Self care has gotten a lot of press lately, which is good.
The distinction between being selfish and caring for yourself is an important one. Knowing that your cup needs to be full in order for you to be able to support others is also important.
Here’s the one thing that is not being talked about:
How you were cared for is how you care for yourself.
Yes, that is your default. And, if you take a look, you will see how sneaky this is and how it unconsciously plays out when you don’t know about this.
Let me explain.
I had a mother who was phenomenal. And, she grew in the generation she grew up in. She was tough as nails and that is part of what allowed her to succeed. So this is not about how she failed me. This is about how it was.
There are two big things I remember: she would say that I shouldn’t be ruled by my feelings. And, we were always in a rush.
Guess what that looks like in my adult life…
Every challenge that occurs in my life is boiled down to some place I over rode my feelings. As a Highly Sensitive Person and an Empath, I am pretty tuned in to how I feel. And, I override what I sense often. It is something I have to consciously practice regularly: to check if I am overriding what I sense.
I also do not give myself enough time. Enough time to get places or get things done, enough time in between clients, enough time to integrate when big things in my life happen. I do not give myself enough of other things along the way. I give to others and give myself the scraps. That is a default setting. I have worked hard to do better at this and I’m happy to say I’ve made some progress.
I’m sharing about me because I obviously wouldn’t want to share specifics about my clients and what I have observed throughout the years. What I can share is patterns I’ve seen over time and that’s how you might start to clue into how this shows up for you.
Patterns in how you might care for yourself based on how you were cared for:
If you had a parent or parents that experienced depression, they may not have been able to attend to all of your needs. There might be some of your own needs that you neglect. It could be as basic as some hygiene needs or it could be related to how you eat.
If you had a parent that was anxious and overly attentive, you might be overly concerned with your own needs and become anxious about meeting them. Like getting to bed on time, making sure you have enough food or performing at the highest level.
If you had a parent who felt anxious about you going to the next developmental step (i.e. became worried about how you would do in the next grade or level of school or when you were launching into the world), you might treat yourself with doubt about being able to take next steps.
If you had a parent that was critical, you may find yourself being very critical of yourself. This may be sneaky, it may exist in some very mundane places. Like what you say to yourself when you are doing a chore or when you are driving or walking to the bathroom. Those in between moments might be where that dialogue lives. It might hide in what you expect others to say about you, so you work to try and correct anything before the criticism can come in.
If you had a parent who was preoccupied with surviving, they might not have given you a lot of reflections back about who you are, how you feel or how you are doing. So, you might not spend time reflecting or know that it is something you might really need.
Everyone’s story is going to look a little bit different.
These examples are simply a jumping off point to jog your mind as you reflect. And, remember, they can be so very subtle. They are probably outside your conscious awareness.
Don’t worry if you don’t come up with an answer right away. The idea is just to start seeing the patterns.
And, then make a choice about whether you wish to continue those patterns (some are good!!) or if you want to make some changes. If you want to make changes, just know that it takes practice. So be patient with yourself.
The other interesting part is that these patterns of how you care for yourself also show up in how you care for the ones that are the closest to you in your every day life.
It could be your pets. I rushed my dogs the other day, poor things. And they let me know they were pissed about it.
Or it could be your significant other or your own child.
That is how the patterns get passed down.
You treat your closest connections the way you treat yourself.
My mother rarely gave herself enough time, had enough fun, filled up the car with enough gas, paid herself enough in her business. She rarely allowed her own emotions which is why they would get so so big. So, that is the program she had in caring for me. It also reinforced the patterns since she modeled them in the way she cared for herself.