If nurture were a scent, it would be that of baking bread, a field of flowers, cinnamon. If it were a texture, it would enfold us in smooth, soft warmth. If it were an emotion, it would be a sense of safety, compassion, and hope.
If nurture were an action, it would be what we do to support survival, growth and flourishing.
What Nurturing Looks Like
Watch the parents of a baby or young child as they do what it takes to ensure their young one’s survival, growth and flourishing.
We nurture through the daily caregiving routines that babies can’t do for themselves. Feeding, diapering, soothing, keeping them warm, helping them fall asleep. We nurture our young children by delighting in them, engaging with them, being there for them.
We give our babies an endless, unconditional love. I know that’s the ideal, and not every day is so idyllically beautiful, but even on the days when our reserves are low and our patience is shot, that love and nurturance is still there. Our babies respond to all we give them with their boundless love, their resilience and their joy.
Watch a neighbor tending to her garden.
We nurture plants by placing them where they can get the right amount of sunlight, by spreading mulch and adding compost to the soil, watering when necessary, and by pulling weeds so they can flourish. We commit ourselves to daily and weekly routines that support the garden’s health and growth. In return our gardens help sustain our environment, providing us with their beauty and bounty.
Why Self-Nurturing Matters
Those of us who are service-centered are inclined to nurture others, giving generously of our time and energy, saying yes to every request and responding to every need. Often we do that until we can’t do it anymore because of the emotional, mental or physical depletion that can set in after years of nurturing everyone but ourselves.
A river cannot continue to flow without a source of renewal. Carrying out a commitment to nurture others requires making a commitment first to nurturing ourselves.
When we do so, we, like babies, are able to bring our light to the world with with love, resilience and joy.
Nurturing Yourself First
Think of yourself as someone deserving of the care that allows you to survive, grow, and flourish.
What if you did this by committing at least 10% of your time, energy and resources to self-nurturance? How would that change your daily and weekly routines?
- Write a few paragraphs or make lists describing the things you do on a typical day.
- Start with what you do when you first get up.
- Take it from there, moving through the day from the time you get up until you go to sleep.
- Make sure to include anything you now do to nurture yourself
- Now suppose you were going to spend your days integrating self-nurturance into your daily and weekly routines.
- Describe what a typical day would be like, keeping in mind these two questions:
–What might you need to change in order to better nurture yourself?
–What would you begin doing if you wanted to be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else who you dearly loved?
–What encouraging and nurturing words can you say to yourself.Hint: this would be the voice of your Inner Encourager.