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The Self-Love Self-Care Connection

By Trish Briggs

As a pre-teen, I remember vehemently telling relatives that I would not be following in my mother‘s footsteps to become a nurse. I surprised myself by how strongly I responded to their suggestion that I should. What they could see but I couldn’t was that I was a natural caregiver. At the time, I felt this pathway would be self-destructive for me and lead to heartbreak. It literally scared the crap out of me to even consider it. I didn’t fully understand the why of it. I said, “I am not interested in the drama of nursing.”

Later in life, I would come to realize in hindsight that I was a highly sensitive and empathetic child. As a result, I lived more in the spiritual then I did in the physical; it felt safer for me. Being fully in the physical was very painful because of my high level of sensitivities. Understandably, the strong emotions and drama of the physical frightened me. It overwhelmed me. I was instinctively and naturally avoiding it by hanging out with angels. Basically, I had no coping skills for handling my high sensitivity, other than retreat. At the time, I didn’t understand any of this. I just knew that I felt different, and I was different.

Later, I would also come to realize on my own that I am a natural born caregiver, and that I had been denying this intrinsic part of who I am. Not surprisingly, I ended up choosing Chemistry as my first field of interest. It was a safe choice. However, looking back, even then in the background I was the caregiver for my team. I even recall another chemist telling me that I would be a natural as a mother.

It was not until after the birth of my first child, that my heart acknowledged I am a natural caregiver. I found the part of myself that I had been denying.

I went back to school and trained to become a nurse. I took to nursing like a duck to water. I learned quickly and easily. I had found my calling. I knew this was what I was supposed to be doing. Instead of hindering me, my high level of sensitivity and empathy elevated my caregiving. For the first time, I felt like I was a small part of something bigger, but at the same time I felt like I was making a difference in people’s lives.

Why am I telling you all this?

Despite being a natural at caregiving, I sucked at self-care.

I gave care to others every day, but when it came to giving care to myself, I didn’t comprehend the need. There was a disconnection. My daughter pointed this out to me. I could intellectually see what she was showing me, but I couldn’t physically change it when the opportunities presented themselves. Each time she pointed it the steps to care for myself, it felt like a new idea to me. I don’t believe that I would have searched for the source of this disconnection without her intervention (consistently pointing it out) and perspective. It was my blind spot.

I am talking about a level of self-care that was bigger than eating the right foods and exercise. I am talking about something as simple as taking Tylenol for a headache. I would suffer through the headache and never have the thought, maybe I should take a Tylenol. When it pertains to my physical body, my brain just didn’t make the connection that there is something I can do to make it feel better. My brain was empty/void. It was a very odd feeling of nothingness. There was a link between my brain and body missing with respect to self-care.

When most people seek answers, they reach out to the spiritual for guidance. I didn’t find any quick answers for my dilemma in the spiritual. I intellectualized that since this was a physical issue for me, maybe my answer would be found in the physical, not the spiritual. Ergo, I consciously set the intention to be mindfully more present in the physical. This change in perspective did help because I started to see things that had eluded me in the past.

As I unraveled the mystery of my missing link, I discovered a deep-seated belief that needed to be adjusted. From watching my mother, I had created a belief system that everyone should “take care of others and others’ needs first.” Being a child of spirit, I took this belief to heart and polished it until it was a golden rule for me. I lived by this rule, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. Previously, there was no thought to question, where was my care within this belief. Now I questioned, “Where was it?”

From my new perspective, being more fully in the physical, I realized that most let the spiritual guide them. I had not only let the spiritual guide me, but I had allowed them to drive me. I had given them the wheel because I didn’t know any better as a child. And they still had the wheel. From a spiritual perspective, there is no understanding of physicality. Everything is viewed as energy. In other words, there was no concept of what my body needed physically when I hung with the angels. Hence, I didn’t even know when I needed Tylenol.

I could now understand why my mind went blank when it was time to apply self-care principles. Armed with this new information, I thought this would be an easy transition. During the process of trying to integrate this information, I clarified that the emotions of love, compassion and empathy underlie true caring. I know these emotions are my strong suit. I have the knowledge; I just need to apply it to myself. It sounds simple, but I couldn’t do it. Why?

Digging deep, I realized that I felt others were worthy of these emotions from me, but I wasn’t. I didn’t know where this thought kept coming from. With more unraveling, I discovered that it was buried within the same belief package that I was attempting to adjust. Worthiness of others was written into the belief by the word “first.” This word “first” implied that others were more worthy than me. There was a ranking that translated in my brain to unworthiness.

I now had all the building blocks that were lacking and causing my disconnection to self-care. Through self-reflection and time, I began to feel my worthiness, and in that worthiness, I could give myself the self-love, self-compassion, and self-empathy that had been lacking. More importantly, I could begin to incorporate self-care into my regime.

Just as important, I realized the value of getting answers from the physical, as well as the spiritual and learned that self-care has both a spiritual and physical component (as do most things). Part of the spiritual component is about setting boundaries so that I never lose sight of the physical needs of my body. In other words, I needed to take back the control of the wheel so that I can move with ease between the two realms. The physical component is about listening to the needs of my physical body and caring for them.

*Image above is my mother, Anita in her nursing uniform.

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