There are five main facets of self-care: physical, personal, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Most of us find one or two of the facets to be natural strengths. Similarly, for most of us, there are one or two areas that don’t come naturally to us.
I’m no different. Emotional self-care comes naturally to me. It always has. For as long as I can remember I have been very in tune with my emotions and I have found it like a default for me to consciously practice emotional self-care. I naturally, intentionally and consistently employ strategies to ‘tend and befriend’ my emotions, seeking extra care when I feel I need it in a timely and determined manner.
It’s partly a case of nurture also: simply be being female I have had more encouragement in our society to engage with my emotions than I would have had were I male. I also was fortunate in that my parents are both emotionally intelligent people with experience as counsellors, so that has definitely helped. Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that I have developed a fascination with and strong desire to help others tend and befriend their own emotions.
I realise that’s not the case for everyone — many of the coaching clients I work with are looking for some support in the area of their emotional self-care. Simply reaching out to a coach and acknowledging that this is something you’d like to work on is an important step, because it requires both awareness and action. There are also many people for whom coaching or some other form of therapy would be of great help, who either ignore their emotional needs altogether or who are aware of their needs but do not intentionally care for them. Self-care of all types requires both conscious awareness and intentional action to be successful. The emotional side of things just happens to come naturally for me, and was then further encouraged through nurture.
Personal care, on the other hand, does not come naturally to me. Of the 5 facets of self-care, this is the area that I have consistently put last. It’s the area that I have to put the most conscious awareness and effort into. In all honesty, I’m a bit lazy. I have often been known to try to stretch my hair another day before being washed, my legs another week (or three!) before being waxed. I would frequently have either no polish on my nails, or it would be chipping off. It was not uncommon for me to get 3 haircuts a year, and still feel like that was too many! I just find personal care to be a big effort and it always ended up last on my list of priorities. (I feel I should mention here that personal care and hygiene, although overlapping, are slightly different. I brush my teeth and wash my hands and bathe every single day. I’m good at hygiene!)
As a high school teacher it doesn’t really matter what I look like (as long as I’m dressed modestly) and, in fact, in terms of behaviour management, I find the plainer I make myself the better. The longer I have been teaching, the more comfortable I have become with making less effort with my outfits, and easily settled into a boring, comfortable uniform of polo shirts, jeans or denim shorts and sensible black sandals. In a small country school, this is perfectly acceptable. On special occasions like ANZAC Ceremonies and Awards Nights, I dress up a bit. But after my first year I pretty much completely stopped wearing make up to those events and I never wear it on a normal school day. I have friends who won’t leave the house without a full face of make up on, which I’d like to point out that I have no problem with. It’s just that I’m the opposite — whether from laziness, defiance or lack of time, I rarely wear make up on special occasions let alone day to day. Even wearing make up to my own wedding was a big decision, and I wore hardly any.
Personal care just doesn’t come naturally to me. I have realised, though, that just because it doesn’t come naturally doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. I did have to examine what about it I do and don’t like, and what parts exactly were barriers for me, in order to put it higher on the priority list. For example, it makes me feel really nice when I have neatly manicured hands and pedicured feet. But, I prefer to do this myself in the comfort of my own home than have others do it. Similarly, eye make up is just a no for me, but I’m learning to appreciate a good base and blush and lip gloss!
So these school holidays I’ve been consciously and consistently making personal care a top priority. I had a massage a fortnight ago. I had my hair cut (at a nice salon too!) last week, and I took the time to straighten it the day I took this picture. I have been making sure I get dressed in nice clothes every day (not “holiday clothes” a.k.a. track suits) and have put on some makeup and jewellery almost every day. I had my eyebrows waxed today and I booked my next appointment as well.
I know for some this would all seem terribly ordinary, but it’s a big thing for me. It has required conscious awareness of my weaknesses, the obstacles and how to overcome them. It has also required intentional, consistent action. In other words, it requires discipline, which doesn’t sound very sexy or exciting.
Often people say the reasons they don’t practise more self-care is that they don’t have enough time and/or they don’t have enough money. Except, it’s not actually about the time or the money. It’s about what you value, and your priorities. People find time and money for things they really value. But, it’s also about discipline. Self-care requires discipline to be consistent, which is the only way to make it effective. It also is about having an understanding of yourself and your own personal strengths and weaknesses, and applying that discipline accordingly. What requires a lot of discipline to me (like putting on make up every day) is a piece of cake to someone else. That’s the thing about barriers to self-care: some of them are individual to us. A facet that comes naturally to one person is a conscious acquired skill to someone else.
So, which facets of self-care come naturally to you? And which require some more discipline? I’d love to know, so let me know in the comments below!