This is the first article in a series of articles about Self Care and Self Love. The series is part of the launch of the new website “Be Free of Burnout and find Fulfillment”.
Burnout is an individual’s response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors within the workplace (Maslach et al., 2001).
Self Care is a practical way of taking care of yourself on all levels. It is an integral part of preventing burnout, turning around negative stress and creating a fulfilled life.
Let’s start with the basics – What is Self Love?
This is a big question, and I think important. We all know we need to love ourselves, yet most of us struggle with it.
I am going to give you a working definition of Self Love here, based on thousands of sessions with private clients around the world and my own deep inner work for 20 years.
Self love is the act of caring for yourself at a deep level in a way that is connected to who you really are and what you really need.
To qualify a few things about this definition – one of the issues I see that we have with self love is that we get caught up in materialistic ideas that sit deep in our unconsciousness, and as a result, we mix it up with self indulgence.
The experience of self love is easier to come at with a practical angle of Self Care.
Here is my working definition of Self Care, also from my work with burnout and chronic fatigue clients over 15 years and again, thousands of individual sessions.
Self Care is the practical act of giving oneself love.
In both of these working definitions, the challenge is the word love. Love is an overused word, and often very misunderstood.
To digress a little for the purpose of creating further clarity – I love the way that spiritual aspirant The Mother (born Mirra Alfasa) talks about love and the human mistakes around love in her writing, (Mother’s Agenda: April 16, 1966)
- At first one loves only when one is loved
This can be seen in the calculating person who is narrow-minded and selfish, who partitions his/her social contacts into those who are loved and those who are hated.
- Next one loves spontaneously but one wants to be loved in return.
This is the situation where a person has an expansive vital(life-force) but with an intact ego within it. Such a person has a large feeling of love for humanity but wants to be loved in exchange for his/her “selfless” deeds. A good example of this is seen in those perform charitable or altruistic acts but expect recognition in return.
- Further on, one loves even if one is not loved but one still wants one’s love to be accepted.
As the Mother states, this stage is generally seen in those people who have reached a fairly advanced yogic state.
- And finally one loves purely and simply without any other need or joy than that of loving.
The Mother says of this state, “That, to me, according to my personal experience, is really omnipotence. It’s a power than can achieve anything – anything at all. Nothing is impossible to it.” This is the state of the Enlightened One, whose outer nature has been completely tranquilized by the inner Light. Such a person acts without any expectation for recognition.
So how do we apply this to self love?
Well firstly, understand that unconditional love for ourselves is a big thing to aim for. It is the level of spiritual achievement of the Enlightened One. Step 1 – understanding how difficult this is, and being patient with ourselves about it is the first step along the path to real love for ourselves.
Let’s bring this discussion about self love and self care back to ordinary people living ordinary lives. Now we have established that for most of us, figuring out how to approach loving ourselves and having a self care program of our own that reflects this is pretty challenging.
Aside from the fact that true unconditional love for ourselves is a high spiritual achievement, a practical obstacle to having a workable self care program is that there are so many things you can do to take care of yourself today. Yoga, meditation, diet, massage, beauty tips and tricks, and these are all huge fields to explore online alone.
There are so many options even if we break self care down into a few levels – physical, energetic, psychological and spiritual. Each one of those levels has so many things to do that if we focused on all of them all the time, there would not be time for life.
So figuring out self care with the aim of developing self love can be like trying to find your way through a maze.
To begin explaining how to do this, I am going to use the example of myself, since that is very close to home.
I really used to hate myself.
I mean it was black. It was sharp. It was so uncomfortable. It hurt all the time. I remember when I was a teenager getting drunk and just crying for hours because of the level of self hate. And then for years after that, I continued to get drunk regularly to avoid the pit, but instead what I was doing was digging myself in deeper.
Until I got so sick that I could not drink anymore. A couple of drinks on an evening out with friends would leave me vomiting for days. And then I could not eat sugar, I could not have coffee anymore, my diet became incredibly restricted and all the rage that I had been covering up with any amount of distraction turned even deeper in on me.
That was an intense few years.
I was blaming anyone and everyone for my pain.
Until I went to Africa on a trip to see the country where I was born, Malawi. And what I saw was hard to explain because aside from the beauty of that land, I saw a way of life that was so different to anything I grew up with in Australia. And it was such a long way from the consciousness of the financial markets that I had been writing about as a journalist, something inside cracked open.
I began to meditate after that trip.
And I began to see something of the non physical aspects of myself and the world. My pain was no longer something that had to be fixed. Although I wanted to get better. My pain became a journey of self exploration, that took me to spiritual worlds and beyond.
Over many years of deep exploration, I continued to struggle with caring for myself at a deep level. Until recently, when something fundamental changed.
I was down with burnout three years ago
It was a harsh reflection of my self delusion, when three years ago, I went down with burnout. I had been running my own business in New York for 7 years. Together with a business partner, we looked after hundreds of clients and people around the East Coast that were interested in meditation and transformation.
Personal growth was the center of my world, and still I was not taking care of myself. This made me take another big look at myself and my patterns to find a new way of approaching my whole life.
When I left New York, I had not been smart enough to save any money or take care of myself despite that I was helping others to transform and on a spiritual journey of my own. I neglected myself. This left me burned out, physically depleted and scared. I had to take a deeper look inside. What was I missing.
I was missing the fundamental importance of taking care of my own basic needs. This includes savings and future planning and of course, putting myself first.
I learned so much in the two years that it took to recover my physical health, finding the best practitioners to work with, and implementing my own rehabilitation plan with diet and exercise.
This is the essence of it for me and what I teach in my 90-day “Creative Life Program for women”.
True self care comes from a deeply connected place inside of yourself, it changes all the time, and is responsive to your own inner rhythms as well as the rhythms of nature and the outer world.
I will spell out more of what I learned as I go along this series of articles.
I would love to offer 10 women a gift Discovery call on the topic of burnout, stress or chronic fatigue as part of my launch. Click here to get YOUR DISCOVERY CALL.
We will talk about where you are at now, what self care means for you, what you really want in your life, and why you are not able to get there. To be transparent, this offer is part of my roll-out of my 90-Day “Creative Life Program” for women – Break Free of Burnout and Find Fulfillment. More to come about that in the next articles…