A few years back, a friend of mine and I were having this wonderfully deep conversation about life and purpose, and he says this proverb-like sentence. "Live how you want, not how you feel". The concept is so simple and yet it blew my mind.
I've been thinking about writing about this statement and its relationship to self care for about a week. I've been contrasting in my mind the self care topics that my clients have brought up to those in my life. They are all basic, but critical needs. Things like balance, health, friendships, relationships, which all contribute to our sense of self, our sense of well being.
Personally, health has loomed large on my mind. I recently started working out and tracking calories, but in the past week my commitment had waned. My sleep patterns have been all over the place, and the other night, I didn't fall asleep until just after dawn. I have felt disconnected, foggy, and have had no desire to work out. I didn't plan ahead today and went shopping on an empty stomach, which resulted in me doing the McDonalds walk of shame. I felt like crud, and I was ignoring how I wanted to feel. How I wanted to be living. When I feel like this, I feel like a ship being tossed around in a tumultuous sea, without energy or agency, without ability to right myself. Sound familiar?
I think we can all agree self care matters. What is more crucial is how that self care manifests. Yes, you can take care of yourself, and do the motions of self care, without actually caring about oneself. True self care starts when the mind and heart are connected and aligned. Ever have that internal tug of war? Two voices shouting at each other about a decision? For me, that usually has to do with eating something not so great, or getting the gumption to work out. The crazy thing? The actions of self care are easy. So, so easy. It took thirty minutes to work out today. I didn't even have to go anywhere. I first had to win my internal tug of war first, starting with addressing how I was treating myself for eating a crummy dinner. I also shifted my focus towards my workout as a something I looked forward to, instead of something I was doing to atone for my gustatory sins. For my head and heart to be in alignment, my workout could not be a sweaty flagellation.
So what is behind your internal tug of war? Shame? Guilt? Fear? Avoidance? When those emotions rule your world, the heart cannot shine. The heart cannot lead you down extraordinary paths. You end up sit on the couch, eating ice cream, beating yourself up for not working out and for eating ice cream, which only makes you want to eat more ice cream and not work out. (real world experience talking here). You live how you feel.
It takes an intentional moment to shift yourself into alignment with what you actually want. For me what I want is a healthy life. Self care started with recognizing what it is I truly wanted, and going after that instead. Self care started with recognizing I deserve that beautiful way of living. Self care requires a simple shift. Each and every time you start to go another way, you have the ability and the choice to make self care a joy, instead of a chore. Each time you eat, a beautiful ode to your body, filling it with fantastic food. Each time you work out, a gorgeous expression of your body, instead of a penance for eating poorly. That shift into self care is like a muscle, one that I work on with my clients, and personally practice daily. Today, that shift took only a few moments and self care became easy again. I was living how I wanted.
I invite you to explore your bouts of internal tug of war, even those that seem mundane. Instead of letting things run on auto pilot, step in and look around. What's lurking behind the fray? Are you living how you want? Or are you living according to how you feel?