“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” – Audre Lorde

BY LOUISA ROBBIN

When we reference self-care, it’s often by external means. Burnout? Bath bomb. Stressed? Schedule in some “me” time. Crippling self-doubt? Go for a long walk/detox/treat yourself.

It’s too frequently about the body, but after the bath water has gone down the drain and you’re sick of drinking green tea, the negative thoughts start seeping back in… 

Establishing a culture of internal self-care is vital to my functioning and happiness and if you’re anything like me, you might be sick of hurting yourself.

Below are the methods I’m using to work on changing my internal voice, to apologise to myself and practice self-compassion

Disclaimer: This is a selfish article. I am writing solely from my experience, this isn’t a guide to bettering yourself. I’m just a sad girl working through her stuff. 

I’m Lou, I’m a performing artist. I’m generally lovely and frequently sad.

A few years ago, I made a show about my depression called, “to care”. It’s a space in which my external self-care (which happens to be skin care) and my negative self-talk meet.

The performance follows a personal ritual of mine, making a product for my skin to be applied to my body.

Audibly, to care is comprised of a harmonic vocal drone layered with text reflective of my internal voice – it’s not very friendly.

Although feedback has been wonderful, it’s difficult giving yourself a verbal beatdown in front of an audience. Having people bear witness to my inner bully brings me a lot of shame.

Now, I’m actively trying to be kinder to myself – slowly – by taking these small steps.

  1. Catching myself in the act: By gradually making myself aware of my negative self-talk, now when I say stuff like, “You’ve ruined it” or, “You’re really shit at that” my brain brings it up like a notification. 
  2. Challenging myself: I ask myself out loud: Why have you said that? Is that true? It’s never true. If you feel it is true is there a kinder way of expressing that? Then I adjust my response, “That wasn’t very kind Lou, you don’t deserve to be spoken to that way”.
  3. Celebrating small wins: Praising myself for small things on hard days, by doing this I spend less time punishing myself for the things I couldn’t do. “Well done, you got out of bed! Brushed your teeth too? Dope!”
  4. Practicing gratitude: With the support of a loved one, at the end of each day I reflect on three things I’m grateful for. This helps me to stay grounded. 
  5. Staying present: I know I’m not the only one who gets caught up in future scenarios, overthinking myself into a bad place. I’m working hard on snapping out of this place by taking deep breaths and reminding myself that I can’t predict the future. It will happen when it happens and that’s ok. Similarly, hitting next track on replaying past moments that I have no way of changing. If I have learnt everything I need to learn, I need to try and make peace with the past and move forward. Feeling this low is tiring as it is. 
  6. Not being mean about failing to do steps one to five. It’s counterproductive (and it happens). 

When I first made my show, to care, it felt like a release but after performing it several times over and suffering very serious depressive episodes, I can now admit that I’ve created something very harmful to my health.

I’m done putting myself in danger. In my next showing, things will be different. I will take time to apologise to myself, treat myself with compassion and even celebrate myself. 

We all have moments where our behaviour towards ourselves can be wayward. I am rejecting that. I want to treat myself the way I do my loved ones. To be compassionate, radically, softly loved by the self. 

I wrote a manifesto, a declaration of my beliefs, values and motives, to remind myself of the journey I’m on. This is an addition to the show as I am tired of landing myself in sadness. I don’t want it.

I want to dance, sing, scream, run, sweat and live fiercely.  I will. 

A manifesto for self-love

I will speak to myself kindly, as much as I can. I’ll treat myself the way I would a good friend. 

I will be brave; I’m afraid and wobbly sometimes like a little lamb but I won’t run. I will take deep breaths and baby steps. 

I will stay here, in the present. Where my actions are relevant, and worry has no place.

I will set goals, a little one each day. Collecting the goals achieved, storing them like droplets of water in a jar. Allowing them to nourish me. 

If today is a hard one, I will go slow. Celebrating small wins. Practicing gratitude.

I will continue to love hard although loss is scary. 

I will start, it’s ok to be messy as there is no such thing as perfection. Starting is the important bit. 

I will use the support of the beautiful loving people I have in my life. I don’t have to do everything by myself. 

Finally, and most importantly. I will be proud of I am. Maybe this version of me isn’t what I had in mind, but it is what it is. Might as well roll with it or grow into it or out of it.

I am mine to mould. 

This piece came to be as part of Brighton’s Marlborough Pub & Theatres Radical Softness season taking place on 6 March 2019. For more on Louisa Robbins, visit louisarobbin.tumblr.com. Lead image Jemima Yong.

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