Self-love? What is that?

Yesterday I went to the gym. I do not get to the gym often these days as I am choosing to spend as much time as possible with my daughter, during this phase of her life. As I drove myself to the gym, I began to notice two voices in my head arguing with one another. One voice would say, ‘what you really need is a massage, the left side of your body is tight and full of nodes,’ then the other voice would interrupt this one saying ‘but you haven’t worked out in quite a few days, you should really get back in shape,’ the other voice would then respond, ‘maybe you could try to do both things, just go in there and maybe go to the steam room, take a long shower, just see how you feel.’ And, on and on, these two voices tirelessly argued with one another. By the time I walked into the gym, and walked up the two flights of stairs to the locker room, I was more confused about what I actually needed than before I even decided to head over there.

I sat down on a little bench in a corner of the locker room and looked into my work out bag. I felt the tightness on my left side and the exhaustion in my body from carrying my baby around day and night. ‘What do you really want Karen?’ “What would make you happy, right now?’ I undressed, put a towel around my body and another one wrapped around my head, I filled my bottle with water and I walked to the steam room where I laid down for a delicious 25 minutes. I then took the longest shower I had taken since Mia, my daughter, was born. I indulged in soaping every inch of my body. I washed my hair twice, and finished the bath with a long rinse. I walked back to my locker and spent another 20 minutes getting ready, putting lotion on and drying my hair. When I left the gym I had a huge smile on my face, and I felt genuinely complete. This, I thought, is exactly what I needed.

Although we may think that self-love, or self-care is the synonymous to long steam room experiences or an indulgent massage, self-love has nothing to do with that. Self-love is our ability to listen to our body’s needs and to respond to that. The breakthrough for me was that I interrupted the argument going on in my head, and just let myself feel what it was that I truly needed, and wanted, in that moment. It was a breakthrough because like most people I know, I operate a lot on auto-pilot and I do things because, well, I am supposed to do those things. I don’t spend many brief and important moments just questioning the default actions. But, when I do, and when anyone is given access to this pause, then the ‘right action’ is obvious, and always the best one. Maybe next week I will have a different experience. Maybe I will walk into the gym, and know that what I really need and want is an intense and sweaty spinning class. And, if I do what I need and want, I will have given myself self-love and self-care, just as much as I did yesterday at the gym.

I am far from being an expert in self-love. As a matter of fact, I am coming face to face with the fact that what I need most in my life, is exactly that. I am a student of this, and I am not sure I will eve master it. But, I do know that yesterday’s experience was eye opening to me. That a simple choice like that, has the ability to make me feel either empowered and in charge, or a slave to old patterns and habits. Even though going to the gym and working out would have been a fine choice, ultimately too many of these dismissals of what a body needs, cause a breakdown of both body and mind. Self-care then is not the actual caring of the body, but the deep connection to the spiritual needs we all carry. I think that self-care is listening to the voice of intuition and obeying this voice with joy and confidence.

I am sure I will be writing more on this as I continue to learn. In the meantime, here are some key tips I have for you, so you can start on your self-care practice:

  1. surround yourself with others who have walked this path a little further than you have. They can help you as you navigate this road and be a sound and safe reminder that it’s ok to slow down, to ponder and to question.
  2. Be curious about life, your needs, and question all that you have always just accepted as the way things are. In this process you will discover that there are hidden gifts within you waiting to blossom. As Einstein would humbly say: “I am neither clever, nor specially gifted. I am just really, really curious.”
  3. ask yourself often, how are you feeling? Hear your answer, and tell yourself that you have actually heard it (this I learned from my hypnotherapist and it’s been a life-changer). Example: ‘how do you feel right now, Karen?’ I may say ‘tired.’ Then I repeat to myself ‘I hear Karen that you are tired.’ Then you can ask yourself ‘what do you need?’ You may be able to address your need right then and then, but if you can’t, the practice is still valid. You have stopped to ponder on what your feelings and your needs are. You have connected with yourself.
  4. just simply slow-down: your internal clock may be running on overtime and speeding up without the need to do so. How do you usually eat? How do you usually shower? Is it all rush rush? Can you just simply slowdown, one notch at a time?

Start with these and you will see that self-care and self-love is not about massages, oils, and candle-lights (all the time). Self-care is about listening to your needs, connecting with your body, and simply slowing-down.