Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to take care of yourself. About how important it is, how to do it, but also about the fact that self care is, in actuality, an act of selflessness.
For the longest time I, like many others, would always put others before myself. As a child I taught myself that perhaps that was the right thing to do. I would put myself last so that they may benefit. Even if it meant I would miss out or that I would suffer for it. I would do this everywhere. I would put others first in every relationship. In a class room or learning environment. At work. Even with strangers. Often times I would tell myself that I was simply being courteous or kind. When in fact I was only depriving myself of my own love. I was leaving myself wide open and vulnerable.
There were times when I tried to stand up for myself or put myself first in a situation in which I rightfully should have. But it always felt wrong. I felt as though I was the ‘bad guy’. I was always uncomfortable with confrontation. So much so that I would back down just to avoid it. This still happens. Even as a grown man, when I know that I am not in the wrong, I will surrender and apologise just so I didn’t upset the other person.
However in order to build the confidence to stand ones ground we must first look at how we treat ourselves at a more basic level. We must look at our surroundings. I recently did a survey of my bedroom and realised just how much stuff I had accumulated that I simply don’t need anymore. So I began a culling of my possessions. I had to be ruthless and decisive. All the while becoming regularly distracted by what I found. I also decided to treat myself. I have been working hard and often and felt as thought I deserved a treat. So I went and bought something which I’d had my eye on for a while. I changed my diet and began exercising more.
In changing my environment, my lifestyle and my internal health I began to notice that my mood picked up and that my depression began to alleviate slightly. Even something as simple as allowing myself a night to kick back and eat something naughty has made a marked improvement in my overall happiness and stress.
But the largest, and most important, change is how much more and can help and be there for those around me. In caring for myself I am now able to care for others. As such it is possibly one of the kindest things you can do for others.
You can not pour from an empty cup.