Are you critical or judgmental with yourself? 

You are in good company. While so many of us excel as caretakers in one way or another, when it comes to self-care we often fall short.

“Perhaps it helps to think that self-care is NOT selfish; it’s self-preserving and it creates the space which allows us to bring our best selves to each of our endeavors.”

Virtually all suffering come from a lack of self-compassion and self-care.

We somehow got the message as a culture that pleasures associated with chill time or being unproductive and enjoying the moment is not okay. We need to be busy and making something happen.

Ruth had given her all to her friends and family. When younger she readied her kids for school; every weekday was comprised of breakfasts, packing lunches, carpooling and then heading to the hospital where she worked.

In the afternoon Ruth picked up the kids and homework, brought them to assorted lessons and sports programs, then came dinner and chores continued until bedtime.

The next day it all began again. Ruth’s husband travelled much of the time leaving the lion’s share of these responsibilities to Ruth.

Do you know what if feels like to be running on empty?

In Ruth’s mind she was doing what needed to be done, but over time she felt like she was going down a sink hole. She stayed true to the course until her baby left for college and then finally succumbed to the stress that had been gradually gnawing away at her the past couple of decades.

Ruth’s sense of well-being had been compromised to such a degree that when her time became more freed up she felt guilty, depressed and socially isolated. She didn’t know what to do with herself or more importantly how to care for herself during this time of transition…and after all those years of giving her all to others.

Does this sound familiar? The consummate caregiver unable to care for her own emotional and physical needs… 

Adding to the pain is the harmful self-talk like, “I’m so screwed up.” “I can’t believe I can’t just pull it together.” “How did I get this fat and old!?”

We add insult to injury and wonder why we get depressed.

Know that when you make your SELF a priority you are poised to be a more compassionate, patient and loving caregiver when your own needs are met. I’m not suggesting narcissistic behavior but rather caring for the mind, body and spirit.

Perhaps it helps to think that self-care is NOT selfish; it’s self-preserving and it creates the space which allows us to bring our best selves to each of our endeavors.

Here are some keys to jumpstart your self-care:

1. Cease the Self-Judgement

Start treating yourself as you would treat your child or your own best friend. Be on your own side! Tame the inner self-talk by reframing negative thoughts.

2. Do what brings you joy.

Give yourself permission to do at least one thing a day that brings you joy, energy or pleasure of some sort. Think of ways to give up activities that drain you.

3. Choose to believe in your SELF

Sometimes it’s easier to throw in the towel and continue going with the status quo rather than fighting for the life you desire. When you continue to choose yourself, it is inevitable that you will get closer to creating that which you long for.

4. Forgive yourself.

Forgiving oneself doesn’t come easily for most of us but it is a skill that can be improved with practice over time. Letting loving kindness prevail is key here. Just as you would forgive a child or a friend or someone you love for making a mistake, you too deserve the same self-compassion. Mistakes help us to self-correct as we navigate forward.

5. Embrace your idiosyncrasies.

Self-compassion is about accepting your true nature which is of course unique only to you. Learn to love your SELF wholeheartedly.

6. Our common humanity.

The most beautiful part of self-compassion is that we all need it and it is part of our shared experience as human beings. We are all flawed and most of us are simply doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Fortunately we are privileged to be on the path towards a greater awakening and self-awareness.

7. Forget about perfect.

Striving for perfection in any endeavor is the ultimate setup for failure. A more loving approach is to aim high and to be as kind to one’s SELF as humanly possible.

And most importantly…

8. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Most of us did not learn how to do this as children and we are constantly bombarded with messages reminding us of how we fall short. Rising above and tapping into the truth about who we are and what we have to offer for the greater good take patience, practice and lots of loving kindness.

What do you do when you need some self-compassion or loving kindness for your SELF?