What Does Self Care Look Like?
by David A. Yeats LCSW
Children raised in secure environments with secure bonding to a parent, tend to experience themselves as good, and the world as safe and filled with opportunities and possibilities. However, those of us raised in insecure environments, with insecure attachment (that is, insecure bonding with a parent) tend not to see ourselves as good or worthy, nor do we see the world as a safe or inviting place. (See the posts on Attachment on this website).
A “good enough” parent teaches a child that she or he is well loved. Whether we had that kind of parenting or not, it is our job to learn to love, value, respect and cherish ourselves.
Our primary job in life is to love ourselves in the same way that we deserved to be loved by our parents. If we experienced a secure bonding with a parent, we learned that we are worth being paid attention to, considered and supported, sometimes even be the center of attention and the center of the universe, that we are treated with unconditional tenderness and respect and regard. We are guided and directed tenderly and patiently. We feel the delight in our parent’s eye as they see us, tend to us, and care for us.
Loving ourselves means that we recognize that we are worth paying attention to, that we are considerate of ourselves, that we are supportive to ourselves—that we sometimes even permit ourselves to be the center of attention and the center of the universe, and that we treat ourselves (and expect to be treated) with unconditional tenderness and respect and regard. We guide and direct ourselves tenderly and patiently. We feel delight as we see and appreciate ourselves, tend to ourselves, and care for ourselves.
True caring for ourselves looks like the way a loving parent would treat a child. If I were to treat myself in that spirit…
-I pay attention to my needs.
-I keep myself safe.
-I learn I can trust myself to say and do good things for myself, to relate to myself
without judging or questioning my goodness and worth.
-I trust my feelings, my thoughts, my intuitions, and my intentions.
-I confidently set boundaries and let others know my groundrules for being treated respectfully.
-I care about others and build bridges to them of support, acceptance, and collaboration.
-When I make mistakes, I honor myself for having tried, and for having done the best I could do.
-I don’t question that I am doing the best I can at all times.
-I appreciate all that I am and I accept all that I am not.
-My joy and well-being are of utmost importance.
-My unconditional loving of myself makes it easy to love and care for others.
-I recognize my job is to take care of me, of my garden, and to let others manage themselves.
-I focus on loving first myself, then others, and on learning, creating, and becoming.
- I notice when negative thoughts come up, (judgment, criticism, blaming, self doubting,
worrying, and so on), and I deliberately and consciously redirect my mind toward positive, creative, and joyful thoughts.
-I am aware that my well-being results from connection with others, not from isolating myself
-I seek to be as aware and conscious as I can
We know that these are parents’ concerns when they raise a secure, aware, loving child. And we can treat ourselves in this way as well. Those of us raised in less secure environments generally have greater doubt, fear, mistrust, and lack of clarity to contend with in our lives. But since we have come to understand what it takes to raise a secure, loving human, why would we not want to learn to treat ourselves in the same attentive, focused, and unconditionally loving way?
That is what self care and self love are all about.