The Self Care Paradox
As we enter the New Year of 2021 many of us are making self care resolutions. However, there’s an extremely crucial aspect about self care not often mentioned, and given the experience of 2020, I believe this aspect is necessary for sustainable well-being. I am referring to the deepening of discomfort that goes hand in hand with self care. At first this may seem contradictory; “What?! I’m practicing self care to destress, to feel better, and now you’re saying I may feel worse?!” Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying, and let me emphasize this is a good thing. I base this statement on my twenty one years of working holistically with clients, and on my own self care experience.
In general, we have the underlying belief that self care will somehow protect us from experiencing discomfort. But what I have learned is that self care is a portal to help us meet discomfort. When we take better care of ourselves we forget the interconnectedness of our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects. So when one aspect of ourselves is the focal point the other aspects are inevitably impacted whether we like it or not. This impact often presents as discomfort of some sort, and it scares us. Rather than see the discomfort as a guide to trust and respect, we fear it and we reject it. This causes us to abandon our resolutions, doubt our methods, or search for something else to help us feel better - aka avoid the discomfort. I’ll use weight loss as an example. When we embark on a weight loss program we change our food and exercise habits, yet we forget to make room for the unseen release of beliefs related to food or even beliefs about succeeding. So as we lose weight, we may experience feelings of joy, and we may also experience emotions and symptoms we didn’t expect, such as shame, grief, headaches or insomnia. Losing weight has many hidden meanings, and there are many memories stored in our physicality that are now being released. If we aren't aware of our holism, the releasing process can derail us. The same is true when we focus on a particular emotion like anxiety or anger. Both of these states of being are extremely exhausting and potentially debilitating. Emotions are intricately connected to our thoughts, and the chemistry of our bodies. Through the self care portal, feelings of anxiety or anger lessen, and we experience feeling more calm. Along with calmness other emotions often surface, such as boredom and depression. This is the self care paradox. When we believe self care is a linear path to feeling better, we set ourselves up to be blind sided by the discomfort that emerges. However, if we are willing to consider self care as a deep dive into ourselves, our relationship with discomfort changes. We trust the discomfort a little more, and realize its presence is indicative of self alignment. Self care is a circuitous path of self healing - not comfortable nor easy, yet the gift is profound; the gift of appreciating being human.
Self care is also a privilege. It strengthens the clarity of who we really are by letting go of old beliefs, behaviours and relationships. When we realize we are not our labels, our emotions, our pain, our possessions or our achievements, we expand and we become more discerning. Our ego struggles with letting go of old identifications while our inner spirit thrives in their release.
So as you continue through your self care portal with New Year’s resolutions, you may notice discomfort bubbling up. Take a few moments to inquire: What might the discomfort be showing me? Am I becoming discouraged? Am I searching for another technique? Seek additional support if needed, and acknowledge your experience for what it is - an experience of being human. And just as a mountain’s deep foundation allows it to withstand storms, know that you, like the mountain, are unshakeable.