What exactly is self-care?
In today’s world, everyone is selfish and thinks only about themselves. Spirituality teaches us that we have to become on the inside the change that we want to see on the outside. Instead, we are mostly doing things to try to change other people and control situations. How, then, do we self-care?
It helps to distinguish selfishness and self-care. Selfishness is asking others to do and be what we think is right according to our perception. We tend to neglect ourselves to achieve something external. Self-care is accepting our positives and our negatives, devoting our time to knowing ourselves and growing spiritually, and taking responsibility for our actions. When we are completely honest with our own self, we live a life that is satisfying and complete.
Starting at an early age, we learned how to dress, button our shirts, tie our shoelaces, schedule our hygiene, clean our room and go to school. In school, we were taught to be on time, be kind to friends, help each other, not hurt others, talk politely and learn our subjects. All of our responsibilities were managed by our parents, teachers and other adults when we were younger. As we grew older, we experienced more emotions and situations, but no one ever taught us how to take care of our own, unique self. We all know how to look perfect, but what about feeling perfect, or cleaning our mind and soothing ourselves? We became a “human doing.” We do many things perfectly; we feel responsible and so we do everything responsibly. We perfectly carry out our roles of being an obedient student, an ideal daughter or son, a great friend, an amazing mom or dad. But in the process of doing and following all the rules of the roles we play, we have neglected the part about becoming a “human being”.
We earned master’s degrees and Ph,D.s, but no one taught us creativity in consciousness. We never had to accept self-responsibility. We even decided that God takes care of us, so whatever happened in life that was not according to what we planned was someone else’s responsibility. We followed strict organic eating guidelines, exercise regimens and schedules. No one discussed the topics of self-care and self-responsibility. We haven’t been taught how to manage our emotions, to accept people and love compassionately.
How to self-care, or what exactly is our responsibility?
As we learn emotions, our mind is let loose to ride the coaster of zillions of thoughts followed by more emotions. We are handed the ticket to enjoy the party of self-abuse. The actions of other people start to hurt us, and we get annoyed easily by people, places, and situations. We assume that a person or situation is responsible for our state and how we feel, and we wait for an apology or for the situation to change to be happy again or feel better. We blame others for all that is happening in our life. Some of us never realize this and continue to experience pain for our entire life. We assume our thoughts and feelings will change when another person makes us feel better, that our happiness and inner peace is dependent on the external world and not on ourselves.
Think about it: We even blame the weather for the discomfort we experience! When it is hot outside, we feel agitated and say the weather is so bad we can’t be normal, or that it’s too hot to be pleasant. Now if you think practically, the weather is always uncertain and we have absolutely no control over it. Yet we love to blame the weather so that we do not have to be responsible for how we feel. We blind our minds to the awareness that the weather doesn’t personally decide or choose to annoy anyone. How each person reacts to the same weather conditions depends on factors, such as where they grew up or their body type. Some love the heat, some hate it! It is the same with our emotions. Different reactions to the same situation are created by the individual and not by external stimulus.
Responsibility is being aware that every thought, every action, how you feel and think, your attitude, beliefs that you carry, and actions you do — all are created by you and you alone. How you respond to a situation or circumstance is your responsibility. The ability to respond is your responsibility! Why choose to carpet the whole world when you could simply wear shoes to protect your own feet?
He hurt me … she hurt me … playing the blame game
This starts early on in life. I see my two-year-old son get frustrated with his Legos — he says “Legos meme (‘mean’), Mommy.” We love to escape our responsibility to think, and we blame others for everything: “I am not happy because he or she did so and so.” People act according to their perception toward the world. Allowing others’ actions to hurt us or affect us depends on us, as we create the response to whatever may be the situation. A common mistake we make in romantic relationships is depending on our partner to soothe our pain or make us happy and fulfill all our emotional needs. Most of us get married, expecting that our partner will accept responsibility to fix our pains, hence allowing our mind to create more hurt instead.
If it is raining outside, instead of wearing a raincoat or carrying an umbrella, we sit and crib about how mean the rain is. The rain chose to fall the exact day I planned to wear a sundress, the rain gave me a cold or the flu, and so on. We all do it or have done this in our lives. It’s so easy to blame external things rather than accept life for what it is.
This is where no one taught us what to do. We conveniently throw our reactions on to our friends, or the partner who wants to share our life. We expect them to make us feel better, and in return we slide deeper into the depths of disappointment. Repeating the story a million times in our head and reaffirming the same incident over and over creates the habit of feeling sad. I have a few clients whose minds find reasons to be unhappy. It is because they have given their minds complete permission to look at suffering rather than at the blessings they have.
We were not taught that we could be happy 24/7. Our thoughts give rise to our emotions, and we could feel happy no matter what the situation is.
If someone hurts you, as soon as they apologize you should be able to feel better. I have heard people say, “You don’t mean the sorry.” Even if the person is really sorry, we are unable to accept it because we created the hurt and only we can apply the bandage that would end the feeling of hurt. Therefore, what people say or do is not the reason for our hurt. We are responsible for creating feelings of pain from others’ actions. Only we, and no one else, can change it.
Happiness is a state of mind, and we have unlimited access to it!
You alone are responsible for your happiness. No other person and no other situation out there is responsible for your happiness. You can be happy whenever, wherever, despite external factors.
Responsibility is taking care of all your thoughts, actions, and attitudes. They are all your creation and you are responsible for keeping your being constantly happy.
Happiness can be achieved when you learn to discipline your mind, when you give your mind clear instructions about what to do and the right way of thinking.
Imagine a car with a driver who has been given permission to drive however fast he wants. He can drive on the wrong side of the road, take the wrong route, run over trees, back up in an exit lane, and rashly bump into whatever cars or obstacles he desires. It’s just chaos in your mind!
Now imagine you are sitting in the back seat, not noticing what the damage is but feeling the jerks and the bumps of the moving vehicle. Someone is yelling at your driver, and in return your driver is yelling at you (self-critiquing and judging).
It’s you who needs to wake up, take charge, and control the driver and instruct him to drive correctly. You are to blame for allowing your mind to drive like a maniac. Your mind waits for instructions or discipline that you fail to give. When you blame and give power to external stimulus, everything that is happening to you is because you think someone or something outside is responsible for it.
The mind loves to tell you what is missing in you and in your life. Your mind has your permission to create thoughts that say you are insufficient and worthless. You gave your mind permission to drive erratically, and only you can change it.
We create everything
Learn to be honest about how you feel and what your priorities are; otherwise, you will continue the pattern of being miserable and acting like a victim. Some people get into the habit of blaming their past or upbringing. Self-responsibility is to be aware of your past, to accept how you have lived. Your cultural upbringing is not what affects you now. When you blame the past, you live in the past. The hurt you create is yours.
We often are not aware that we are holding on to the past. When you accept that you are the creator of all your thoughts and that whatever happened in the past is no longer in your control, you feel powerful internally. You alone can end the misery you are choosing to live with.
Be aware of blamers
When you accept that you are responsible for creating your own happiness and joy, then others will see that they, too, are eligible to create their happiness.
You are not responsible for others’ feelings and actions. Do not ever blame yourself or feel guilty about it! We all come across people who blame us and say it is because of our actions that they are unhappy. Do not let such people bring you down. They are creating their own hurt. You can try to understand and have compassion for them, but apart from that, their feelings are not in your control. Your apologies will not bring them out of their pain. If their habit is to dive deeper in pain and float in pain, they will follow that pattern, building a fort around themselves and repeating that behavior again and again until they realize they are creating it.
You are the most important person in your life and you always come first. This is not being selfish! It’s accepting responsibility for your happiness without denying or being dishonest to your feelings. Spirituality gives us that liberty to take care of that one person, and that is you. Only when you transform yourself will the world around you transform!
Tips for self-care
- YOU are Happiness. YOU are Peace. YOU are Love. It flows from the inside out, not the outside in.
- Regardless of things happening outside you, consciously choose how to think, feel, and respond.
- Shift your focus on taking personal responsibility rather than on blaming anything external.
- Consciously choose to be stable in response to external situations and the behavior of people in any interaction.
- Take an umbrella or wear a coat so you don’t get wet or catch cold. Protect yourself!
- Stop accepting sadness or hurt. Let go of people who bring you down.
- Stop blaming the past for your choice to be miserable in the present. Your feelings today are entirely your choice and your responsibility.
- People, events, circumstances, the planets — they are not responsible for how we think, feel, and respond to any situation.
- It is not what others say or do that hurts us. We are responsible for our own hurt. Create happiness all around you!
- Suffering in life is sometimes inevitable; to be miserable or not is your choice.
- Be truthful and honest with how you feel because your feelings will always tell you your state of mind.
- No one else can take care of YOU better than yourself.
When you take care of the most important person in your life — YOU — you are completely aware of your happiness scale. When you guide your driver (mind) in a positive direction, your car won’t get any bumps or scratches (your body is disease-less). You live in bliss, accepting everyone for who and what they are. Hence, all relationships are in harmony and you only spread happiness, creating a better world for you and everyone around you.
Take responsibility for YOU today. Love and nurture YOURSELF!