I want to talk about self-care on an energetical level, by this I mean ‘holding space’ for yourself. It feels like a really good time of year to write about this as many people are thinking about what they want, or don’t want, in their life and making personal commitments for the year ahead. This kind of collective focus can have its own energetic power. For me, self-care needs to be at the top of my to-do list. As a young mum I often felt that my needs were way down the list as everyone else somehow seemed more important. And in some ways this is true, as a baby does not have wants or desires only needs that are linked to survival. Me, on the other hand can look after myself but can I hold space for myself? And what’s the difference?
I am pretty sure I could survive without self-caring as my basic human needs are met, but I doubt I could thrive and this is what I want for myself and also for you this year. It is my hope that we will be able to move from a cultural state of surviving to communal thriving. And to do this we need to hold space for ourselves before holding it for anyone else.
What is meant by ‘holding space’?
I mean holding an energetical container to allow an experience to unfold in a grounded place of safety, understanding and compassion.
What might happen if I don’t hold space for myself first?
There are a whole host of symptoms that could relate to this, in one way the elephant on the table gets bigger and bigger. On a mental level this could come through as depression, burn-out, lethargy, low self-esteem and pessimism.
What might happen if I DO hold space for myself?
Well, let’s be a little bit creative here…… Read to the end of this paragraph, then take a moment to close your eyes. Imagine the life of your dreams. What does it look like? How does it feel to be you in this new life? What is different? What do you really want to be?
Open eyes. Look around. The seeds of your dream are inside you, maybe looking around you might see some of the things you have already set in motion to make these dreams reality. The seeds have always been there and you have the ability to grow them into something incredible and make a difference in the world. And one of the tools to help you manifest this dream is to hold space for yourself.
How do I hold space for myself?
If you read my last post about holding space for others you will have read about how as a doula I trust the body’s natural ability and innate wisdom when it comes to childbirth, and beyond. And holding space for yourself is not much different from doing it for someone else. The biggest difference is that really you must be able to do this first. The first step is being able to be with yourself in a gentle, kind and compassionate way. Many of us suffer from the inner critic for whom whatever we do is never quite good enough as they love to criticise. Yet the inner critic is a self-preservation mechanism gone into over drive and holding space can help bring it back into balance. Being with yourself and trusting your innate wisdom is a valuable gift you can give yourself. While holding space we are able to witness everything that our self contains, looking into the shadows of our soul and holding it all with compassionate understanding. There is no need to hide as everything is met with gentle acceptance. If there are issues that need to be dealt with then we use our wisdom to find what is needed to address them.
In some ways holding space could be seen as raising self-awareness or practicing self-compassion, but I feel like it’s more than that. It holds us in the way we want to be held, giving us the love, care and attention we often crave.
Some other tools that can be useful in our journey are cultivating paths towards self-understanding by really getting to know yourself. Be that through finding ways to express yourself creatively and spending time in places that inspire you to practicing daily mindfulness.
I also want to write about the power of saying no. This can be a challenge as it might go against generations of cultural programming. But what about if saying no to someone else was actually a way of saying yes to yourself.
We are incredibly wealthy here in the west and have our basic physiological needs for food, shelter and warmth met. Yet there are other challenges. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1) proposes five levels of human needs, from the most fundamental to the highest need for self-actualization realising your full potential.
It is my intention to assist in any way I can to help the move from surviving to thriving. And part of the art of holding space for yourself is being vulnerable and open enough to allow others to hold space for us.
I would love to hear your experiences of how you self-care and hold space for yourself. If anything in this article has touched your please get in touch and let me know. I love to hear from you.
Warm January wishes
(1) Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
Red Woman by Rassouli
Aphrodite by Emily Balivet
Dancing on the Rainbow by Patricia Figallo