because as we evolve and live with more clarity, we can feel the effects of all of our choices as they naturally change or drop away as we deepen the quality of our life. As the connection with ourselves deepens, certain things or behaviours do not match where we are at and can no longer be considered true ‘self-care.’

I had been heading for ‘purity’ (as I used to call it) since I was twenty years of age. I knew I wanted to live and feel clear and clean. I worked towards this from ideals and beliefs in my head and after ‘sticking to the discipline’ for a period of time, found myself always back to the destructive behaviours. It wasn’t until I listened to some interviews by Gayle Cue with the founder of Universal Medicine, Serge Benhayon, about ‘true self-care,’ that I really understood how to make these changes sustainable in my everyday living.

What Serge presented was very simple. Connect to yourself, your innermost self and feel the love that you are – that we all already are – and with every choice, ask if it is a ‘self-loving’ choice OR not. I simply started to make my choices from this place.

What really has helped me is the awareness that there is no in-between.  Every choice is either from Love or not from love.

As soon as I had this realisation, I found that I could self-care from love – the love I have for myself – rather than from ideals. Therefore the changes became sustainable without trying or disciplining myself. This naturally led to living every day with a consistency that has deepened and brings me the love, joy, harmony, stillness and vitality that I now live with every day.

There is no perfection. I do not beat myself up when I make non-loving choices but instead just feel the consequences of that choice and look at ‘why’ I chose something ‘less than love.’

To come from the exhausted, emotional, non-committed place I was at in my body and my life, thinking I was ‘self-caring,’ to the place I am at now, has been a health revelation that speaks for itself.

By Mary-Lou Reed, Bendigo, Australia

Related Reading:
What’s All the Fuss About Self-Care?
Self-Care and Learning to Respect My Body
Self-Care Myths

427 thoughts on “Self-Care

  1. So many of us have ricocheted around the world of so-called self-care healing and many other practices… To find a foundation finally of true appreciation self-care and self-love is to start to build that deep and abiding connection with oneself upon which we can truly evolve.

  2. Whatever our ritual is, it is the intention behind the ritual that really matters. From coffee to warm water – same same but very different as the intention has totally changed from wanting to race the body into nervousness to clearing and nurturing the body before it’s day.

  3. I think self-care is something that naturally evolves and can be continually re-tuned and refined, not from any belief about how we should be or things we should do but from an impulse inside of us and from experimenting with seeing what works for us (and what doesn’t!).

  4. “What really has helped me is the awareness that there is no in-between. Every choice is either from Love or not from love.” Yes its amazing how easy it can be to slip into thinking there is a general ok place if we are not paying attention, but if we are not coming from love, then we are adding to the not-love in the world.

  5. We can define self-care as a certain way of taking care of one´s needs and looking after oneself, actually very common sense and everyday things like sleep, food, exercise etc, but the really interesting thing is that it is evolving and hence very individual to a person´s development with themselves. The same activities then can be very different in the way they are done or what effect they can have. Or what at some stage was deeply caring becomes actually rather harming as it doesn´t serve the purpose of one´s well-being anymore like e.g. eating a certain food. Self-care is a constant refinement and not something stagnant that looks the same for everyone hence any comparison is not supportive but distracting from checking in with oneself.

  6. Self care is so much more than wearing a coat when it rains, self care is something that is forever deepening as we become more aware of the disregard that we once accepted as normal.

  7. A commitment to love your body, love your whole self – invites us all the time to go deeper and rise in the belonging to oneself. An inner settlement of feeling the innate loving being that we are. We are to be loved by ourselves all of the time. Our body needs to be loved for who we are is inside it.

  8. Now that I have made self care one of my priorities, I am enjoying seeing how it continues to expand as I stay open to other areas of my life that need attending to.

    1. I agree, Debra, and am often blown away by how attention and care in one area of my life has an impact elsewhere. For a super simple example, if I am well hydrated and dressed comfortably, I am more open and at ease in my interactions with others.

  9. I am finding that self -care is forever evolving, my body is constantly telling me to go deeper and it supports me and holds me in a loving way as I make the changes to support me.

  10. Knowing that every step you take on the journey back to true self love is important, if we do not appreciate all the marks then we quickly return to unwanted behavioural cycle. The trick is, knowing when we no longer need the next crutch, when we out stay our welcome, a self loving choice quickly becomes a disregarding one. The beautiful thing is, self care is forever evolving and adapting.

    1. Yes, I agree, I wonder what would happen to mental health statistics if every child was taught be gentle with themselves and their bodies?

  11. I too have noticed this – ‘The more I deepen my relationship with myself and the more I feel the love that I am and feel my body responding to this level of ‘self-care,’ the more aware I am if my self-care needs further refinement.’- and when I refine and honour that this needs to happen I am blown away how special this relationship with myself is. How this is the foundation to everything and the ripple effect that this has on all. So deeply powerful.

  12. Life is never static – it doesn’t remain the same, even though it’s the same day repeating itself over and over again. So, since we are governed by cycles it makes sense that self-care and how we are with ourselves needs to be constantly revisited as we are always coming back to markers and points in our evolution that either still support us or do not.

    1. So true, there are times when I can be mean and abusive towards myself and then others (especially when inspired by others) I can be deeply caring for myself and it feels super lovely.

  13. “Connect to yourself, your innermost self and feel the love that you are – that we all already are – and with every choice, ask if it is a ‘self-loving’ choice OR not.” I love the simplicity of this, I am going to take this into my day and see if I can deepen my awareness to make choices that are more supportive and loving.

  14. I love the open ended-ness with which you have presented self care; that it is not a set of rules that can be applied to all of us, or in fact ourselves, since it is ever changing and developing in accordance with what is going on in our days, weeks, months, general health. We therefore get to build a relationship with our bodies that lets us be guided by what is needed… always learning and super cool.

  15. Self care is constantly unfolding, evolving and changing; what I thought self care was even as little as a year ago has completely changed in recently. It is a beautiful journey of exploration.

  16. I find self care is a forever deepening process that is unique to everyone and their movements. I find it’s a constant refinement of the way in which I move and also what feels right now for my body may change down the track; it’s all by how we feel and what is most supportive at the present moment.

  17. I like the way you share your Self-care process here Mary-Lou, as it shows there is no perfection in it, but instead an ongoing exploration of what best supports you. In my experience I feel the same, there is no end in the deepening of Self-care in my life as well as there is no end in the love I can offer to myself. It’s amazing allowing ourselves to walk this growing path of self-honouring and self-respect.

  18. It’s great how you say that from instigating and developing a greater connection with you and your body and care for it that harmful behaviours started to naturally fall away – so rather than just tackling the harmful behaviour by using pure discipline to stop it you gave yourself a new foundation that unrooted the energy behind the behaviour.

  19. Health is matter of option, depending on who you talk to and what stage of their life you talk to them in. The one constant I have learned about health, is that it is forever changing, self-love and care is a part of that constant unfolding. You beautifully paint your development through this descriptive evolution.

  20. Thanks Mary-lou… And one of the best statements that you make is at the end where you say that you do not beat yourself up when you make mistakes… This is one of the great foundations of self-care and self-love.

  21. “The question is, “Could what was considered to be self-care in the past, now be considered as disregard or self-abuse?” Wow, what a thought-provoking question to consider about our lives and how we choose to live them.

  22. Self-care is an aspect of life often overlooked beyond the normal hygiene, but as a continual development of tending to self it becomes a tool for being who you are in a world that often wants you to be someone else.

  23. Self-care and the new definition is a huge sigh of relief from the body…. Letting go of all the stringent rules and practises (that were always an uphill battle to achieve) and say hello to space and feeling what’s next, it is a lifelong experiment….. some things work, others don’t…… easy & simple.

  24. My self-care continues to evolve every day and what I thought was loving years ago and was in fact great years ago, is now things I would never do now. If self-care is ever put in a box, you know it is not true, it must continue to grow, as you grow.

  25. I agree it is a forever evolving process, ‘The level of ‘self-care’ I now live continues to refine and deepen.’

  26. Self-care is much more than a few routines or rituals, they are just the outer manifestations (if they are) of an inner connection based on love, self-worth and self-appreciation.

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