Its Your Responsibility
Learning to provide yourself with proper nurturing is a primary task in the process of growing up and becoming your own person. In psychology, this process of growing up is known as the individuation process. When a person individuates, he or she becomes more psychologically independent and self-sustaining. The individuation process involves breaking away from the belief system that was handed down to one as a child and embarking on a personal quest for truth. Individuating is equivalent to leaving the psychological nest in exchange for freedom and the personal responsibility that comes with that freedom.
Treating yourself right is the personal responsibility involved in being a grown up. We treat ourselves right by becoming good parents to ourselves. The nurturing that good parents provide to children is required throughout the lifespan. Among other things, good parents provide their children with safety, protection, love, affection, comfort, learning experiences, appropriate social contact, life skills, encouragement, connection, respect, privacy, fun, proper hygiene, healthy diet, space to run, exposure to novelty, a rich environment, a shoulder to cry on, enough sleep, playtime, etc.
Do you treat yourself as you would a beloved child? If not, consider that you are not only depriving yourself, but you are depriving those with whom you interact everyday.
How does one begin to self-nurture?
Make a commitment to own this responsibility to nurture the self.
Challenge distorted beliefs about caring for the self being selfish. Recognize the reality that the more nourished you are, the more you have to offer yourself and others.
Accept yourself exactly as you are. When you approve of yourself, any changes you make will be an act of self-love.
Find ways to support yourself. Learn to receive support and appreciate it from others. Reach out to friends and allow them to help you.
Exercise your appreciation muscle. At least 3 times a day. Stop and purposely notice something to appreciate about the moment, your life, another person, etc.
Prioritize pleasure. First, do the research. Make it a goal to notice when you feel the best during the day. Take note of what is present that is making the moment pleasurable. Now, use that information to increase pleasurable experiences throughout the day.
Experiment with one of the many self-nurturing techniques that people use to regulate moods and increase positive mental states. Try visualization, meditation, self-statements, affirmations, journaling, exercise, mindfulness practice, creative arts, etc.
Keep in mind that there is no magic bullet to happiness. It takes a conscious, consistent effort to make real changes. Increasing your repertoire of self-nurturing behaviors will take time and energy, but it is well worth the effort.
Written by Carol Benoit, M.A.
Counselor for University Counseling Center