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Truthy Tuesday: Creating your Personal Code for Self-Care

Truthy Tuesday with Willo O'Brien: Creating your Personal Code for Self-Care

{by guest maven, Willo O’Brien}

When Jen first contacted me about writing on the Maven Circle blog, she said, “the topic this month is loose.”

She went on to say that this month’s posts are mostly about habits and organization in light of the new year, but hilariously I took the first sentence literally, and started thinking about the things we do in our lives really loosely – the things we do without focus or clear boundaries and which waiver and stray. They’re executed poorly or more often never at all. Interestingly enough, this tangential misunderstanding ties in beautifully with what I wanted to share with you on my Truthy Tuesday.

If you’ve been following this blog, and the incredible work Jen & Jena have been putting out into the world, you’ll know that they’ve been spreading the good word about how crucial self-care is for staying happy and healthy. Being a creative entrepreneur myself over the last 10+ years, I have had the opportunity to learn this lesson many times over.

Self-care is a funny thing though. We all know it’s important, but for many of us we don’t quite know what it means. More importantly, what does it mean for ME personally? I mean, I know I should floss, and eat my vegetables, and drink water and get enough sleep. That should do it, right?

That’s a great start, but self-care is a lot more than just covering the basics. In fact, it’s with this general view of self-care that we can often find ourselves wavering. Like any plan, or journey, if there’s not a clear roadmap, our odds of getting lost or off-course are pretty high.

How I Learned the Hard Way

In my first few years of self-employment, I veered off course badly. Really, really badly. Again and again and again. Back then I was doing design work for clients, and they were my top priority. I needed to make sure they were taken care of and happy every day. This fed me in more ways than one. I loved being needed. I loved the appreciation. Oh ya, and the checks flowing in were nice, too! Bottom line is nothing else mattered. Until all of a sudden it did.

My clients were getting taken care of, but I wasn’t taking care of myself. I forgot to eat, or when I did I would overeat or make something quick that wasn’t good for me. I worked from home, and pretty much got up each morning and went straight to my desk, sit all day and not move. Due to my long hours, I wasn’t seeing my friends as often, and had absolutely no dating life. I wasn’t saying no or setting boundaries with clients, so I was super stressed, working way too much and taking jobs I didn’t even like doing. I was miserable.

Here I was at the end of a year where I had finally made the alluring six figures, but I was an absolute shell of myself. My Mom came to visit for Christmas that year and I was totally irritable, on edge, uncomfortable in my own skin, and flat out depressed. I wasn’t proud of who I had become and I knew something had to change.

Over the next few years I clumsily tried to fumble my way back to homeostasis. I made commitments to myself to eat healthier, I enrolled myself in a Bootcamp (exercise training program) and started practicing saying no to projects I didn’t want to do and/or didn’t have the bandwidth to take care of (way harder than it sounds). I say I ‘fumbled’ with compassion, because looking back I see how tricky this was for me when I really didn’t have any guidance or purpose in doing so, besides trying to avoid the worst possible outcome.

Now, avoiding pain is a very human place to start, but trying to avoid pain gets exhausting, and ultimately isn’t a motivating factor. Similar to the frog in hot water analogy, we’re so resilient that we can actually suffer through quite a bit before it gets so bad we take notice. And by that time we may be faced with depression, debt, severed relationships, an extra 20 pounds or another health/body related issue.

We need a deeper purpose and clarity for why self-care is important to us,
so that we may feel excited and energized by it!

Clarity & Purpose

Our behaviors are often rooted in how our primary caregivers modeled self-care. So first you may want to step back and look at your history: How did your mom (or primary female caretaker) take care of herself? How about the male figures in your life?

I was raised by a single mom who worked all the time, and she worked really, really hard. When she got home, her top priority was taking care of me and keeping me happy. Hmm, sound familiar? It’s no wonder I spent so much of my career believing work needed to be hard, and I had to put everyone else’s needs before my own.

Second, let’s explore a time you have felt most in alignment with your self-care. This can help reveal your deeper purpose – your “why”- for making self-care a priority for you. Think back to when you felt healthy and energetic, happy and peaceful. Think back to a time you knew you were taking care of yourself or self-care came naturally. What was happening for you then and/or what were the activities you were involved in that may have contributed to those feelings?

For me, self-care has consistently come back to my relationship with my body. I had years of abandoning my body through not eating or overeating; pushing myself to extremes with workouts or not exercising at all. The funny thing is, there were many times the decisions behind those behaviors were veiled in the illusion of self-care. I may have thought not eating was helping me lose weight, or that pushing myself really hard in my workouts was helping me, but really those actions were just my same old cycle of self-destructive behavior.

It’s no wonder we find ourselves going through the motions of what we think is self-care, given we’re surrounded by magazine and advertisements brainwashing us into thinking we need to lose weight, and look young and beautiful. It’s important to stop and ask yourself, who is this really for?

After years of this struggle, I was tired of it. I had to learn how to take care of my body for me. I had to learn how to take care of my body from a place of love.

“When you become aware of why your body is important to you, and
what value it brings you in your life, the way you take care of it changes.”

I’m grateful I’ve had an amazing coach who has guided me on this journey, and has inspired much of the life-changing work I do now supporting others on their quests to stay connected to their self-care, creativity and the magic in their lives. Through our work together, I have not only learned how to take care of my body from a place of love, but I have completely transformed and deepened my relationship with my Self. Feeling healthy, happy, and connected has made me a better friend, daughter, consultant, coach and teacher.

My Personal Code for Self-Care is unique to me, and yours will be unique to you.

It’s given me clarity, and a deeper purpose and understanding behind what makes me feel taken care of and alive in my body. I wish this clarity, freedom, peace and connection for each one of you!

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willodotIn the last five years Willo O’Brien has had her own product line, served as co-founder of two startups, produced a video series and launched multiple programs dedicated to supporting individuals and passionate entrepreneurs. In her latest venture, she has teamed up with her wise coach, mentor and friend, Jackie Priestley, to create Feel Alive! ~ Reconnect & Live Life Lightly – a course dedicated to sharing this transformational work with people around the world.

Feel Alive! is a 30-Day journey to explore your relationship with your body and uncover the limiting beliefs and stories that you are currently living with. Opening to this awareness, with curiosity and compassion, will provide a space for healing and illuminate the path to your Personal Code of Self Care. You hold the key to feeling nourished, fulfilled and alive!

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Willo would love to hear from you, Mavens! What does self-care look like in your life? What makes you feel alive?

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2 Responses to Truthy Tuesday: Creating your Personal Code for Self-Care

  1. Coral says:

    Things not going to plan – eat copious amounts of ice cream and biscuits on the weekend. Then feel guilty all week. Hmmm – that’s not helping. This creative business adventure has been much more challenging than I was expecting. And that is how I was coping. But I get up at 4 am to spend time on my business, learning and blogging. And you can’t do that living on ice cream on the weekend and sleeping the day away in a sugar coma. I realised the sugar wasn’t helping and I need to eat healthy to give me the clarity and energy to do this. 6kg down already! We need to be kinder and gentler on ourselves to give us the room to make our dreams a reality. And so we don’t finally get there worn out and broken.

    • We couldn’t agree more, Coral! You can get away with not taking care of yourself for only so long before it catches up with you. Glad you’re feeling better and isn’t it amazing how everything changes when we feel better? Keep up the awesome self-care! – Jen

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