The more I treat myself like a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

‘I eat my
lunch early, around noon’, a colleague wrote in an email earlier this week,
before half-apologetically adding ‘like a child’. Her admission made me smile
because over the course of this year, I’ve been learning a lot about self-care (as
I’ve written about previously)
and much of that comes down to thinking about myself as if I were a young
child. Whenever I can feel my mood start to shift downwards or I find myself
losing concentration, I ask the same questions posed by parents the world over:
hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Too hot? Too cold? Need the toilet? Uncomfortable?
Needs playtime? Needs downtime?

It’s
amazing how addressing one of those issues restores equilibrium and allows me to
continue going about my day. Very occasionally it might be something else,
something more cerebral or adult-like, such as needing to send a difficult
email that’s been playing on my mind. More often than not, though, it’s a basic
physical or mental need that is most pressing. As I’ve also previously
observed
, basic doesn’t always mean easy. Knowing that we need to eat
regularly doesn’t guarantee that we act upon our awareness. At the weekend I
found myself on the verge of a full on tantrum in the Marks and Spencer food
hall because my partner was lingering longer than I thought necessary in the
meat aisle and the effects of not eating lunch were taking their toll on my
sense of balance and perspective.  

Oftentimes
we slip into the trap of thinking that we are too busy and important to look
after these kinds of essentials. We kid ourselves (fitting double-meaning!)
that we are too sophisticated to eat dinner early even if we’re getting hungry
when we finish work. We somehow imagine that we can simply override the need to
get a decent amount of sleep because it is not convenient; it would interfere
with our social life or desire to watch box-sets late into the night. Setting a
bedtime for ourselves seems so, well, childish.

Yet there’s
a paradox at the heart of all this. All the best insights seem to involve some
kind of oxymoron or apparent contradiction, and when this one came to me it
didn’t disappoint. The paradox of self-care is that the more I treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.  

The more I
treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

I’m sure
this doesn’t just apply to me.  Repeat it
to yourself and see if it resonates with your experience as well.

What this
means is that the more I not only accept but also consistently implement the
self-care basics as I would if I were caring for a toddler, the better able I
am to act in a mature way.

If I’d had
lunch, or even a decent snack like a banana, I wouldn’t have begun to meltdown
in the food hall. Maybe after a decent night’s sleep the critical feedback from
your boss doesn’t sting as much. Perhaps getting lost driving to a friend’s new
house doesn’t feel so stressful if you stopped for a loo break when you first needed
to rather than convincing yourself to ‘hang on’.  

When the
basic needs are met, we are freed up to be who we want to be in the world. We
have a solid base to build upon, our foundations are strong. It’s easier to
stay composed. Our moods don’t crash. Problems that arise don’t feel quite so
much like a crisis.

Our lives become
diffused with equanimity in a way that seems out of reach when we’re careening
round with too few hours of sleep, too little food and not even allowing ourselves
to sit on the toilet for long enough.

The more I
treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

Think about
parenting yourself as you would if you were two years old. What is it that you
most need? Is it time to say ‘I think someone needs an early night!’ as your
mum may have done? Or make a rule that there’s no screen time between getting
in home and dinner? Need some shoes that fit properly?

Think
particularly about your pinch points and what self-parental provisions you need
to make for in or around those situations: good music for a long journey, play
dates with friends, some kind of metaphorical equivalent of baby wipes in your
handbag (or perhaps actual baby wipes would help)?

Try
something and notice the effects. Does accepting that we function in the same
way as small children allow you to maintain a more adult like demeanour?

Let me and
other readers know how you get on! Get in touch by commenting below or via
social media: there’s Instagram,
Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  And of course you can
also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  

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