For many, practicing self-care is a life style change. It means giving up self-destructive habits. It’s a shift in perspective about how you view yourself and it’s adopting a pattern of positive behavior that reflects those perceptions.
When I first started to spend time with healthy people it seemed like I had entered into an alien world, where individuals looked and behaved very differently from the world I grew up in. In my world, people hated themselves and felt shame for every little thing. They weren’t comfortable in their own skin, they hurt and felt lost much of the time. A lot of people on my planet drank alcohol, or did drugs to continue abusing themselves long after their abusers had stopped. They didn’t value themselves and so they treated their mind, bodies and lives like they didn’t have value. It was a sad gloomy place and people passed that attitude down from generation to generation, never even perceiving that there was another way to be.
It’s easy to tell people who practice self-care from those that don’t. It’s evident in every aspect of their lives. Those that practice self-care are free to pursue their goals without dragging around generations of emotional baggage behind them. They don’t inflict self-harm, or get in their own way, they instead have tremendous amounts of confidence, they’re self-assured and treat themselves in a way that goes well beyond respect.
So what is it that they do differently? Well for starters, they don’t hate themselves. They don’t self-sabotage. They aren’t self-deprecating. They don’t believe that they have any voids to fill, and don’t believe that something is lacking or missing inside. They self-regulate their value and are generally optimistic about themselves, their lives and their future.
They are mindful of their feelings and take an active role in regulating their moods: When Oprah’s 25 years as host of the Oprah Winfrey show ended in 2011, we saw glimpses of what she was like behind-the-scenes in the last two episodes. What stood out to me was, even though those around her were sad and crying, she would stop herself from feeling sorrow. She would actually say to her staff, “I can’t go there with you,” and she didn’t permit herself to go to a negative place at all. She maintained her own inner peace and she knew that anything negative that she let swirl around in her mind, would manifest somewhere else, so she just didn’t allow herself to host those thoughts and feelings.
“I like to start my day with a few minutes of mood shifting. When I just wake up I might feel tired or groggy, so I’ll lie in bed for a few minutes and change my vibration from I don’t want to get up to, I love being alive. I’m happy and I love everything. It really changes my whole outlook on my day.” – Angela, Yoga Instructor
Many who practice self-care, practice some form of meditation. They know they are responsible for their attitude and their vibration, so they spend a part of everyday in deep mindfulness and become aligned with how they want to feel, while keeping negative thoughts and emotions at bay.
They take care of their bodies: Those that value themselves value the house that embodies their spirit and they treat it with the reverence it deserves. They are always mindful of what they put into it and they live an active lifestyle.
“I love making homemade soups. That way I can watch what I put into it. I don’t like to use too much salt and I want my vegetables to be fresh and usually organic. It fills me right up and it’s good for me too.” – Isabel G.
Taking care of your body doesn’t mean that you have to train like a professional athlete, or have the figure of a super model, but it does mean that you actively participate and are aware of how you are treating your body at all times. It doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge once in a while, but people that practice self-care don’t treat their bodies like garbage cans and they don’t use food to self-medicate. They listen to their bodies and pay attention to when something they’ve ingested doesn’t feel good and avoid it in the future.
They have an active social life and pursue whatever makes them happy: Healthy people love to have fun. You will often see them laughing it up with friends and engaged in activities that are entertaining and that challenge them and make them feel good. They love to travel, explore and enjoy the beauty that surrounds them.
They don’t isolate themselves from others and hide out in their homes, blocking out the rest of the world. They are part of it and have a strong sense of belongingness. For me, good conversation, a good atmosphere, good food, good wine and good company is my idea of paradise.
They live in reality and feed their mind: People that practice self-care are constantly searching for ways to become better people. They are curious and have a thirst for knowledge and adventure. They are open to change, tolerant of others and have a keen interest in new and different cultures, ideas and pursuits.
While they may imbibe once in a while, they don’t try to escape reality through substance abuse. They don’t judge or compare themselves to others. They like who they are and they believe that everyone should pursue what makes them happy, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights and beliefs of others.
They nurture themselves : Healthy people are kind to themselves and they don’t accept mistreatment. They take time out for themselves when they need to recharge and enjoy spending quality time alone. They take pleasure in simple things like, bubble baths, good books, hikes in nature, walking in the rain, a game of golf, or staring at sunsets. They seek out harmony and are very stable individuals.
They have standards: They don’t get pressured into doing things they don’t want to do. They expect to be respected, they expect to be treated fairly and they have an expectation that their needs and wants will be fulfilled. They have goals that they are free to pursue and don’t concern themselves with what other people think.
They have firm, well-established boundaries and a code of ethics that they live by. They have no problem speaking up for themselves, or speaking out against injustice. They have integrity and always try to be kind and do the right thing. They don’t sacrifice their morals or their self-esteem to please others. They know who they are and are comfortable in their own skin. They don’t chase after people who wish to change them, or don’t accept them for who they are.
Codependency is having a dysfunctional relationship with the self and self-care is having a healthy relationship with the self. It’s about knowing who you are and believing that you are good enough and worthy of having or achieving anything that you put your mind to. It’s about feeling like you belong and having the freedom to pursue what you want and what makes you happy.
Tony Robbins always says, “Success leaves clues,” so if you want to be fulfilled and lead a life that is happiness fueled, fun and full of self-love and success, then find someone that’s living that way and do what they’re doing. That’s the map. It’s already figured out for you.
If we’re lucky we have about 25,000 days on this planet – that’s it. And we get to choose how we spend our remaining days. So the million dollar question is: How will you spend yours?
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I don’t think that there needs to be a huge step going from low self-esteem into self care, yes it is a mind set about loving your self and that is hard to do . All savanna is suggesting is that you start small with taking small moments for your self, when you are living with a narcissist it is hard to even have or make two minutes of time for your self. I think this is a great post because it points out that we must stop fixating on where we are lacking and just start caring for ourselves as much as we cared for the narcissist. If that is doing one minute of something for your self that does not involve the narcissist then it is one minute of recovery. being with a narcissist is very much like being an addict, and being addicted to that person as a drug. All of your thoughts energy effort go into that person I think that even taking five minutes to focus on your self is is the baby step even if you do not feel kind to yourself or loving doing the action sometimes is the beginning because it leads your mind into following . It also leads your mind into focusing on your self instead of the narcissist even if it is for two minutes five minutes or 10 minutes that you would normally be obsessing over the narcissist.
I think the standard goes….
Hurt my feelings once, shame on you.
Hurt my feelings twice, shame on me.
Hi JJ and everyone,
I think there is no blue print formula to get to be an easy self-care person. People hurt in different ways and the way to come out of it is different in every case.
To start with we should try to accept ourselves as what we are and recognize our possible “defects” or trouble since trying to deny them is not caring and I think we will only be able to create a good picture of ourselves after we know and accept what hurts and try to do something about it.
So actually JJ I think you are already more on the way than you actually think, because at least you recognize a problem which is not easy for most people. So this leads to the next point:
We have to understand that the problem we have is not totally our falt, if not at all. It has been built up in us and we are the container of this problem that came mainly from the outside towards us. We are but a reflection of society, of our family, etc. This understanding takes away more vulnerability and anxiety not feeling enough or up to it.
It’s important to study everything that can remove our anxiety little by little.
For example, if I understand that I’m not the only one to suffer from this or that, if I discover that this problem does not make me a monster, e.g. Savannah was saying that narcs are not necessarily a psychopath and a psychopath is not necessarily a criminal, then this helps a LOT!
So actually a very good point is that one has to do research about one’s own trouble. One has to confront it so to say by visualizing or viewing it from all possible points of view. Otherwise we go on feeling like a victim and victimization is a pattern of no change and self-injuring, self sabotage or punishment. So research and active do about one’s own problem is important.
Here it’s good to add that it can be a good thing to learn some psychology, like for exemple knowing what is a projection, and how many things are the contrary of what they seem to be, or that love is not such an easy notion, that we somehow have an animal inside and that we need to be at peace with it, etc. etc. This really changes the way one sees the world and helps to have a little more sane distance.
The other approach is to expose oneself, taking chances, not staying in procrastination but taking steps forward. Action. For this we must remove wrong or offensive concepts, wrong ideas that we keep repeating, like: “I cannot do that ever”, “I’m a kind of person who is this and that”, “the law of attraction will not get me there”. We can actually change it. But effectively, the law of attraction will take us to the wrong place if we believe it will. So we need to observe ourselves and reprogram our self destructive patterns. Then this helps to expose ourselves more and more with better results.
And finally if we really try, if we take challenges and accept also that things don’t always come the first time, that they are a process, then we begin to learn the laws of life, which is that we should not force it. We have to do and try what life suggests us to do. We have to learn how to read into the mind of the universe because it is talking to us all the time. In this interaction with the universe we learn that problems are not problems, rather ways of learning and progressing. In this way we don’t put all the stress on our ego, we understand that we are part of something bigger and that there is lots of meaning in every action. Action is not something I push in front of me, rather what I understand that I need to do according to many factors that help me to realize more about life and its implications.
So when we can see that the fact of taking care of myself is more than simply taking care of my body and brains, this notion then becomes much more interesting. This kind of obsession about my health and body would just be artificial if it was not a more universal play between “me” and the universe. Seeing ourselves from way above is really healthy. From this distance we can laugh at things that look meaningless all of a sudden. Meaning becomes more tasty when it is supplied by the all encompassing universe through my inner observer, which is able to see so much more than I can see alone with my restricted ego. I came to this conclusion that maybe we are the eyes of the universe looking at oneself.
We could go on forever but this was what this reading inspired me.
Cheers and have a nice day everybody.
The best thing to do Sam is to go No Contact…
Thats the only way you will recover from your painful experience.
Having your ex narc pop in and out your life stops you from moving on.
It’s great that you saw the signs and listened to your gut regarding your date!!
I must admit I have my Narc radar well and truly on!! 🙂
What do I do now? I live in a small town, my narc ex lives a couple of blocks from me, we remarried 5 months after I broke up with him. He comes to get his dog, or see if his dog is here. (I love the dog and the dog loves me).
It’s been 3 years and this goes on once a month or more.
It took me two years to get over the pain and move on, now I feel like I am right back in it.
I have no idea what to do, we have mutual friends and of course the dog.
A side note for those still struggling: A few months ago I started dating for the first time. The “looks good on paper” guy. He ended up being a narc too! But, I saw the signs, my gut was right and I broke up with him. He was more of a nightmare then the one I was with 3 years.
A great blog Savannah, this really helps me as I’m in the process of learning how to take care of myself, improve my self esteem and put boundaries in place after my experience with my boomerang Narc..
What you have written is what I’m aiming towards.
Your articles just keep getting better and better. Thanks for the advice.
I hear ya. It’s been 5 years since breaking away from a 30 year marriage to a major Narc.
I was so messed up.
I have a wonderful girlfriend who has never been abused, she has a great job, married the most awesome man, they travel and entertain at their home. She laughs all the time. I will never able to be like her…..but….
Would I want what happened to me to happen to her? No! I am so blessed that she is my friend. I can’t compare myself to her or I would go nuts. But I can ask her for advice, and she has good advice. Her life is awesome because she made great choices. Just making better choices and reading everything I can to improve my life.
Writing down the best advice from these books and rereading them helps.
I am responsible for what I bring into my house. I am responsible for my own happiness. Do not compare yourself to others, it will destroy your self esteem. And self esteem comes from self control and accomplishing something. After all the books, take action, and you will feel good!
After laying on the couch for 3 months with the shades pulled, my girlfriend called me and said, You gotta get off that couch and get a job! I knew she was right, but that was so hard. I was a destroyed being. I knew she was right. I took a 3 day job seminar that was free from our local job placement organization.
It helped me and so many others in the same boat. It gave me hope and confidence, and I wrote a good resume. I landed a great fun job within a week, where I met new people and made some friends!
That job helped me stabilize my life, and I was able to get an even better paying job 2 years later.
But JJ, life is in stages, and you just have to keep plugging along, and it will come together. Life is hard, but it gets easier if you work hardest at the bottom. I spent a month dissecting my life with Dr Phil’s Life Strategies. It hurt, I cried, but then it made me stronger, and I was able to look at all the problems in a different way, and step over them. This book changed my life. All the advice you need in this little paperback!
God bless you! You can do it!
Sometimes you just gotta fake it till you make it
Thank you for reminding me of how far I’ve come.
I really enjoy your articles. They have helped me immensely.
This article is a lovely picture of how it is supposed to be, but not a realistic way of getting from here to there. It had the effect of making me feel much worse about myself, while offering no real way of moving in that direction. For those of us who didn’t grow up with an inkling if self care, and then partnered with someone who gleefully dismantled our inner resources and bonding to anything we may have previously enjoyed about ourselves, there is no way out with a pretty picture of the way we “should” be. It just becomes one more “should” in the self hate arsenal. If getting with someone who is like that is the only advice, then I am lost because law of attraction won’t allow me to find that or be around it from where I am. It is literally out of my realm. It is painful to be in the place of worthlessness and confusion and feel like there is no way out. Surely there is some realistic step or task that will take us closer to this picture. ? Because, in the university of self-care, this is doctorate level stuff and I am not even yet out of self-care kindergarten.
That’s a good point JJ. When I write I sometimes write from a novice perspective, sometimes from the perspective of someone further along the path. I realize that not everyone is in the same place and it’s often hard to write inclusively for all people. My advice in this article is twofold. One, I think it’s important before you begin any journey to know where you want to go, what it looks like and what your goals should be and two, the strategy here is about modeling the behavior of mentors or people you admire. I get your point, “Sav you say stop hating yourself, but you don’t say how to stop hating yourself.” Maybe I’ll write on that next week.
@JJ — I hear you, JJ. Self-care and several facets of what that entails has been one of my biggest, life-long struggles. I go back and forth between being good at it, and then not so good it. Even when I think I’m doing OK with it, it doesn’t feel like enough.
I have many friends in my life who are strong women and excellent with self-care and great examples to follow (I’m talking about the superficial things like being in great shape, having make up impeccably done), but yet they remain a mystery to me. I often wonder just how do they do it. I need to grasp and understand it in a rudimentary way.
I posted this sentiment a couple of weeks ago, and I’m going to post it again. I think I’ve discovered that there’s a huge mental hurdle we have to get past before we can begin the path of self-care: We have to know, accept and believe that what happened to us as children, and what the Narcs in our adult lives have done to us, is NOT our fault.
I know for a fact that I being bad with self-care is my way of punishing myself, because deep down I don’t believe that I deserve good things. I’ve punished myself with drinking and I’ve punished myself with food. I got sick of it, stop the cycle for a while, lose all the weight, then slip back into the pattern again.
I think that’s a huge thing that we have to work through. Believing and understanding that what happened to us is NOT our fault and that we need to stop punishing ourselves. Meanwhile, we can take those baby steps to get better with self care (thought I’d still like to know what those steps are).
Yes it’s a real struggle to offset the negative messages, the self-attackes we naturally default to. They are so subtle and so pervasive for those of us who had them embedded in our psyche at an early age. One thing that helps me is to realize that if I am not actively and consciously affirming myself and voicing self approval, then I am surely slipping into self attack. It is very hard to keep this up every day without external help and support, I have found. My internal resources just get overtaxed at times. That’s why I put myself in situations where I know I am going to get the positive messaging I need. I go to Al Anon meetings because their message is overwhelmingly positive and all about self care; the “group mind” is healthier than my own mind, and I hear what I need to hear to stay on track. (Recovering from an N is a perfectly good reason to go — you don’t need an alcoholic in your past to qualify, though most everyone has one or more persons whose drinking has bothered us at some point in our lives.) Church is good too if you find one that is positive, open-minded, and not judgmental. Likewise certain people are just healthy and positive, and I try to be around them on a regular basis. My point is that I agree with you that I will drift in and out of positive messaging on my own, so I try to structure things in a way that I get the reinforcement I need from “the outside”. It usually works!
wow, what a nicely written piece, Savannah! I am printing this out and pasting it to my wall as a reminder!!
AMAZING!! I absolutely enjoy your commentary.
Wow, how great is this! As a recovering codependent, I’m always looking for information on how to move myself to the next level of healing. Self-care is definitely a big part of that I believe. Can’t thank you enough for teaching us how.
That was fabulous, Savannah. I had to laugh at the bit about laughing with friends, having fun and engaging in challenging and interesting activities, as that’s exactly what I was doing over this weekend. Myself and two girlfriends went to a village harvest fayre and the next day went back to the village to visit the restored old mill and bakehouse, and wander down to the beach for tea and cake at the beautiful thatched-roof tearooms there. It is so good to have real friends at last. We’ve all suffered childhood abuse and all have had chronic illness from it, so we all understand each other, yet all strive to better ourselves and enjoy the freedom we now have. Something that I’ve often taken some very sage from throughout my life is the poem Desiderata by Max Erhman. Over the last few years that I’ve been healing from Complex PTSD, this part especially has been of huge help and comfort…”You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.”
Funnily enough, only little bits of the poem gave me lightbulb moments, but now when I read it, it all makes complete sense. Your article reminds me of it very much.