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Healing Ourselves Through Self-Nurturing

Image of Buddha, art, and flowers representing self-nurturing

“For most of us, the word nurture from the the Latin “nutritus” for “nourish,” conjures up images of taking care of others with lovingly prepared food, emotional support, protective warmth, practical help, and wise teachings. In self-nurture, we offer ourselves these same gifts, and more, as daily practice.”

~Alice Domar

Recently I provided a self-nurturing training to the San Diego Domestic Violence Council called How to Nurture Yourself to Transform the World. These remarkable individuals on the council are working hard every day to heal the pain and suffering caused by domestic violence and create a more just and healthy community. After my training four inspiring Leap to Success graduates shared their stories of overcoming domestic violence and how self-nurturing helped them heal and transform their lives. They reminded the council of how important it was for them to nurture themselves and that they were worth doing so.

Their stories affirmed what I have experienced in my own life and witnessed in so many others that nurturing ourselves has the power to heal the most important relationship we will ever have – the relationship with ourselves.

You see self-nurturing is all about how we treat ourselves. It is the practice of treating ourselves like we would a cherished friend, listening to our feelings and needs, and prioritizing ourselves in our lives. To nurture ourselves is to lovingly care for ourselves, to listen to ourselves, to express our authentic truth, and protect ourselves when necessary.

Self-nurturing is the ultimate empowerment strategy that offers us the transformational gift of being loving and kind to ourselves on this journey of life. You may notice that I use the term self-nurturing rather than self-care.

I see self-nurturing as the expanded, more comprehensive version of self-care. Self-nurturing is not just about the self-care activities, but rather the relationship we are developing with ourselves and how we engage in an activity.

I have heard from many clients that self-care can feel like another “to do” on their overflowing lists. An experience of “I should do this” or I “should do that”. Instead self-nurturing is about the way we treat and care for ourselves.The motivation around self-nurturing comes from within and carries with it an energy of choice rather than obligation. As a result any activity can be self-nurturing when you bring that intention to it.

I define self-nurturing as the act of deeply caring for yourself by nourishing, cherishing and encouraging your own growth and potential. There are so many ways we can nourish ourselves from what we eat, to activities we engage in, to the people we spend time with, and the experiences we have. Finding ways to cherish ourselves like we would a beloved family member or friend is such a powerful expression of love and healing and may come in the form of healthy boundaries or prioritizing yourself in your own schedule. There are infinite ways we can we encourage our own growth and potential like learn to play a musical instrument, speak a new language or develop a new skill. We can listen to a podcast (Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us is one of my favorites), read a book, or have a conversation with someone with the intention to listen to understand.  Any commitment to nourish, cherish, and encourage our growth and potential is nurturing and holds the healing power of reinforcing our value and worth.

I have witnessed over and over that the more we nurture ourselves the more we love and value ourselves. And the more we love and value ourselves, the more we prioritize nurturing ourselves creating a beautiful self-sustaining cycle. 

So how will you nourish, cherish or encourage your own growth and potential today?

Indeed there will be more challenges for us to face individually, as a community, and as a nation in the months to come. Committing to nurturing yourself could be the key to healing and transforming the world. We have an opportunity to be a beacon of light in the darkness of these times and model what it looks like to nurture and care for ourselves.

If you find that you often prioritize everything else in your life but yourself, nurturing yourself may at first be challenging. You may need to give yourself permission to release the belief that caring for yourself is selfishness. If you feel guilty taking time for yourself, you may need to keep reminding yourself of just how important it is for you to prioritize you.

Parker Palmer may be helpful in this process stating, “Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.”

Above all friends be gentle with yourself in this process. Remember that how you treat yourself is as important as the activity you engage in when it comes to nurturing yourself. You can learn to refill your cup so that you give from the overflow in your saucer rather than the last drops in your cup. And the path is self-nurturing.

May you embrace the healing power of self-nurturing as you nurture peace in the world from the inside out!

Kelley Grimes

Sending you so much peace, love and gratitude,

Kelley Grimes, M.S.W.
Counselor, Author & Speaker

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Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • As a former perfectionist, the best gift I gave myself was to affirm my best was good enough and discovered it really was! Those of us who have giving hearts often forget to include ourselves in the list of beneficiaries. Thank you for sharing your insights, Kelley.

  • Since my hip surgery this year when I’ve had a lot of time sitting by myself, I have taken more notice of how I talk to myself. Now instead of saying things like, “well that was a stupid thing to do,” I give myself an imaginary pat on the back and say, “Ok, sweetheart, let’s slow down and focus on what’s really going on here.” Just that one act of self-nurturing alone had made huge changes in my life.

  • Laura says:

    What a magnificent post Kelly. Yes, victims of DV have been shamed and victim blamed so learning to self nurture is crucial for success in healing and moving forward. Thank you for shining light in this area.

  • Beautiful reminder, inspirational and encouraging post. Filling our own cup first is always the beginning. Finding ways every day to do that is fulfilling.

  • christin bjergbakke says:

    it is so important to love, cheris and honour yourself, but I never looked at it in this perspective. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Andrea says:

    I’ve not made a distinction between self-nurturing and self-care so you’ve given me a lot to think about. I find myself wondering whether some of the maladies ascribed to aging might just be that lack of self-nurturing catching up with us. Thanks for this important post.

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