How to Be Mindfully Self-ish – And Why It’s SO Important.

How to Be Mindfully Self-ish - And Why It's So Important

We are the foundation of everything in our lives – our relationships, our decisions, our thoughts, our feelings, our actions – everything. When we meet our own important needs we enrich and enliven ourselves and all that is connected to us.  On the other hand, when we are depleted and unsatisfied, it’s difficult to thrive and to have energy for the important things.

If you’re sitting there with the words in your head sounding something like, ‘Yeah, no – I’m actually great to be with when I’m exhausted and unsatisfied. Nobody can  tell – so – yeah, I’m pretty good like that,’ then it might be time to give yourself some loving – in the form of a reality check. People can tell. I promise you. They can tell because the relationship feels different. You feel different. And they probably miss the ‘you’ that is vital, energised, happy and full. If you’re still not convinced, think about the relationships you have been in where the person has been depleted or dissatisfied. You might not have felt differently about the person, but the relationship might have been short of where it could have been.

Everyone has needs and when those needs aren’t met we lose balance. We lack joy and meaning. We become disconnected – from ourselves and others. We get shades of anger, frustration, sadness shame and guilt. Ultimately, when we become less than who we are capable of being – less strong, less happy, less engaged. Other than that, we’re fine.

Putting ourselves first doesn’t mean putting others last. It is an investment of energy and resources into the foundation upon which our relationships and everything we think, do and feel are built. It’s restorative, strengthening and nourishing for ourselves and for everything that is connected to us. 

Nurturing Your Self:

We have to stop thinking of self-love – selfish-ness – as an option. It’s not. It’s essential. Here are some places to start. 

  1. Mindfulness

    If putting yourself first is something you’re completely unfamiliar with, it can be difficult to know where to start. When the noise of our lives is too loud, it’s difficult to know what we need. Sometimes, it is easier to be rolled around by the needs of others.

    Of course, it is important to be generous, supportive, empathic and flexible – but we also need to do those for our own selves. Being self-ish is so important because being other-ish will always have its limits. There are some things that only we can give to ourselves. One of the things that get in the way of this is our habits. We humans tend to think as we’ve always thought and do as we’ve always done. Our thoughts and actions become automatic, at least until there is a reason to take a good look at them and be more deliberate.

    Mindfulness changes this. Mindfulness is the act of being present with our own experience without the intrusion of future worries or old ways of thinking, being and feeling. It is being fully present with what is real and unfolding in the moment, without the intrusion of habits or old ways of being. It is a way to be fully engaged with the self in the moment. The stillness and sense of self that eventually comes from this makes it easier to notice any important needs in the ‘not met but waiting to be’ zone, that is of course if the act of mindfulness itself hasn’t already helped things along.

    Not only is the act of mindfulness a wonderfully self-nurturing thing to do, it also has so many benefits that will strengthen the foundations of ourselves.

    Research has shown that mindfulness can:

Ten minutes a day is enough to start making a difference. For anyone who thinks it’s a little too ‘zen’, it’s just breathing and noticing – and science is fully on board. The effects of mindfulness are so powerful, it’s easy to imagine that in a decade or so, the idea of ‘not practising mindfulness’ might be viewed in the same way as ‘not wearing a seatbelt’. People won’t ask why you do it, they’ll ask why you don’t (non-judgementally of course). 

By being mindful of our needs, it is less likely that we will trample over the needs of others to get our important needs met. When needs are mindfully noticed, it is likely that within those is also the need to stay connected to others, to be seen in a favourable light by people who matter to us, and to not do damage.

[irp posts=”802″ name=”Mindfulness: What. How. And The Difference 5 Minutes a Day Will Make”]

  1. What you focus on is what will become powerful.

    Thoughts, actions, feelings, people – let them be good ones. Every time we focus on something bad, it changes our physiology and the wiring in our brain. It’s much easier to notice the bad and be directed by that, than it is to notice the good. It’s also very normal. It’s called the the negativity bias and it’s what has kept us alive up to now. Our survival throughout the ages has depended on us being quicker to notice the bad (the sabre-toothed tiger asleep at the cave door) than the good (how cute it looks when it curls up like that).

    What this means is that the bad things tend to stick and the good things tend to slide right off us. To counter this, we have to be deliberate with our experience of the good so they are able to effect our physiology, brain and state of mind and assume more influence than the bad. There are two options.

    The first is to remove the bad things from our lives that draw our attention. This would be nice – so nice – but not always possible. Pity. Not to worry because there is another option. Take time out to expand the positive experience by letting it soak into you for 10-20 seconds. This is long enough to change the wiring in your brain in a positive way. One bout of 10-20 second feel-good might not make much of a difference, but over time the difference will be remarkable. The positive can be a text, a memory, the way a song makes you feel, a kiss, a chat with a friend – anything that makes you feel good. When it happens, stop, notice it, feel it and enjoy. 

    [irp posts=”923″ name=”Hardwiring for Happiness. How We Can Change Our Brain, Mind & Personality.”]

  2. Play

    Humans were meant to play. It connects, teaches and nourishes, which is why babies and children are so good at it. It’s often tempting to leave play until last. When the ‘important things’ are done, then we can play. Play is one of those ‘important things’ and has to be given its due place somewhere near the top of the list. If it’s been a while, try something that makes you laugh, something that makes you happy, or something that you used to love doing – try a team sport, a board game, going to a show, a drama group (you don’t have to be good at it), singing, cooking for fun, a picnic, throwing a frisbee or kicking a ball in the park, going to dinner, a movie, a date night, colouring your hair – anything that makes you feel lighter and happier.

  3. Choose good people. And know that it’s okay to walk away from the ones who feel bad to be with.

    Having good people around you is key to a happy, productive, fulfilled life. Ultimately, the people you have in your life is for you to decide and if there are some troublemakers there you can’t get rid of just yet (an ex who is also a co-parent, in-laws, colleagues) make sure you’re building yourself up in other ways and surrounding yourself with as many good people as you can. And it’s always okay to walk away from the ones who feel back to be with. When it comes to acts of self-love, this is one of the biggest.

  4. Go outside – just because.

    Spend time outside. Nature is healing. Be mindful of the world around you and experience it fully, with all of your senses switched on. That doesn’t have to mean being still, just being present with your mind fully engaged in the experience.

We have been conditioned to think of ‘selfish’ as something bad. It’s not. It’s important for ourselves and for the people around us. Though it’s important to be aware of the needs of others, it’s also important to be aware of our own. Unmet needs lead to a life that feels flat or disconnected. Even small changes will make a difference.

Putting yourself first sometimes, instead of staying somewhere near the bottom of your own list will strengthen you – mentally, physically and emotionally. Everything we do has an effect on our brain and our physiology. It might be in tiny, undetectable ways, but many tiny undetectable things over time eventually become something much bigger.

We owe it to ourselves and to the people around us to be the strongest, richest, most complete version of ourselves. Sometimes that will mean asking the rest of the world to wait. Looking after our own needs isn’t always easy, but when the return is a strong foundation on which to build everything that is important to us, it will always be worth it. 

8 Comments

Kathaleena

“And it’s always okay to walk away from the ones who feel bad to be with. ” This is a hard one, and so essential in the long run of our life span. Yes… sometimes it has to wait… as in… waiting for the death of a parent. Toxic family of origin and continued interactions are exhausting and debilitating. Your post is timely. Thank you.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

You’re very welcome Kathaleena. You’re absolutely right – even if walking away is the right thing for you, it’s not easy.

Reply
Chris

Thank you for this article and so many others I have read from your sight. I cannot express the gratitude I have for you because I learn so much to help break the patterns of my VERY toxic/abusive upbringing. And my children benefit from this knowledge. And I just became a Grandma and I know that this new generation will benefit as well. Thank you!!!

Reply
Hey Sigmund

You could never know the difference you are making by being one who makes the strong decision to end family toxic patterns. You are amazing. Your grandkids are in wonderful hands.

Reply
Kerrie Byer

Well timed article and a great reminder. It is nice to read through the process to get back to putting myself first. Question: Would it be possible to add a “print this article” icon to print the articles without all graphics/advertisements?/

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Yes – absolutely. In the share functions, the green button at the bottom is the printer function and it will print a ‘clean’ copy for you. They are on the left if you are on a laptop, and on the bottom behind the grey ‘Share this’ bar if you are on a mobile device.

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Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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