LIFE

7 things I stopped doing that revolutionised my self care.

MEL NOAKES

The Self Care Coach

Do you juggle your tasks or spin many plates?  Try and please lots of people in your life?  Put everyone else first? Find it difficult to find a minute for yourself?

Self care was not something that came easily to me.  In fact, I find it’s not something that comes easily to many women.  We have a seemingly never-ending list of things to do and be.  We measure ourselves by exacting standards, and yet we acept far less from others.

It wasn’t all that long ago that it dawned on me that this never ending list of things I had to measure up to, the ‘perfect’ person I was trying to be, was not only difficult to maintain but was draining the life out of me.  It was the reason I burnt out at work.  The driving force behind my eating disorder.  The reason I’d found myself stuck in places.  I realised that something had to change.  I had to change. Along the way

Along the way, I learned these 7 valuable lessons.

Embracing self care changes everything.

Photograph by Lucy Williams, My Heart Skipped 

1. I started saying no more often

I hold my hands up to the fact I am a people pleaser.  I also have a healthy dose of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  My good friends would often say I do more in a morning than they do in a week.  Saying ‘no’ was not in my vocabulary.  I would jump to help someone with extra work, say yes to every social activity going (even if that meant attending multiple things in different places in one day), take on extra work or responsibilities, take every single phone call, return every email – well, you get the picture.

None of these things I mention is inherently ‘bad’, but collectively it meant I never had any boundaries.  I let myself be taken advantage of. I wore myself down and I never took any time out to look after myself or my own needs.  I tried to please too many people and ended up pleasing no one, least of all myself. I started to experiment with ‘no’ in small ways at first until it became more natural and easy.  I quickly realise that saying ‘no’ wasn’t me rejecting someone else or not being able to cope, it was about loving myself first and being true to my own needs.

So I started to experiment with ‘no’ in small ways at first until it became more natural and easy.  I’d say no to social engagements, or taking on a piece of additional work.  I’d hold my breathe and wait for the world to end and realised it never did.

I quickly realised that saying ‘no’ wasn’t me rejecting someone else or not being able to cope, it was about loving myself first and being true to my own needs.

 

2. I let go of ‘perfect’

I have spoken much of my quest for perfection.  For me being ‘perfect’ was a way to make sure I was never hurt or left by someone I loved.  It was a way to be perceived as good by the people I met. Only it didn’t work. I wasn’t happy and no amount of ‘perfect’ can control the world around us. Anorexia, burnout, heartbreak – I escaped none of these things, in fact, they were caused by my constant push for perfection in everything I did.

Instead, I started to embrace the idea of growth rather than perfect. I

In my business I adopted a ‘done is better than perfect’ approach and found things like my emails were written more quickly and honestly and received better feedback.

With my relationships, I was honest about what I needed in addition to giving to others and found that my relationships flourished.

When it came to my body, I started to embrace what was rather than compare myself to unobtainable standards.  I moved my body to feel strong rather than to maintain a shape or size and I ate food that made me feel energised and alive.

Slowly but surely perfection has been replaced with progress.

“When you create space for new ideas, you allow the possibility of something better entering your life”

3. I stopped fighting myself

You’re stupid.  You don’t know enough.  You’re not good enough.  You look like a pig in a blanket.  You’ll never be as good as x.

Let’s just say that my internal dialogue wasn’t entirely supportive! ‘Critical FM’ was the only channel in my head and the volume was set to a constant high level.  It made decision making difficult, often I was paralysed by fear or indecisiveness.  I found it hard to speak up for myself or others.

Working with a coach I got to know this inner voice. I started to understand its origins, its needs and how to gently start to turn the volume down.  I learned to be in conversation with it rather than at the end of its sharp tongue and slowly but surely I learned to tame the beast.

Is that voice still there, absolutely.  Does it run the show?  Absolutely not.

4. I stopped all or nothing thinking

It’s good or bad.  Right or wrong.  Perfect or terrible.  For many, many years life existed in absolutes with nothing in between.  This played out most significantly within my eating disorder.  I had what I like to call the “f**k it point” mentality.  The second I fell off the waggon, if I ate something I perceived to be bad, or wrong, or naughty – I’d tell myself I’d blown it and I might as well go all the way.  It’s why when  I work with clients who have dieted for years I resonate so strongly – it’s not such a different thing.

When I started to accept that there was a space in between black and white, a space that allowed opportunity, exploration, growth, learning – it started to change everything.  Just because I had had an ‘episode’ it didn’t mean I was fatally flawed.  It meant I had a bad day or needed to express something I couldn’t in another way.  I started to see those episodes as flag poles letting me know there was something that needed attention.  It helped me recover but it also helped me apply that thinking to many other areas of my life, for the better.

5. I stopped allowing energy vampires in my life

We all have friends that enter the room and light us up.  That enhance life and make the experiences we have even better. Then we have those friends that do the opposite. Simply put I started to recognise them and slowly, with love, let them go.

Everyone has a past, but the future is yours to create.

Photograph by Lucy Williams via myheartskipped.

 6. I stopped punishing myself

Punishment comes in many forms.  I’d often walk home because I didn’t feel I was worthy of spending the money to get a cab or bus, even after a long day.  I’d go to the gym (often more than once a day) to beat my body into submission and force it to be a certain shape.  I constantly reinforced messages to myself that I was less than and so the cycle was hard to interrupt.

Instead, I focussed on small acts of daily kindness towards myself. Every single day I did one small thing that was kind to myself from a kind word to a call to a friend to buying myself flowers.  Over time I noticed a softening in the way I spoke to myself, the treatment I expected from others and myself and I was much clearer about my needs.  Without even realising I was eating better, exercising more healthily and my relationships were improving.  Self care, self love, changed everything.

7.  I stopped caring what other people thought

Most if not all of us want to be liked.  But we can place too much attention on what we think other people think of us.  This held me back for years and meant I often put my own needs last as I was worried I would appear selfish or self-absorbed.  I would often agonise about conversations I’d had and if a friend didn’t phone me back I immediately assumed it was because they hated me and I’d done something bad.  Needless to say, not the most positive way to think or behave.

When I stepped onto the stage at BeFit London it was the culmination of many months of reframing this situation for myself.  I worked on many of my beliefs and started to accept that whilst I did care what people thought of me, I wasn’t going to let it stop me doing what I needed to do or putting myself first when it was important to. I started to prioritise myself and not only did I flourish but my relationships did too as I was more present, more rested and many friends have told me since that I’ve inspired them to do the same.

 

What one thing will you look to stop doing this month to improve your own self care?

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