Self-Love versus Self-centredness

One of the main areas of growth I encounter with my Health Coaching Clients, is the area of self-care. Specially for women but sometimes also for men. But specially as women, we have this natural intuitive built-in tool to nurture someone or something else with all our being, before we take care of ourselves. This natural ability to give all the energy we have, to focus entirely on someone else, is of course crucial for human survival. When we become mothers, it is this ability of selfless giving, that nurtures the offspring and supports new life. We often don’t get out of this role and often see ourselves in this role even if we are not mothers. In those cases, we nurture our partner, other family members, friends or project, ideas, things. We keep giving giving giving and leave ourselves completely depleted. Sometimes this depletion, this lack of self-care is not even obvious and we are not aware of it, yet we feel tired, exhausted, without energy and are in need of detoxification for our bodies and minds. We might even get ill when all we really would need, is starting to take care of ourselves.

For some people it is obvious and they start to work in that area and those are of course the people I love to work with most! Why? Because once you have become aware of your depletion and want to actively make a change, we can start working on tiny baby-steps in the direction of self-care and eventually complete self-love.

Self-care is a very essential part of my work and also of my personal work with myself. It is the work I see most people, lets say around 90-95% of all people out there, are most in need of. Why do we need to focus more growth in that area? The answer is quite simple, if we do not take care of ourselves, if we are givers, well we are very likely to not accept support from others either and our bodies, souls and spirits are just left behind. It takes a while, we can go on for quite some long time, but eventually, we will break down. I always explain to people that find it difficult to understand that they should be taking care of themselves before they are taking care of everyone else, that at the end of the day, if they are going down (and they will), no one has anything from them anymore. I hear a lot of people being absolutely 100% confinced, that “he or she absolutely needs me” or “without my work the project is going down” and so on. And this might be right, there might be a child in need of you, absolutely – but may I ask you – if you are not able to fill up your own energy tank and at the end of the day are completely worn out and eventually one day will break down – who is then going to help this kid?

I add the frustration and stress, the short lived patience and general low energy level to the equation and I come to the result of a person, that literally no one likes to hang out with. It is not benefical for ourselves nor anyone around us, if we are not able to take care of ourselves, nurture our spirit and fill the energy tanks back up again. It is much more benefical and nice for ourselves and others around us, if we have taken that one hour a day (which is really not that much, but if it does sound like too much, start with half an hour or even just 10 minutes) where we just nurtured ourselves, where we did something or multiple things, that are benefical for us and only us. It can be a long bath, it can be a nap in the afternoon, a walk in the forest, a yoga class with others, a coffee with a friend – anything that we are doing out of love for ourselves – even just a long slow and mindful breakfast with a detox juice, a herbal tea or a really really nice porridge can be the act of self-care that we needed to fill back up our energy tanks.

A lot of people are running around with the tanks completely empty. I do encourage everyone who does feel like that, to take at least one to two weeks of vacation and have the whole focus on only nurturing themselves, out of pure love for themselves.

Now there is a downside. Self-care can become self-centeredness. I don’t call this true self-care because if it was self-care, you would be doing the self-care out of love to yourself. Out of love to yourself you can also see and feel the balance of your own energy and nurturing others or other projects. When your tanks are full, you are able to give to others out of a place of abundance and love. And when your tanks are full you are able to see, that this hour of self-care every day, right now, you don’t need it and you are able to give and nurture. Giving can be a beautiful energetic practice and fill us up with even more energy.

I have noticed that self-care that has become self-centeredness shows up when we are isolating ourselves, saying no to everything, having time for nothing because we need to do the yoga, the meditation, the cooking, the… the… the… and so on. We are letting others organise themselves around us or doing the work for us “because we need this one hour to take care of ourselves”. That is of course not the point of self-love and as mentioned above, in my opinion, it is not self-love but it is rather coming out of a place of self-hatred.

Are we going to the gym an hour a day because we love our bodies so much, that we are craving the feeling of it moving, sweating, competing, making progress? Then that is self-care. Or are we going to the gym because really deep down we hate our belly fat, the wide hips, the wobbly arms? Then that is self-hatred. The hour in the gym out of self-hatred does not count as self-care. (Doesn’t mean it is not useful – it is just not self-care – but it does count as “exercise”, which, of course, we do need to maintain our bodies.) Neither does yoga or meditation or anything really that we do for ourselves to make ourselves more perfect, function better, be more of this or that. All of this, is coming out of self-hatred. Self-love doesn’t care how we look like, how we perform, how we feel or achieve. Self-love is a giving feeling, out of pure gratitude of us being simply alive, being who we are, having achieved and lived and felt how we do. Self-love is all forgiving. Self-care out of self-love is what is filling up our tanks. And even if it is only 10 minutes a day, if we are taking care of ourselves because somewhere deep down we do love ourselves and do understand that we deserve these 10 minutes of nurturing ourselves, then those 10 minutes are enough.

Self-care is about finding that balance. It is completely ok to give everything we have on some days, be it to another person or a project, as long as we know it is for a limited amount of time and we will fill up our tanks again.

My partner and I recently bought a bus and we are renovating it into a camping bus for our holidays that are coming up soon. When we looked at our calendars we quickly realised, that we have a time frame of a short amount of time, where we both have the time to take care of the renovation, if we want to go on our holidays this year. So during this time everything else was set aback, my yoga, my meditation, on some days even the cooking was coming short – and that is totally ok. The bus is almost finished now and as I am writing this, I am doing this after an amazing hike this morning, high up in the mountains, breathing the fresh air, looking down at the sleepy Swiss valley and appreciating the energy nature was providing me with. This was my moment to fill up my tanks again after almost two weeks of spending every free minute on that project, being totally exhausted in the evenings.

I encourage you all to investigate honestly into your self-care – ask yourself if you do have activities in your life, where you are nurturing yourself to be nice to yourself and not out of the want to be more perfect.

Sonia Sarina Birrer