I was listening to a podcast with Martha Beck the other day, and she was discussing the word “selfish” that is many times associated when people think of anything related to "self care". Many of us were not taught how to take care of our needs, so many times we feel selfish when we focus on ourself. She used the metaphor of putting a pillow over your face - when you are starved of breath, the only thing you can think about is how you are going to get your next breath. This shifted the whole perspective of self care for me. If we do not take care of our own personal needs first - it actually leads us to more selfish thinking when our needs are not met. To that point, when we do not know how to identify what needs are not being met we can turn to maladaptive and unhealthy coping behaviors that can hurt ourselves and others.
So what is self care? Self Care is Taking Care of Yourself and your needs so that you can be healthy and well to "show up" in your life - do your job, live a fulfilling life with meaningful connections and care for others.
But how do we even get our needs met if we can't identify what need isn't being fulfilled? Below I'm going to take you through 8 basic categories of human needs I have identified and some examples of how to fulfill those needs.
1. Emotional - We need a place to process our emotions. This could be to a therapist or a coach, an intimate partner, a close friend, a mentor or a journal. Additionally, we need boundaries to protect our emotional well being.
2. Relational - As human beings, we thrive in relationships to others. Everyone gets this fulfilled in a different way. Relationships fulfill our need of closeness and belonging. This could be an intimate dinner with a friend, a worship group, a support group or a neighborly get together.
3. Physical - Our bodies are made to move. It is important to get regular exercise to keep our bodies healthy. The other side of this equation is ensuring our bodies get the rest that is needed. This is a delicate balance as some days we may need more than the other.
4. Spiritual - We are spiritual beings that crave connection to something greater than ourselves. We can get that spiritual need met through things like prayer, meditation, worship or religious studies.
5. Sexual - We are designed to be sexual beings. We express our sexuality and get our sexual needs met differently. This could be as simple as taking a dancing class to buying a new outfit to look and feel sexy.
6. Intellectual - Our brains are the most valuable muscles we have in our body. It is important to continue to stretch and grow this muscle by learning new things. Some examples of this could be reading a book, taking a class or workshop, or even listening to a TedTalk about a topic that interests you.
7. Financial - This is basically how you make money. Many of our needs cannot be met if we do not have a way to pay our bills. This could also be more financial stability, budgeting, etc.
8. Passion/Purpose - A passion and purpose is doing something that lights you up and helps you to give back. This does not have to be a complete career change - but how can you get involved and contribute to something that is servicing others?
If you are like me, you may feel overwhelmed seeing all of this laid out. My advice is to take baby steps. Although the overall map may be daunting, narrowing it down to small, attainable steps is key. The hope is that as we get better at mapping out and communicating our needs, it becomes more second nature and easier to identify.
If you need help mapping out your needs, fill out my self care worksheet here.
And remember, there is no wrong answer. We are all diverse and complex in our own ways and our priorities will looked different.