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  • Writer's pictureAshley Hommersom

Self-Care, and why it is so hard

The term self-care is everywhere now. Search engines are recording souring numbers of times people look up the term ‘self-care’, or anything associated with it. Self-care has become something we ‘should’ all be doing, if we want to stress less, be more productive, be healthier, live longer, be better employees, better mothers, better partners, better friends. And whilst versions of that are all positive to strive for, I wonder whether the concept of self-care has become trendy and commodified, to our own detriment. Has it become something else we need to add to our already overflowing to-do list (and tighter budgets) if we want to ‘make it’ in the world, and therefore another source of stress or failure if we are not able to meet our own (or society’s) expectations?

The popularity of self-care has benefited our global economy, with whole markets, product ranges, and industries dedicated to it. But what this trend and commodification of self-care has lost sight of, is why it is so hard for so many people to care for themselves, in a nurturing, compassionate way. Because, self-care is not just lavish pamper sessions, extravagant outings, or expensive indulgences, with which there is nothing wrong by the way, but this does lose sight of what the crux of self-care is. It is about caring for yourself; being able to identify your own needs, and meet these needs, in a way that is nurturing, respectful, and valuing the inherent worth of who you are. The same way that we care for and nurture children, which is a daily and ongoing practice of identifying and meeting needs, so too is self-care when it comes to looking after ourselves.

I work with people who have experienced significant trauma, particularly childhood trauma, and caring for themselves is something that is often very challenging. The reason for that is because harm was inflicted upon them by another person, either intentionally, or because the person who was caring for them had their own struggles preventing them from being able to tend to the needs of another.

When an adult, particularly in a caring role, harms, hurts, neglects, or abuses a child, the child takes that to mean that they are not worthy of much. When this happens frequently or repeatedly, children grow up to become adults who believe they do not deserve to be loved or are worthy of care. This goes for self-care too. Therefore, in order to be able to care for yourself, both in the ‘trendy’ sense as well as in the deeper nurturing sense, you need to be able to see yourself in an entirely different way; as someone who is fundamentally worthy of love and care.

Starting to see yourself as someone who is worthy of love and care, and indeed implementing self-care practices, is not only challenging for people who have experienced childhood trauma. Women and mothers (who statistically are also more likely to have experienced trauma inflicted upon them by another, either in childhood or adulthood) are at an added disadvantage of feeling worthy of such care, time, attention, and resources.

As females, in a western, white, and patriarchal society, we are socialised into believing that our worth is connected to how we tend to others and how little room we take up ourselves. The flip side of that is that when we do tend to ourselves, we are ‘selfish’ and ‘indulgent’. For mothers, there are extra layers of socialisation about needing to always prioritise your children and their needs over your own, and anything other than martyring yourself, is ‘unmotherly’. As if that is not harmful enough, we also sell mothers the belief that they need to engage in self-care, not because they are inherently worth caring for solely as individuals, but because if they do not look after themselves, they are not able to fulfil their role and responsibilities as women, partners, and mothers. In other words, the only reason to look after yourself is so that you can look after others. When we consider all of this, we can see how we can begin to feel guilty, both when we do engage in self-care, as well as when we are not able to achieve the self-care we are sold, as it somehow signals we are failing as a mother, and failing as a human. For a mother who has also experienced childhood trauma, this only perpetuates deeper feelings of unworthiness.

We can begin to see that self-care is not always as straightforward as we might think, and there are copious barriers to overcome in order to be able to land at a place of recognising, and affording yourself, the worthiness to self-care. It is as simple, and as complex, as that.

So, my mission is two-fold. Firstly, to support people (particularly mothers and trauma survivors) to reach a place that they deeply know and believe that they are worthy of care, love, and nurture. And secondly, to redefine what we think of as self-care. Self-care does not always require having more time, and it does not always require money. Self-care is not only about what you necessarily do, but also about how you live your life, and tend to your needs.

You might like to think about self-care as tending to your basic human needs for healthy foods, hydration, physical movement/activity. For connection with loved ones and pets. For having the opportunity to allow yourself to safely show your emotions. For setting boundaries and being able to say ‘no’ when your plate is already full. For having space for joy. For having a balance in your life around paid/unpaid work, family, relationships, responsibility, and relaxation. For being able to identify your passions and fitting them into your life. For laughter and play that is free of judgement.

What does self-care look like for you, and what are some of the barriers that are preventing you from caring for yourself?

I would love to hear from you if I am able to support you in any way regarding self-care barriers, challenges, and practices. You are worthy of the time and effort, because you are you, and that is worthy and valuable enough.


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