As is the case with many of us, in recent years I’ve found myself completely thrown for a loop. Some of the reasons will likely be all too familiar to you (the pandemic and its effects), some are an unfortunate but inevitable part of life (the loss of both my parents, as one example) and some I won’t get into here, you will hopefully never have the misfortune to experience.
Whatever the various reasons were, eventually I got to the point where I hardly recognized myself. For one thing, I used to work out every day without question. This habit was not really about the way I looked though that was a nice benefit. It was about the feeling of having boundless energy. Being strong and physically able to do whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to do it. I always said being fit was like having an insurance policy against being bedridden when I got older. But that fitness fell off a cliff.
Meanwhile, my formerly now-and-again having a couple of glasses of wine became a lot more often than every now and again, and while my diet wasn’t terrible, it was not as good as it had been.
Bottom line, I wasn’t caring for myself.
This physical neglect is part of what was going on but it wasn’t the only thing. I just didn’t feel like myself. Life no longer felt full and rewarding.
Recognizing all of this, I’ve now been putting effort into reclaiming the self I want to be. I decided to search the horizon, find that life I love, and coax it back. I’m in the process becoming me again.
I know from past experience that this is a journey and not a destination. It’s a journey I’m happy to be on, but the path can sometimes be treacherous.
Caring, compassion and clarity
It occurred to me the other day that doing what is necessary to bring yourself to a point of good physical and mental health and happiness is the supreme act of self-love.
The truth is, we need to care for ourselves like we would care for our children. With love and understanding, but also with clear boundaries and expectations.
This is where that balancing act comes in. Because when you’re making changes in your life it’s so easy to be down on yourself if you slip up. “You were supposed to go for a run today but you didn’t. You failed again. You keep failing. Why can’t you get your shit together? You're such a loser!”
Does this sound familiar to you?
The flipside to berating yourself is not caring enough. “Everyone slips up. It’s not a big deal. Statistically I’m far more likely to not succeed than I am to succeed, so I might as well have another drink.”
Neither of these methods are beneficial to you on your healing journey. What we all need is balance.
Look after you, your child
Recently I spoke with a friend of mine who’d been making some very bad decisions. I said, if it were your daughter doing these things, what would you say? Would you call her a stupid failure like you’re calling yourself? Would you excuse her behaviour and facilitate her dive bombing off a cliff, like you are also doing with yourself?
Ask yourself these same questions about the choices you are making.
Treat yourself as you would your own child, gently and with love. Lead that child of yours in the right direction. Lead with love and care and protection, but also with the expectation of certain behaviours. It’s a balance.
Expectations and boundaries
Self-love and the caring for oneself that goes with that love means finding that effective balance. To have healthy relationships and a good life you need to place boundaries and expectations on the people around you. As the person who influences you more than any other, you need to place those same boundaries and expectations on yourself.
Love yourself enough to guide you in the right direction, and also love yourself enough to walk the path to that destination. It’s not about perfection. It’s about getting to the place you want to be, where you are living your own personal version of your best life.
I’ll see you there.