To read the first post in this series, click here.
Are you aware of when and why you are pushing yourself beyond your body’s recommendations? I used to think I would be pushing myself only if I was, say, training for the Olympics. Now, I understand I’m pushing myself if I feel tension in my stomach and don’t take a moment to listen to the inherent message. Pushing myself can be as simple as going out with friends when I’m actually tired and would like an evening at home.
The flip side of listening to our bodies and not pushing ourselves unhealthily is going one step further and actually nurturing ourselves. It sounds great, we talk about doing it, but do we put it in our schedules? Do we even know what nurtures us?
If you’re in pain, ill, or overweight, you have not been nurturing yourself. Your body is asking for a deeper kind of self-nurture that goes beyond bubble baths and the occasional massage. In fact, deep self-nurture takes work. It takes effort. Just like in any relationship, you get what you put into your relationship with yourself.
Self-nurturing is about taking time to listen to what your body and inner self are saying. What are those messages your body is trying to convey? Maybe it really wants you to know that you’re thinking all kinds of stressful thoughts that aren’t true. Maybe it wants you to realize that you’re a novel writer at heart and you’ve been denying your creativity all these years. Maybe it wants you to know that your gut feelings regarding that relationship you’re unsure about are on target. Whatever it is, it’s always helpful, always important, and always the next step on your path to living authentically.
Living authentically can be damn hard. It means telling yourself the truth. It’s amazing how much we try to ignore and deny in our lives, because we don’t want to rock the boat, make others unhappy, or do things that would bring perceived criticism or judgment our way. I have denied massive truths in my own life, only to have my body collapse under the weight of shoving such knowledge out of my awareness. Self-nurturing is having the courage to look at truth and acknowledge it. Even though this will sometimes rock the boat, it always brings an enormous sense of relief. You’ll feel it – your body will relax. What it’s been trying to tell you has finally been heard.
You may have to sit quietly with yourself, with your journal, snuggled in a blanket, every day for months. Eventually, however, truths will emerge. You will have given yourself the gift of focusing on your internal world – your thoughts, emotions, and sensations. That’s all it takes to begin releasing stress, physical pain, and extra weight.
It’s so easy to not do this kind of self-nurture. It’s easy to overbook ourselves, escape into activity, overeating, ruminating endlessly, shopping, reading novels, etc. These are all just ways to avoid looking at our internal world. I know, having done those things and more for most of my life. Until, of course, I finally started listening to what my body was trying to say. Until I took the time to look inward, every day. Now, it is such a healing, beloved part of my life that I can’t imagine living without this kind of self-nurturing.
If you start with this kind of self-nurture, it will soon expand to other things. You’ll discover that play is a form of self-nurture. You’ll begin exploring all the ways that you can make yourself feel loved. Because that’s what’s really behind self-nurturing, and that’s really what your body and inner self are aching to receive. Your love. Directed inward, toward yourself. One of my favorite fellow coaches, Jeannette Maw, recommends asking the question: What feels like love today?
Today, love might feel like a good cry. A walk. A journal entry. A conversation with a good friend. A meditation. A nap. It might feel like paying attention to what you’re really feeling, all day long. And so much more…
It’s for you to discover. And what a fun exploration – diving into you, to learn about you, and find out what does make you feel nurtured and loved. If you start with awareness time and inward focus, you’ll find out so much, so quickly.