#16 Self Love is the Least Selfish Thing We Can Do
In a world that wants us to keep speeding up and doing more on the pretext of having more (meaning material goods) we end up having less. Less time. Less energy. Less feel goods. Less health. Less emotional stability. Less head space. Less wellbeing. Less time for reflection. And less time to make healthy decisions. We spend our time surviving instead of thriving.
We’re told to hurry up from childhood, at school and at home. Don’t keep us or them waiting. There’s never enough time.
Don’t get me wrong, I can move fast. When it’s the right thing for me, I can get a lot done. There’s a lot of energy for the right things. But when I am forcing myself to do something that doesn’t sit right or that I don’t really want to do (and often don’t really need to do), it shuts my system down as I push through. Push through and make myself carry on regardless of what my body is telling me.
Shutting down is also known as the freeze response. It’s like having the accelerator on full and the brake on at the same time. High sympathetic activation or stress energy, hidden and sealed under a lid. We can’t feel the stress but it’s still there. Like in a pressure cooker, the ingredients are hot and bubbling away but we can’t see it or hear it. It’s still there though, and if we continue to suppress ourselves long term it eventually affects our health.
It’s hard to slow down and give ourselves the space we need to get in tune with what we really want. We feel pressures from the outside world, our loved ones and now our selves. The external becomes internalised, so we can’t see the difference between what the outside world wants and what we really want and need.
The conditioning to get on, made me impatient. It even made me impatient to get better, so that the pushing got in the way of my healing. It’s taken five days (five days!) of my seven-day holiday to settle down. I am on my own but jumped into the routine that I normally have with my husband. Get up and get ready and out to walk. Stop to eat and rest for a bit. Then walk back. Seven or eight miles (ten one day) with a body that is still compromised. But in my mind thinking I had to do that, to make the most of it, because it’s only a week. Forgetting that I had come on my own because I needed a break, time to rest and that it was an opportunity to find my own rhythm.
I have to remember and re-remember over and over again. And then find a lot of compassion for myself as I step into my own knowing.
Where are you still pushing through, making yourself do things you don’t need or don’t have to do (except in your mind)?
Today I’ve stopped. I’m tuning in. I have been gifted an extra day for free. That means I have 3 days to find my own rhythm. Even that I want to rush. My mind working overtime to shoehorn in a few more nervous system regulation practices that aid my nervous system in down regulating and nourishing the ventral vagal. But my body hurts from the long walks. My hips and back are telling me, as I do some movement exercise, to go slow. To be aware. Not to push. I’m listening at last. Another practice sets some of my fingers twitching. I stop but it only takes a couple of seconds for it to cease so I continue but this time keep present and aware.
The ventral vagal nervous system is a part of the Autonomic (automatic) Nervous System that down regulates sympathetic (stress) activation, our fight/flight energy or stress chemistry. It acts slowly guiding the system down and makes us feel good. Makes us feel connected. There are many ways to cultivate it. Interaction with others (assuming they are safe people to interact with), creativity, learning, watching a heart-warming film, reading a good book, being in nature, certain smells, expressing ourselves, exercise that we enjoy, singing, dancing, laughter, sunshine on our skin, watching comedy, hugs, eating (especially with others), cuddling a pet, hugging a tree, walking bare foot on the earth, playing (whatever that means to you), etc
I can feel how deeply tired I am now and will rest before continuing to write here...
When was the last time you gave yourself permission to rest or play?
But just as I have this clarity and make this decision, the maintenance men have turned up to mow and strim and it’s noisy. One swings round on his ride-on mower taking a good look at me inside as he comes by. I can smell fumes from the equipment seeping through the crack in the window. Now I’m kicking myself for not going to lie down before. But I instantly re-remember that kicking myself is not very nice and return to self-compassion. I’ll wait a while until they have moved on. They’re moving rapidly, working as a team, obviously used to this particular job and wanting it done as quickly as possible.
Returning to my writing, I remember I have a lot of knowledge but knowledge is not the same as embodiment.
I have been doing Nervous System Regulation work for almost five years. It might sound like a long time but it’s not when healing unresolved trauma and old survival stress. Even though we were told, on the course, to go at our own pace, listen to our bodies and to drip feed our systems with the practices, it’s taken a lot of time to trust in this concept. It goes against what we were taught in school.
The first round, I almost managed to get through the whole twelve-week programme in the twelve weeks. I heard what they were saying about taking our time, listening to our bodies and allowing time and space for integration. For the body to feel safe. I knew it was conditioning making me want to finish the course but didn’t see myself as one of those who was ignoring her innate wisdom. A conditioned need to ‘keep up’ and ‘look as though’ I was doing well. A need to be seen as achieving. But all I was achieving was knowledge and knowledge doesn’t make us well or happy. Neither does just applying the knowledge.
To create lasting change, we need to EMBODY the learnings at a cellular level. To literally get it in the muscle and that can’t be rushed or forced especially with unresolved trauma stuck in our systems.
Note: trauma can be major but it can also be the little things that felt like major trauma as small children. I’ll talk more about this at a later date.
I have done several more rounds of the course since then. At one point I got frustrated with a lack of progress and asked questions that didn’t seem to get the answers I wanted. I wanted something to make it easier, quicker and instant. For it to happen now, now, now!
I got, instead, the answers I needed, that I still didn’t want to hear. Still too impatient. Still wanted a quick fix. Still running the same old habits that contributed to my getting ill in the first place. Still, after recognising what was going on, needing to come back to a place of deep compassion.
IMPATIENCE and PUSHING THROUGH have slowed down my progress and healing from chronic health issues and fatigue.
Does this resonate for you too?
Impatience and pushing through stop me listening to and hearing the innate wisdom that resides within each of us. Our true nature. It feels hard and unrelenting instead of loving and in flow.
Impatience and pushing through comes from external societal programming which is unhealthy and unsustainable. We weren’t born that way. It over-rides our needs as individuals, our needs for balance with work, rest and play. It over-rides our need for self-care. It over-rides our needs for creativity, connection and joy. It over-rides our need to listen to our gut and follow our intuition. The programming makes us go to our heads for solutions and stop trusting our own inner knowing. It makes us mean to ourselves (and others).
We stop feeling like we have a choice and pad it out with reasons (often originally decided by others and which turn out to be excuses) why we have to continue to do the things that are dragging us down. But we do have options if only we would give ourselves the space to see it.
We do have a choice. Not an easy choice but all the same a valuable one. First we need to know what we’re doing, decide we want to change it and find ways to help ourselves. Read books. Gather information. Maybe do some courses. Find mentors, teachers and practitioners to lead the way and allow ourselves the time and space we need to change old habits and heal.
We need to remember and re-remember who we really are. We are not machines here to fulfill the needs of others at our own expense. Needs that will, by the way, never be satisfied.
No, we are human organisms that have needs beyond the basics of food, water and shelter.
We are not here to work, pay our bills then die!
We need sustenance that feeds the flow of creative energy that wants to be felt and loved through us. To be expressed in a way that only we can do. Needs that, when fulfilled are truly satisfying on the deepest level. Nourishing, wholesome and healthy.
We have a right to make decisions that are good for us. That sustain us and help us evolve. We owe it to ourselves to take a step back and re-evaluate what it is to be a wholehearted, connected individual.
And that’s how we make the greatest contribution to the world. By being well, resilient, strong and therefore able to give freely when we choose to give. To give from an overflowing cup rather than an empty one which breeds resentment.
Self-love, leads to self-care, leads to healthy people who can support their communities and families from a core sense of stability, strength and free will.
Self Love is the least selfish thing we can do.
Are you ready to put yourself first so you can be the change?
An exploration in Embodying your True Self for people who care too much. If you're running on empty, feel numb or are functioning on autopilot with no zest for life and want to get some juice back, you're in the right place. :-)
From my True Self to Yours
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