Self is, I believe, the natural you, the person you were born as, before parents, education, environment, experience and societal expectation bent and shaped you into the person you are today.
You might think this sounds ridiculous, you are always ‘yourself’, how could you be anything else? But are you your whole self? Are there parts of you you wouldn’t bring to work for example, or show to your parents or friends? Is there a hidden ‘self’, one you might have even left behind in your childhood or youth?
As a young child, self shows up in our characteristics as we play with friends or live day to day in our family unit. I can see ‘self’ when I watch and compare my two very young grand-daughters, who, although being raised the same, display very different gifts and temperaments.
When, as an adult, I remember to remember my ‘self’, I feel strong, sure and secure. When I forget, I feel (and often become) physically weak, anxious and insecure.
So – how do I remember ‘self?
For me, to remember and connect with ‘self’ means doing 3 simple things each day:
My 10 minute morning mindfulness routine, writing my journal and walking in nature. These things centre me, enable me to express my frustrations and my joys and remind me that I am lucky to be alive.
Inevitably, if I let go of one of these, my grasp on all three slips and I make excuses not to hold on. “I’ve got a very early start,” or “I’ve got to meet this deadline,” or “I’m not in my own home,” are regular culprits.
But, after only a few days of not contacting ‘self’, it’s very easy to lose sight of her, and instead, I follow the path of busyness and never switching off.
When this happens, I’m OK for a while. I charge along the path through days filled with hectic schedules, coffees and eating on the go. I churn out work, I race, alongside the ‘rat racers’, with my cortisol levels remaining high and wreaking their unseen damage on every cell. After a few weeks, I start to feel anxious, I don’t sleep well, I get headaches, my shoulders and neck ache, my digestive system is out of sorts, my Athlete’s foot flares up, I get tooth trouble, I get a cold. This is my ‘self’ telling me to slow down and re-connect.
If I don’t listen, then I may become very ill, mentally or physically, I may, in-fact, reach burnout. I did this about three times between 2009 and 2016, so you’d think I’d remember, right? But it is very easy to forget ‘self’, especially when we are taught not to be ‘self’ ish.
Remembering to regularly return to self and recognize what sustains and renews her, keeps the whole of me healthy, mind and body; which releases my creativity and allows me to be patient, kind and loving in my relationships. It also allows me to work well, bringing both empathy and challenge to my clients, and delivering inspiring conferences and workshops.
When we are sacred to self, when we listen and allow his or her wisdom to inform our choices in relationship, career, interests, community, we live fully and whole-heartedly.
It is often said that we think with our mind and feel with our heart. If we add self, or gut or soul or whatever you like to call that part of you into the mix, we become whole, we live fully.
The indigenous tribes of North America and Canada say that their ceremonies are where they ‘remember to remember’ the wisdom of their ancestors*. I like to think they would approve of my borrowing this phrase and applying it to ‘self’. We must remember to remember ‘self’ in the craziness and speed of our 21st century lives. ‘Self’ is the person we were born to be, it is the foundation of who we are, it is our bedrock.
Daily I must ‘remember to remember’ self. I never forget to clean my teeth or switch lights off; these instructions were hard-wired into my brain by my parents before I was 5 years old. How I wish they’d hard-wired an instruction to nurture self.
‘Self’ is in there, believe me. Under the layers of conformity, expectation and responsibility, it is waiting for you to get in touch, ask it questions. Like a seed, buried under the earth, it contains the answers to life itself.
In Courage and Renewal work https://couragerenewal.org/wpccr/
for which I am a trained facilitator, we invite delegates in our online and in-person programmes and retreats, to make time to re-connect with ‘self’. Using the written word, music, art and nature, we reflect on what has shaped us, what might help us to live whole-heartedly and what gifts we can bring to our communities and the wider world.
During 2023 why not join our Seasons of Leadership programme for leaders of business, education and community. It’s a series of 4 in person day retreats, and you can join one or all of them in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. You can find out more and book here
(* From Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.)
If you enjoy my blogs, you can read more of my work in my book available here www.amazon.co.uk/Words-Walks-Wisdom-Wendy-Bowers/dp/1671172353