How will I care for myself today? – A guest blog by Caroline Pakel

It’s probably the first question I ask myself, every morning. And I’m glad to say that after a couple of years of practice, it’s more like a checking-in with myself: checking that the emerging plan for the day includes time for me. Time to rest, learn, enjoy and grow.

And I don’t take those times for granted, nor do I allow others or “things” to take over them. My times are sacred. Without them, I eventually get sad, frustrated, impatient, grumpy, disillusioned… You get the picture, and yeah, I’ll admit, it’s not a pretty one. Luckily, that picture has become quite a rare occurrence these days. And actually, there is little luck involved in that fact: all it takes is for me to keep disciplined about putting myself first.

That’s because I matter. Yeah, I – and you – matter. Nothing else or anyone else does, before me – or you. I even had to matter before my child, when he was born, and at first, I didn’t do very well with that either. The truth is that it is hard to honour the fact that I, you, we individually, matter first, before anything else or anyone else. Most of us have not had that idyllic childhood where that belief was nurtured and grown in us. Saying “I matter” is a little bit like stepping onto a wobbly stone across that bubbly river. And like standing on any  wobbly stone, it feels both exciting and well, pretty challenging. It takes us outside our comfort zone. Yeah, it’s always more comfortable – to start with – to focus our attention on stuff outside ourselves than on what is happening within. Often, it’s plain scary to even dare lifting the veils we like to create in and around who we are, how we truly feel and what we really, really want – or need.

If you don’t take care of yourself, how on earth can you honestly think, believe or wish to care for anyone else or anything else? Well, you try, and in my experience, you’ll fail to deliver the utmost care others deserve from you, because you are not giving it to yourself first.

And some people, actually many of us, OK, maybe even, most of us, just can’t get to that initial and essential stage… It’s just easier to escape in others’ stuff, worthy causes, egoic ambitions or any kind of obsession or addiction we can give in to. It’s hard to really – I mean REALLY – care for ourselves. First.

And self-care is becoming quite an emergent theme around me at the moment. This week alone, I suddenly realised that someone very dear to me was slowly returning to being someone very pleasant and enjoyable to talk to since she had been granted the opportunity to re-learn to sleep – enough, and deeply. Then, there is also this geographically distant friend who kept talking about the stuff he had to do – for other people – when he couldn’t actually stand on his own knee properly – I saw him wincing on the SKYPE screen, as he was moving his leg under his desk.  And yeah, well, professionally, it’s a never ending story, sadly. People talk of being ashamed or of feeling guilty when they dare considering putting themselves first. One of the lovely people I am currently coaching just looked at me puzzled when I asked her this week what she was going to do for herself after she finished listing all the activities and commitments she had lined up, all for “others”.

There is nothing narcissistic about putting oneself first. It’s only “right”, if you want to bring the best of who you are to whatever your life is calling you to do. It’s a basic requirement our Western society and the pressures of our “modern” life have had us forget and neglect. And it’s one to restore and remember, every day.

So, come one, how will YOU care for yourself today?

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