The Art of Self Care

Don’t Be Successful, Helpful, Spiritual ….  Just BE Yourself

Nothing is more important than tuning into Self Care because it is the only route to being true to the Self. Self care is an art that takes considerable time and effort to master. At its heart is slowly but surely tuning into our natural instincts and impulses (very different from impulsiveness!) and undoing all the suppression and emotional shut down that we engage into, as our mind dictates we must, in order to conform to society’s rules.

Every action, utterance, gesture etc. that we receive from adults when we are growing up tells us we are NOT ok being ourselves. This is because adults mistakenly believe that children should follow society’s rules in order to fit in and that fitting in is a necessary condition for success.  The error here is that human beings need to be happy not successful, especially since success is very narrowly defined by society to mean very specific things: getting a job, making money, getting married, having children, etc.

All success trappings in modern societies involve ‘getting’ which itself involves DOING, rather than BEING, even though BEING is the key to happiness, which is the ultimate success.

As we are ‘taught’ how to fit in, we suppress our natural tendency to behave spontaneously, i.e. without checking whether or not our behaviour conforms to society’s rules, believing rightly that spontaneity will get us into trouble with our parents, school, church, etc. As a result we all grow up believing ‘I’m not good enough’ in one form or the other: I’m not strong enough, pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, successful enough, etc, to be loved unconditionally. To overcome this discord between our natural need to be accepted and loved just the way we are and  the apparent disapproval of our true nature by those around us we adopt a set of negative believes about ourselves (I’m stupid, fat, ugly, weak, a freak, etc.) that matches our perception of how people see us. But none of these beliefs FEELS good, so we develop a persona, or what I call a ‘pretend self’, that we believe is more acceptable to show to society that covers up our negative self beliefs.  The persona artificially helps us feel good about ourselves, and at the same time it keeps our negative self beliefs hidden from our consciousness.

A persona is a collection of traits that we adopt to both cover up and counter our negative self beliefs, so it goes something along: I’m smart, I’m tough, I’m helpful, I’m agreeable, I’m kind, I’m a good boy/girl/wife/husband/mother/father, I’m a pillar of the community, I’m pious, etc. all of which cover up: I’m weak and pathetic, I’m useless, I’m a no body, I’m unlovable, I’m a loser, etc.

One of my life coaches used to call the traits we adopt as part of our persona ‘ice cream over poop’!

Lucky for us our mind has natural healing abilities within it. Consequently, we often unconsciously bring about circumstances in our lives that invite us to uncover our cover, like losing a job, a house, or a child, marriage breakdown, becoming seriously ill,  etc. which brings our ugly self beliefs closer to the surface of our consciousness in order to heal them. At this juncture it is not uncommon to feel exposed again to society’s judgement and so we are confronted with a a choice of either going forward and healing our past and our negative beliefs (mostly variations on unworthiness) or going back to our comfort zone and what is familiar, which is akin to sleep walking through life.

Most of us find the pain of ‘I’m not good enough just being myself’ so excruciating that we develop all sorts of addictions that we don’t necessarily see as addictions. While excessive eating or drug taking are obvious addictions, those of us who can’t STOP working, being busy, building a career, helping others, reading, talking, cleaning, engaging in spiritual practices etc., are also addicted to numbing the pain of their own lack of self acceptance.

What most people miss is that what we believe to be our true self (which we find hard to accept) is merely the set of negative beliefs that we developed from a young age about ourselves when our natural impulses were curbed in favour of a ‘learnt’ behaviour that society finds more acceptable. 

Curbing natural impulses at a very young age creates considerable confusion in the mind and results in mistrust in our natural abilities and spontaneous ways of being. Because we mistake these negative beliefs for the real self we’re very reluctant to uncover what we believe to be the truth about ourselves and instead most of us end up living a life of quiet desperation: ‘all marriages are like this’, ‘life is tough’, ‘old age is horrible’, ‘no one really gets what they want’, ‘we’re not children any more we have to live in the real world’, etc. when in fact our old age is horrible, our marriages mundane, and our life tough and joyless precisely because we’re living life out of a mistaken identity.

It is precisely because we believe our negative self beliefs to be the truth of who we are that most of us are too afraid to embark on the self healing process, which appears to our mind as terrifying when nothing could be further from the truth.

It is only when we get the self healing process to a significant point that we start realising that underneath all these ugly beliefs about ourselves is the real Self that is both spontaneous and joyous. It is only when we are completely at ease with just BEING without thinking, analysing, strategising, planning, working, praying, spiritualising, etc. that we know we have finally connected with our true Self.

To get there takes practice and a boundless amount of Self Care of being compassionate and nonjudgmental of ourselves or, importantly, the process itself.  There will be considerable trial and error so set backs are part of the process until we find our balance. But do we have the wherewithal to do that?  Most of us don’t and so we look for short cuts or we slide back into our comfort zone each time the going gets tough.

I liken the process of shedding a persona in favour of a natural, care free and spontaneous Self to company restructuring: it is a painful process and it is not for the faint heart, but once the commitment is made wholeheartedly, the whole universe conspire with us to succeed.

So commitment is a critical factor, and I have found from experience that time and again when the going gets tough it is because I lack commitment to the next obvious step. But once I renewed that commitment things get easy again. So in a way Self Care is a mind watching and mind training game. One last thing to remember:

Hardship is never ever about the external circumstance. Rather, it is always about those aspects of  our mind that we still need to heal. In fact the specific nature of the hardship we are facing is our clue to what aspect of our mind we need to heal next.

With Love and higher consciousness

Muna Jawhary

Whether you agree or disagree, your thoughts and opinions are extremely valuable, so please leave a comment below and widen the conversation.

Leave a Reply