The Importance of ‘Being There’ for Yourself
Most people would say they are good at supporting their friends and family, but why are we so bad at being there for ourselves?
When my second eldest daughter was a few months old, she developed colic. She would wake every night, crying for several hours, utterly inconsolable. Nothing I did helped her, not breastfeeding, holding her, rocking her, or my attempts to soothe her. Sometimes her cries pierced me so deeply I felt like giving up and leaving her alone. I felt so powerless.
Though it was difficult, my daughter taught me something vital and precious. As I watched her healing journey, I realised I cannot take away someone else’s pain or rescue them. I cannot change what they are feeling, patch it up and move along. All I could do was witness, be there and be present for her. Yes I got frustrated, angry, and distraught that I couldn’t do more, but eventually I found a place of calm as I sang mantras and focussed on staying peaceful in my own body. In learning to hold space for her, I learned to hold space for myself. In fact, I couldn’t be present for her, without being present for myself. Her pain triggered my own deep pain, and I had to allow myself to move through it if I was going to help her.
It took the crumbling of a 13 year relationship to make me see how much of my energy goes into holding space for others; my four children, ex-partner, and those I work with in my teaching and healing practice. While I can hold space well for others, am sensitive and empathic, I recently realised again that there was a ceiling to this ability. In order to expand my capacity to be there for others, I needed to truly learn how to be there for myself. I was so focussed outwards, that I was neglecting the very thing that makes me solid and potent as a healing force for others: My own wellbeing.
I have a daily requirement to centre, ground and remain in my own core, otherwise I’m knocked off into other people’s solar systems and wander around in a lost galaxy for a while before finding my way home. We all need to hold space for ourselves if we are going to be able to live life in a healthy and balanced way.
WHAT EXACTLY DOES IT MEAN TO “HOLD SPACE” FOR YOURSELF?
We seem to do it naturally for others, but what does it mean to do it for ourselves? For me, holding space means becoming the container to experience myself; to grow, to feel, to express, to test out, to live. It is being present, treating yourself with care, consideration, kindness, compassion and love. Hearing the needs of your body and mind, feeling your emotions, and listening to the yearning of your soul. It’s a way of being, a lifestyle, a profound choice and a stand you take. It’s not a belief system, but is rather a way of being with yourself and meeting your own needs.This can be lifesaving in intimate relationships, where we can ruin a good thing by trying to make the other meet all our needs.We spend every minute of the day with ourselves. How much of it is good, supportive, and kind?
Holding space is like a great pilgrimage home to your own soul. A key to holding space for yourself is to see yourself with all your faults and without judgement and criticism. To see yourself with kindness and love, just as you would a friend. It’s making friends with your fear, inviting Cousin Self-Doubt, Mrs Perfectionist, Brother Criticism, and Sister Putdown, in for a cup of tea around the fireplace.
“Self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship to myself.” Nathaniel Brand
Holding space for yourself gives you a place to check your direction, to see who or what is in the driver seat of your life, and to adjust your course when you need to. It brings space and awareness into your life, ensuring your life reflects your soul and your longings, so you don’t have to wake up at age 45 and realise you don’t like who you’ve become.