For the last 20 odd years woman have been told that they need to take time for themselves.  That they need to put themselves first.  That if we don’t do that then we can’t be the best version of ourselves for others.  But is all of that really true?  And if it is true why are we suffering more anxiety, depression and general dissatisfaction than ever before?

I think its because we have taken this too literally.  I think it’s because we are allowing others to define what “self care” is for us.  We think that unless we are taking actions that are only focused on us then we aren’t providing ourselves the self care we keep getting told we need.  

What if however, for some of us (because we aren’t all the same!!) focusing on ourselves (and only ourselves) is actually doing more harm than good?  What if we are doing these things because others are telling us and not because, if we really listen to our own internal voice, we know that it is what’s best for us.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only woman to reach mid thirties and wonder what life is all about.  Am I doing what I should be doing?  Have I achieved what I should have?  Who the hell am I?  

Questions continually going through the mind led me to read and try and discover how to “fix” this noise in my head (after a stint of too much drinking, perceiving the actions of a loving husband as control and general self loathing).  All the literature, podcasts and other social media told me I needed to put myself first.  So I tried.  Well I tried what I thought putting myself first meant.  Upon reflection now in my forties I see these actions were taking me further from myself and that truest of voices that you can only hear when you give that voice space and silence.

So how do you provide yourself self care if it isn’t a self centred focus.  

Values, values, values.  Get clear on what these are for you and you will have something to guide you on the best decisions for your unique beautiful and successful life.  Know your values and you’ll know how to provide yourself self care.

Give – your time, baking, flowers, volunteer – the greatest gift of giving is that wonderful feeling you get from the joy in another face.  Giving is self care.

Space – you don’t need to go away on a outward bound course for 30 days (though that may be what you need) – for me sometimes just 10 minutes a day, quiet, doing nothing and alone with my thoughts are the re-charge and sometimes the re-calibration I need most days.  Some days I need more.  Discovering how much space you need is self care.

Nature – walk amongst nature.  I can’t stress this point enough.  Nature is a great healer, mind opener, comforter and inspiration. You don’t need to do this alone either – friends, significant other, family – observe the magic of wonder.  Being in nature is self care.

Hydrate and Nourish – ensuring you are adequately hydrated and nourished everyday is self care.  Choose food that supports your amazing body do amazing things.  Aim not to label food as good or bad – describe it instead – texture, taste, smell, visually.  Hydrating and nourishing your body is self care.

Create your Tribe – create a tribe of people who inspire you, who when you think of them they make you smile and make you want to do better.  You don’t need to necessarily need to spend time with these people (one of my tribe I haven’t seen in over 12 months but she is still my exercise “buddy” – that is she is still the person I think of to inspire me when it comes to moving my body).  

In my tribe I have

A food buddy – I think of this person and am inspired by nutritious and delicious.

A move it buddy – fun, energetic (my exercise buddy)

A breathe buddy – that person who conjures up calm and cleansing, who helps you reconnect with your spiritual beliefs. 

A hands on buddy -the person who keeps it real, inspires you to challenge yourself and engage in life long learning.

A creative buddy – vibrant and engaging, the person with whom magic happens

A money buddy – wise and fun with this beautiful resource

An outdoor buddy – nature inspired, beautiful spaces, their environment inspires your spring clean. 

A work buddy – whatever your “work” is this buddy will be the person who inspires you to stay true to your values and push your potential.

Remember you don’t have to be in constant contact with these people – potentially you don’t even have to personally know them – they do need, however, to be real enough to always give you a burst of energy in their particular area.

So next time you think you need to do some self care, don’t automatically think you need to walk the Camino or exclude those you love, or replicate what those around you are doing.  Listen to your inner voice, your unique energy (it may in fact be telling you to do just that – or it may not be) – remember only you can define success for a life that you actively participate and thrive in.