My vision is of a world where every person has access to the tools, techniques and knowledge to master their wellbeing, and that they feel empowered to use them. Everyone is worthy of wellness and wellness comes through consistent self-care.
I am an advocate of adopting ‘self-care first’ as a core value. I believe this brings freedom, vitality and joy. I have only come to this realization after ending up, aged 37, chronically stressed and burned out. I was anxious, depressed, highly stressed and unable to function. That was in 2017. I am pleased to say that life looks and feels very different now!
If you’d asked me then what self-care was, I’d probably say it’s eating your vegetables, taking exercise and managing your personal care. Nothing more. Yes, these are components of self-care, but only a tiny part of it. As I learned from my own experience, true ‘self-care first’ can only happen from a place of self-love, compassion, worthiness and deserving.
Many of us are conditioned early in life to please others. To conform in society, culturally, in school and at home. In some cases, as in my own experience, a parent or caregiver can unknowingly place excessive responsibility onto a child for their happiness. Perhaps a child is in the presence of an unpredictable parent or caregiver. In the uncertainty of how said parent/caregiver might respond in any given moment, the child learns to do everything they possibly can to please and appease. In the eyes of a child, this is essential for safety, security and survival.
Where am I going with this and how does it relate to self-care? Over time, circumstances such as these slowly diminish a child’s spirit. Their sense of spontaneity and fun is squashed. This eventually leads to feelings of shame, guilt, and an over-responsibility for the feelings and happiness of others.
Perfectionism sets in, emotions are repressed, self-worth and self-esteem are damaged and so the spiral begins.
Underneath all of this, limiting beliefs may have formed. Beliefs such as “everyone else first.” “I don’t matter.” “Fred is unhappy right now, it must be my fault.” “There’s something wrong with me if I can’t keep everyone else happy.” “I’m not good enough.” Can you see how the pressure is building and how our own self-care might be pushed further down the list of priorities? In many cases, this is subconscious. We don’t even know that these beliefs exist within us.
Whilst this may sound quite overwhelming, there is good news. If this is resonating with you, please know that it doesn’t have to be that way. No matter your starting point, it is never too late to make changes – because you are worthy of wellness. Everyone is. In the words of Abraham Hicks “Let your alignment with well-being be first and foremost, and let everything else be secondary”.
Now imagine this. Consider what the world would be like if we were all taught self-awareness, self-connection, self-kindness, self-compassion, the healthy setting of boundaries and saying ‘no’ as acts of self-care? What if we were taught that we are sacred and divine beings. That it is essential to health to be nurtured and nourished? What if we were taught that leisure, play and fun were also acts of self-care? What if we were encouraged at home and at school to cultivate the belief that we are worthy?
If you are reading this and reflecting on your own life and self-care practices, you might be wondering, where to start. Perhaps you’re judging yourself for not having ‘better’ self-care practices. My invitation is to let this go and release the pressure – your first act of self-kindness perhaps? Instead, try observing with curiosity whilst you keep reading. Just notice your inner narrative.
Before you begin, ask yourself: Do I want to lead myself with a nice juicy carrot? Or do I want to lead myself with a rather unpleasant stick? Personally, I recommend choosing the carrot option! I often remind myself “less stick, more carrot Carli!” Once you’ve chosen the carrot, you have your reward
motivation in place and it is time to start.
Begin incrementally and gently. Slow down and come back to yourself through your breath and by finding stillness. It can feel like a tender process at times. In truth, this isn’t just a journey to self-care, but a journey back to yourself. You will slowly return to the innate wisdom and intelligence of your body, just as nature intended.
It’s time to step away from the onslaught of external input and information overload. Come out of your head and drop into your heart to begin cultivating a place of stillness within. Time in nature is miraculous for this – my number one self-care recommendation! Through the quiet and the stillness, you will begin to hear the whispers on the inside. In the spaces between the breath is where the wisdom resides.
Your body houses your inner guidance system. If you’re tuned in, it will tell you everything you need to know. Trust me, your body is wiser and more intelligent than you have been led to believe. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to learn how to listen to its wisdom and to interpret the messages being sent; then to respond to the care your body is asking for. Think of it this way: Your body is your vehicle through life, and you wouldn’t ignore the engine management system light in your car, would you?
As you begin this inner journey, you will start to sift out what’s not yours and what no longer serves you. This could be thoughts, repressed emotions, beliefs and career paths, to relationships, lifestyle choices and everything in between. It’s a courageous step, but it’s worth it! I liken it to sorting out the loft, basement or garage. You’ll be discovering stuff you didn’t even know you had! You might wonder how on earth you came to be in possession of what you find You might ask how you didn’t notice it before.
As you go on this journey of building self-awareness and reconnecting with yourself, you may start to notice that your inner world is reflected back at you in your lived experience. Did you know that we attract into our lives what we hold within us? Imagine what you might attract if self-care, self-love, self-compassion and self-worth were your set points!
This sifting and sorting process might not always be pleasant. Imagine what you might find hidden in the dark corners. Perhaps you come across a rat and some creepy crawlies (old beliefs and repressed emotions) that look and feel less than desirable. In those moments there is a choice point. You can leave them where they are, letting them eat whatever they scavenge for (your self-worth, perhaps), or – my preference and recommendation – you can let them go and set them free, in turn setting yourself free!
By coming back to the breath and the heart. Through non-judgmental observation and slowing down, you can cultivate greater levels of self-care. Think of it as a process of re-parenting yourself. It’s important to remember that everything you were holding onto served a purpose at some point in your life. As you let it go, do so with gratitude for the role it played. Acknowledge that it’s no longer serving you. You are now creating beautiful space for the new. For the true YOU and cultivating self-care first into your life. In my view, this is radical self-care and an incredible journey back to wellness and vitality.
Living in this intentional way is leading by example. In doing so, we inspire others to care more for themselves too. Perhaps pause and think for a moment: What did you learn from your parents or caregivers about self-care? What behaviors or beliefs did you observe in them that you can also
see in yourself? How were you influenced by those around you? And the most important question: How would you like to do it differently? You will feel increasingly empowered with each step you take in this new direction.
Simply by living it and emanating your new-found sense of self and wellbeing, others will notice and ask what you are doing differently. This creates a wonderful ripple effect, one person at a time. Can you imagine what kind of world we would be living in if we all practiced radical self-care, every day? Imagine how resourced you would feel! Imagine the capacity you would have to live your life to its fullest potential. Imagine if this was integrated into communities, families, education establishments and the workplace.
It would be amazing wouldn’t it?
Carli Thorpe is the creator of Vitality Naturally Holistic and a Wellness Coach & Mentor, certified as a Pilates Instructor, Energy Alignment Method Mentor & Life Coach and Embodied Dance Facilitator. She has also studied with the Heartmath Institute, completing the trauma-informed Resilient Heart certification; META-Health & Lifestyle Prescriptions; Therapeutic Exercise and has certificates in Anatomy & Physiology; Nutrition and Mental Health First Aid.
Carli empowers others to take back control of their well-being, so they can live with natural vitality and joy. By intuitively guiding self-mastery for wellness, she shares powerful tools, techniques and knowledge learned through her personal journey and studies, advocating ‘self-care first’ across the four fundamental elements of wellness - physical, emotional, mental and spiritual (the PEMS approach©). Carli passionately believes that everyone is worthy of wellness. Her vision is of a world where every person feels empowered and has access to use the tools, techniques and
knowledge that facilitates well-being self-mastery.