Take Care ~ Part 1 / by Michelle Cowan

I’ve decided to start a little series on taking care of ourselves, a practice I’m desperate to improve in my life. I spent so many years trying to take care of myself using methods like eating, isolating, and watching television. Of course, these behaviors provided the escape and comfort I needed at the time but proved to be only temporary balms for a deeper wound in my soul. I wasn’t aware of what I needed do to heal that part of me, so I plunged deeper into darkness and sorrow every time my attempts at self care failed.

Years of blogs could be devoted to the subject of self care. In fact, www.firstourselves.com, offers just that: a treasure trove of information and motivation to care for yourself (directed at women, but men could definitely find it helpful, too). It is one of the sites that inspired me to start this one. Kudos!

To limit the scope of this discussion, I’ll focus on two main ideas that have greatly enhanced the way I take care of myself:
(1) Knowing what I want/need
(2) Acting out of preference, not fear

Taking care of myself requires that I know what I want/need. I used to believe that I did not know. Now, I see that deep inside, I contain a wealth of knowledge about who I am and what I need and want. These desires are strong when I allow access to them, but all too often, I dismiss my own desires, believing that the needs or wants of others might be more appropriate.

Attraction to the desires of others is not bad. By examining the way they care for themselves, I can expand my range of coping mechanisms and learn what may or may not work. I also learn how to help those I care about. But if I notice myself acquiescing too much to other people’s plans and never offering my own ideas, I have to pull back and remember what I enjoy. Resentful feelings toward my friends or the activities we do together throw up a major red flag here. I must remain in touch with what feeds MY soul so that I can feel whole when I join others in their pursuits.

The fact is, only I can give myself what I truly need, either directly or by asking for it. No one else might know that I need anything unless I speak up. My needs are just as important as everyone else’s. A drained and empty spirit limits my ability to give to others.

Recognizing the legitimacy of my needs and wants enables me search for what those needs and wants specifically are. Accepting that I have needs gives me the freedom to pinpoint and name them. Once I can identify a need, I can ask for it. I may be able to provide for myself, or I may be able to ask someone else for help. So I begin by asking questions like these:

What am I craving?
What makes me feel good? Is it a place, an activity, something someone says, another person or object?
Where do I feel safe?
What puts a big smile on my face?
When do I feel tension-free?

Ah, to figure out what I want…a never-ending quest…

Identifying wants is a process and, when focused on specific things, translates into outlining my preferences. That brings me to the second important facet of caring for myself I promised to discuss: acting on preferences, not fears. But that can wait until next time. Here’s a preview:

Preference = Because I like this best, I choose it.
Fear = Because I fear this most, I do not choose it.

Ta ta for now!