The Self Care Project Book Review

Why Self-Care?

My own awareness of self-care started during my counsellor training. I had some counselling, during which my Counsellor asked me about what my needs were. I couldn’t answer her question, because I had no idea. Thus started my own journey of working that out and exploring how to look after myself and meet my needs. Due to some experiences during adolescence I had learnt to protect myself by pretending I didn’t have needs. If I didn’t have needs then I wouldn’t need to experience the pain of noticing that they weren’t being met. Fast forward ten years and I’m a big advocate of self-care. I’m still learning and still could be better at it, but I’m aware of the impact it has. I’ve seen it in my own life, in those around me and in countless clients I’ve worked with.

The Book

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I had seen positive reviews about The Self Care Project, so was keen to read it. I’m so glad I did. From the outset author Jayne Hardy writes about nine ways she’s sucked at self-care, and the impact it has had on her life. She writes with engaging honesty about her own experiences in an accessible and conversational style. I felt empathy towards her, felt connected to her and it connected me with the parts of myself I’ve neglected.

I wanted to keep reading. And I wanted to do the things she was talking about. I even put it down and stopped reading it for two weeks because I didn’t want to finish it and wanted it to last a bit longer.

I found myself booking yoga classes because I’d been meaning to for ages but hadn’t wanted to spend that much money. I decided that I’m worth it and when I started, I remembered how much I enjoy it. I bought myself some new underwear to replace the ones I had with holes in. I tried paddle boarding because I like fun and adventure and hadn’t tried anything new for a while. Self-care can mean so many different things.

Overview

The Self Care Project breaks self-care down into manageable chunks and expresses it in a clear and understandable way. I love the concept of micro steps to trick our mind into letting us make changes. It is practical, but it is more than that. It looks at why we might not be very good at self-care, why it is important, alarms we don’t notice, barriers to self-care, burnout, emergency self-care and every day self-care. It meets you where you are and encourages you to take little steps forward. It is surprisingly thorough and offers worksheets to reflect upon what you’ve read about.

‘We are enough. As we are. It’s the truest of all truths. We don’t need to be fixed – we’re not broken. Lost, unsure, confused, hiding away, recovering, struggling, hurting, damaged, scarred, messy and scared, perhaps, but not broken’ page 72.

I really like how vulnerable and real the author is and the honest stories and examples she shares. The Blurt Foundation (who the author is Founder and CEO of) is aimed at people with depression so the book is mindful of people lacking energy and motivation, but the content is relevant for everyone.  It inspires you to get more in touch with who you are. It is about making self-care work for you in your own life and making it your own.

My only criticism is that I don’t want to write in my book and I don’t want to bend the spine trying to scan pages to print the worksheets out. Downloadable printouts would be good!

* Update – there are downloadable printouts 🙂 *

Conclusion

I’ve already bought three copies of this book and will probably buy more. I’ve recommended it to colleagues, students I teach, and I’ll probably buy it for some of my clients too. I think it is a brilliant book and I’m full of admiration for the work Jayne Hardy and the Blurt Foundation are doing.

If you want to find out more check out http://www.blurtitout.org

‘We’re looking for those micro pockets of time where we check in with ourselves, ponder how we’re feeling, consider our energy levels, and act accordingly. Self-care is as much about the ‘being’ as the ‘doing’. When we have the space to be, we can see more clearly what we might need to do to feel better’ page 117.

Why Self-Compassion Matters

“We are what we believe we are” – CS Lewis

The concept of self compassion at its simplest is being a good friend to yourself. We often (but not always) know what we would say to a friend if they were having a rubbish time or feeling negative about themselves, but are often much more critical of ourselves than we are towards others. We don’t always say to ourselves things like “you tried your best” or “I’m sorry you’re having a hard time”. We often aren’t as friendly and warm when we talk to ourselves as we would be when talking to friends or others.

Self-esteem (feeling good about ourselves) requires feeling above average and this involves comparing ourselves to others. We start putting others down to feel better about ourselves and this can lead to us feeling judgemental towards others. We need to feel superior to feel OK, and to do this we blow others candles out in trying to shine brighter ourselves. It means that we struggle to feel happy for others when they succeed. And what sucks about self-esteem is that when you fail something, it abandons you and you’re left feeling rubbish about yourself – I’ve failed because I’m a failure.

According to Kristin Neff who has spent her career researching self compassion, you need 3 components to self compassion so that it doesn’t become self pity. These are

  1. Self kindness – treating ourselves with the kindness and warmth we would show to a friend
  2. Common humanity – the understanding that life is hard and that others are also going through hard things
  3. Mindfulness – an understanding of what we are feeling and experiencing

Common humanity is important because if we think it is only us experiencing hard times then we feel sorry for ourselves and experience self-pity. It needs mindfulness because we need to understand what we are thinking and feeling and to be able to sit with how we feel, feel the pain and have compassion towards ourselves. We have to be able to turn towards our feelings, and this involves knowing what we’re actually feeling.

What I love about self compassion is that you still get the benefits of having a high self-esteem, but it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing or what anyone else thinks of you. You don’t need to be better than anyone else. You can fail. Life can be hard or you can mess things up. It’s part of life that we all go through hard times and that we all will mess up. But self compassion allows us to say to ourselves “it’s OK”, “I understand”, “everyone feels like this sometimes”, “you’re not a failure because you’ve failed an exam”, “of course you feel like this, it’s so understandable”, “you’re doing the best you can”.

If we can allow ourselves to fail and to mess up, but then be gentle and kind to ourselves about it, we can learn and we can grow. We don’t become paralysed with fear of failure or fear of rejection. When a baby learns to walk we expect it to take a while and for them to fall over hundreds of times. We don’t pick them up and tell them not to bother anymore. And so is life. If we can be kind enough to ourselves that falling down is inevitable and trying again is the way forward then failure stops paralysing us. Self compassion isn’t about striving towards a perfect version of yourself, but about accepting yourself as you are.

How much is your inner critic really interested in your wellbeing? Where does the critical inner voice even come from? Whose voice is it? Maybe someone who judged you harshly when you were younger? A critical parent or teacher? Because if we’re honest, if we had a friend who was highly critical of us and kept saying mean things to us then the wisest thing would be to steer clear of them. And yet we so often allow ourselves to say such things and become so used to it that we don’t even notice how critical we can be to ourselves.

Compassion is about kindness, acceptance and non-judgement. How can you offer these things to yourself? Be kind to yourself because you’re doing the best you can.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion” – Dalai Lama

 

How Do We Become Resilient?

“With every drop of pain on the human heart, wisdom grows” Aeschylus

Resilience is a buzzword at the moment. But what does it mean?

Resilience can be defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape.

In reality, we aren’t elastic bands and we don’t spring back to where we started. When we go through adversity, we change.

Did you know that if you cut a butterfly out of its chrysalis, it would be fully formed with wings, but wouldn’t be able to fly? The process of getting itself out and breaking free is what strengthens the wings enough to be able to fly. And the same goes for us. Going through challenges and the difficult things life throws at us is what can make us stronger. If we can get through it without getting stuck.

And that’s where counselling can help. Counselling can give you space to be, where you matter, with someone to walk alongside you and support you. And to help you find your way through and out of your chrysalis – whatever that might be.