The Good Doctor reminds you it's high time to love yourself first
One of my favorite self-care images—it’s a reminder, really—is a physiology lesson taught to medical students during their early training: The first task of the heart is to pump blood to itself.
When I give talks to care providers, mental health professionals, families, couples and others, I discuss something I call “healthy selfishness.” The concept usually raises eyebrows of those who hear it for the first time, so conditioned are we to think of anything associated with the word “selfish” as negative. Yet, healthy selfishness has become a concept that has grown tremendously in importance, not only for those who are caring for others—i.e., elderly parents, children with disabilities, friends and partners with illness—but also as a widely promoted philosophy for healthy living.
Healthy selfishness is really just a term for good self-care. Sounds simple enough, but rarely are we taught the value of this: Not only is it okay, but it’s important. Much like the heart, if we are to be of any use to ourselves and others, we must first make sure we are able to be present to what’s going on within us. We must be able to listen, really hear and be fully here in the moment. Being present and available to yourself means that your mind and body are quietly focused and paying attention. In other words, you do not ignore your own well-being. Ever.
This is how self-care works. It is the manifestation of developing yourself, getting to understand what makes you tick, honoring your needs and wants—mind, body and spirit. The journey includes learning to become honest and authentic with yourself, able to be receptive to the discovery of your own truths, even when they sting. It is what allows you, ultimately, to love freely and live fully. To make healthy choices and bring balance to your life. Ask yourself this: What do you have to do that’s more important than committing to your self-care and self-awareness, which then allows you to be a more caring and fully present person with others? (And, for care-givers, to not burn out in the process!)
If you can commit to this kind of relationship with yourself, then you can commit more fully to all your other relationships, personal and professional. You can be a good friend, a great lover, a wonderful son, daughter or parent. A wise, compassionate boss. A motivated employee. So you see, taking care of yourself is not only good for you…it’s good for everyone in your life!
I’m asked all the time about how to find a healthy relationship. This is how: develop a healthy, caring, honest relationship with yourself first. This is where it all begins. Remember the old saying, opposites attract? Well, maybe that’s true in the short term. But for going the distance, like attracts like. One of the most succinct ways to put this comes from drag queen RuPaul: “Honey, if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love anyone else?”
So where to start? How can you find the balance you need to stay sane and present in the midst of a busy life? How can you nurture yourself, so you can be there for your needs, and for those you care about? How can you nurture that wonderful heart of yours, so you can love yourself, and love others…more fully than ever before? Such discovery is a most valuable, rewarding journey.
Until next time, from Lily Tomlin: “I always said I wanted to be somebody. Now I realize I should have been more specific.”
Dr. Rick Pimental-Habib, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, author, minister, and educator in private practice in Chattanooga. Contact him at DrRPH.com, visit his wellness center at WellNestChattanooga.com and follow his daily inspirations on Twitter: @DrRickWellNest
Photo by Dmitry Mayatskyy