I consider myself fortunate. As a somatic psychotherapist I get to work every day, with people I can truly support. People who have suffered complex and developmental trauma, and really need support to find a way through. And what I realised over the years, was that self-care was distinctly lacking not only in those individuals, but in just about everyone else too. That’s why I started the school of self-care, but I’ve also been reflecting on – ‘why’.

Why are we so bad at looking after ourselves? Well, one of the reasons could be, that it wasn’t roll modeled when we were growing up.

We learn through modelling …

We all walk through this world trying to do our best. Trying to make something of our lives. And the reality is, for some it’s a lot easier than others. Depending on where you’re born, or what kind of life you’ve been born into, the challenges and opportunities you face could be vastly different.

This factors much into self-care, and, in fact, we have a diversity and inclusion program that helps those less privileged than others. Whatever start you’ve had in life, however, I have seen incredible transformations when people start to take little steps, as often as they can. Eventually, it makes a difference. So, what do you need, today, in this moment, to start caring for yourself?

“Be not afraid of going slowly, it is in every step, in every moment where we can learn and grow, and where you become the architect of your own life”. Esther van der Sande

Finding compassion for yourself…

Over the last 20 years of people coming to my practice, a pattern emerged that was difficult to ignore. My clients were kind, caring and good at taking care of others, but lacked the impulse to turn that care inwards – even though they knew what actually needed to be done.

Going for a walk, asking for help, even preparing a healthy meal. None of that is terribly difficult, unless you just can’t find the compassion for yourself. And that’s what it is,
I think. Compassion seemed to be stored deep inside, ready to be dispersed when other people needed it, but not for the individual themselves.

All of this done unconsciously, however psychology tells us that we are actually responsible for our unconscious behaviours, as do the teachings of Buddha.

But how to gain control of the unconscious, that is the question.

Self-reflection, and analysis might be natural for some, but for many of us, it’s a difficult thing to achieve. People find it hard to open up, even to themselves.

And yet, over the years to my enormous surprise and delight, self-care allowed it to happen.

Through education, building safe relationships and reflecting together in groups, something magical eventually happens. Self-care begins in your body and brain, and a flow of energy is created that leads to the opening of that well of compassion, for yourself.

Step by step…

Now this doesn’t mean all your problems are solved, but when you become a little
healthier in body and mind, I’m sure you can imagine, you become a little friendlier to yourself. And you might start to make a few choices that make you happy. And step by
step, your life becomes more colourful.

It’s all in the baby steps. So don’t be put off if you don’t know how to start. I can support you with that. Do you remember how difficult it was to learn to ride a bike, or drive a car?
But with a lot of attention and energy, you got there in the end, and now it’s second nature.

Well, it’s the same with self-care. It’s something we can learn, develop and discover, step by step.

The great thing about self-care, is that as you take these steps, your life begins to improve. You’ll start to look at yourself in a different way, with more tenderness and understanding. And there in, lies – I believe – one of the true strengths of human beings.

The ability to achieve balance between giving and taking, activating the happy hormones in your brain, making you feel full, and warm inside – and allowing your energy to flow once again.

You will have given yourself the gift of care.

Esther van der Sande, The School of Self-Care | Inspire your Life