10 Reasons To Try Dragon Boating

As one of the most popular up-and-coming sports in the world, here are 10 good reasons to try Dragon Boat Racing today!

First of all… What is Dragon Boating?

Dragon Boat Racing is a water-sport spanning thousands of years, originating from the Pearl River Delta region of China’s Guangdong Province. It is one of the most up-and-coming sports in the world, with over 50 million participants worldwide.

Modern Dragon Boat Racing began as an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976 (for more information, click here).

Source: https://shenzhen.blog/dragon-boat-festival-a-traditional-chinese-festival/
Source: Shenzhen Blog

Dragon Boat Racing consists of crews of 10 or 20 paddlers in a boat (+ Sweep/ Steerer and Drummer). The boats are typically made of carbon-fibre, fibreglass and other lightweight materials.

So how does it work?

Dragon Boat Racing involves each crew member paddling in synchronization/ as part of a team, against other Dragon Boat teams (or against time) from a start line to a finish line.

Race lengths vary, with the most popular being 200m, 500m and 2km.

According to the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF), there are currently 72 countries/ territories with memberships to the IDBF – and many more with a known interest.

Although you may have seen some teams sporting wooden paddles, Dragon Boat paddles are generally made of Carbon Fibre and their dimensions are carefully considered and controlled to comply with IDBF standards.

A paddler’s technique, height and power will determine the exact length and weight of the paddle.

You will notice the stamp/ decal on the top of the blade in the image – noting that the paddle complies with IDBF standards.

Paddles that are not compliant are not able to be used in official Dragon Boat Racing.

Source: https://www.amazon.co.uk/SPORT-Approved-Carbon-Dragon-Paddle/dp/B01E8DLU26
Source: amazon.com

Modern Dragon Boat Racing is organised at the international level by the IDBF, which is the governing body for the sport.

Dragon Boat Racing at the State, National and International level is very competitive and many paddlers train all year round and go through rigorous training programs, camps and try-outs to be capable of competing at a high level.

The Australian Dragon Boat Team is the Auroras – and their fitness benchmarks are outlined here.

Source: http://www.lureofthedragons.org/form-and-function.html#
Source: Lure of the Dragon

Above is a diagram of the typical set-up of a Dragon Boat Crew. Below is a quick description of each of these positions and what their purpose is:

STEERSMAN/ SWEEP:

The sweep is arguably the most important person on the boat.

They are responsible for the safety of the entire crew, and need to be in command 100% of the time.

The sweep needs to be able to understand wind and race conditions, as well as the capabilities of their crew, in order to keep the boat moving forward correctly.

Source: http://archive.boston.com/sports/blogs/bigshots/2009/06/dragon_boat_racing.html
Source: boston.com

BACK/ TURBO:

The back two/ four paddlers should be strong and able to keep up with the front ‘strokes’.

MIDDLE/ ENGINE ROOM:

The middle section of the boat is usually reserved for the strong, heavier paddlers to help balance the boat but still keep it above water with powerful strokes.

STROKES:

The front paddlers, also know as ‘strokes’ set the pace for the rest of the crew to follow.

These paddlers should have long, strong techniques, setting the visual example for the entire crew.

Source: https://www.thrill.com.au/dragon-boating-corporate-events-training-water-activities/
Source: thrill.com
Source: https://www.lovedbylaura.com/2015/06/bills-restaurant-cambridge.html
Source: Loved by Laura

DRUMMER:

The drummer position is usually reserved for someone lightweight (so the boat isn’t front heavy).

Drummers beat the drum in time to the strokes’ paddling, and calls out encouragement to the team – it might seem underrated, but it is extremely important in race conditions.

So why should you try it?

There are many great reasons to try and love Dragon Boating – but here are my personal TOP 10 reasons to give it a go:

NUMBER ONE:

STRENGTH AND FITNESS

Yes, this is an obvious benefit to any sport. However to be good at Dragon Boating, it requires a certain level of endurance, aerobic fitness, as well as strength.

It’s a whole body workout – your legs are the anchor while the muscles in your arms, shoulders and back are used to cut through the water.

Source: http://archive.boston.com/sports/blogs/bigshots/2009/06/dragon_boat_racing.html
Source: boston,com

You have to really lean forward to get the correct technique, which means you are also working your core at the same time, too!

Most clubs train several times a week, which means you can really choose what you get out of the sport. Whether you’re looking for a more social activity, or you have a competitive streak, this sport is excellent for either end of the spectrum.

NUMBER TWO:

TRADITION

Dragon Boat Racing is a sport that originated thousands of years ago. It is believed to have origins tracing back 2,500 years. In Chinese tradition, the Dragon symbolizes:

  • Power
  • Excellence
  • Courage
  • Boldness
  • Heroism
  • Perseverance
  • Nobility
  • Dignity

On race days, the boats are fitted with the proper Dragon Head and Tail. A traditional ceremony called ‘Awaking the Dragon’ is carried out, where a Taoist Priest dots the eyes of the dragon, thus ending its ‘slumber’.

The Chinese celebrate each year with a ‘Dragon Boat Festival’ which is one of their oldest and most grandiose festivals. It’s also known as the Duanwu Festival and occurs near the summer solstice (late May, early June). You can find more information here. Adelaide Dragon Boat Clubs also race at the OzAsia/ Moon Lantern Festival.

NUMBER THREE:

MEETING NEW PEOPLE:

Dragon Boat Racing is a sport that incorporates a wide variety of people of all ages, races and genders, from all walks of life. This makes it an amazingly social sport to be a part of.

Whether you plan to try Dragon Boat Racing competitively or socially, one thing is assured: you will make some amazing friends.

Source: http://www.dragonboatsa.com/auroras/
Source: Dragon Boat SA

The atmosphere both on and off the water is perfect for getting to know the people in your club, and everyone helps everyone else.

NUMBER FOUR:

Source: https://www.tutorialspoint.com/dragon_boating/dragon_boating_personnel.htm
Source: Tutorials Point

MASTERING A NEW SKILL-SET

Learning to paddle is always interesting – and each club has their own slightly different paddling technique – but for most, it is a very new kind of skill to learn.

Not only do you need to learn how to paddle – you need to learn the commands as well. It’s a sport that is incredibly demanding, both physically and mentally, but once you start to master it, very satisfying!

NUMBER FIVE:

THE SCENERY & BEING ON THE WATER

Where there are boats, there are (hopefully) bodies of water. And generally speaking, the places you paddle are quite beautiful!

Whether you’re paddling at a marina, on a river, a lake or the ocean, there is usually a lot to look at. So, while you may be paddling your butt off, you can still appreciate the scenery around you.

Early mornings are fresh and a perfect way to start your day, and afternoon training is rewarded with some incredibly beautiful sunsets. And the occasional pelican, fish, seagull or duck as well!

NUMBER SIX:

CAMARADERIE/ BEING PART OF A TEAM

Dragon Boat Racing is team sport, and to have any hope of making the boat go forward, you must work together.

The loyalty and team spirit you find while Dragon Boat Racing is something you won’t find anywhere else.

You’ll find out very quickly that ‘team’ takes on a very important meaning, especially while you’re on the water.

Rain, hail or shine (quite literally), training is a lot easier when you know you can trust the people around you. And rest assured, there’s nothing quite like paddling on a lake, hail and rain bucketing down, and laughing with the people next to you.

You will spend a lot of time on and off the water with the people around you, so having a mutual trust and friendship is imperative. Over time, you’ll notice that the people you paddle with will begin to become family.

NUMBER SEVEN:

TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES

Dragon Boat Racing can take you to some interesting places! Not only can you compete nationally, but if you make the national team, you could find yourself on the other side of the world.

The Dragon Boat World Championships take place all over the globe, from Hong Kong and Thailand, to Hungary and France. With a bit of competitive spirit and determination, this sport can take you to anywhere imaginable, all while making international friends along the way!

Source: https://www.timeout.com/hong-kong/things-to-do/10-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-the-dragon-boat-festival
Source: timeout.com

NUMBER EIGHT:

FREEING YOUR MIND

One of my favourite things about Dragon Boat Racing is that while you are on the water, there’s absolutely no time to think about anything other than paddling.

You are completely focused on your technique, what the commands being called out are, and keeping in time with the strokes (front two paddlers).

This sport is truly amazing for your all round well-being – body, mind, soul and spirit.

For someone like me, where day-to-day life can sometimes feel out of control, Dragon Boat Racing is the perfect opportunity to let all the worry and stress drift (quite literally) away.

NUMBER NINE:

DISCIPLINE

Discipline. There’s nothing quite like it.

You don’t know what this means until your sweep is screaming at an ear-splitting decibel for a ‘Power 20’ and all you can do is push your hardest and hope you aren’t going to have a heart attack.

Linking in with camaraderie, you and your team-mates rely on being disciplined to execute everything you’re told, in perfect synchronization, in order to bring the boat up and forward. And when it works, it works.

NUMBER TEN:

RACES!

Dragon Boat Racing = Races.

Lots and lots of races! Whether you see yourself as a competitive person or not, racing against other clubs is a lot of fun. It really brings everything together – camaraderie, discipline, team work, tradition, strength and fitness and everything you’ve learned along the way.

Giving one hundred percent, as a team unit, is truly a sight to see, and something to experience.

Race days are also a great way to mingle with people with other teams, watch other age-groups, enjoy some good old-fashioned team spirit and perhaps a beer or three after it’s all said and done.

So what are you waiting for?!

Summer is rapidly approaching (for my Australian friends, at least), and what better way to get fit and enjoy the water and sun? So what are you waiting for? Head down to your local club and give it a go!

FIND YOUR CLOSEST CLUB HERE:

For my South Australian Friends: click here

*Or come down and try with us at the Black Sea Dragons – formerly known as the Adelaide Sea Dragons and Black Dragons (new website coming soon!)


For my Interstate Friends: click here


For my Overseas Friends: click here


If you enjoyed this article, find more at:

Turn Your Anger Into Action.

We’ve all had moments that make us see red. It’s about what we do next.

We’ve all had moments that make us see red.

Just last week, something happened to me at work that made me so angry I was blind with rage. I only just managed to make it to the HR Manager’s office before I burst into tears.

Someone had questioned my work, and by extension, my work ethic, and that made me angry.

Sometimes it only takes one misguided conversation, one person or one incident to send us reeling into a complete rage.

And that’s absolutely fine, and absolutely normal. In fact, over 65% of office workers admit to having experienced anger and rage at work, and 45% of staff regularly lose their temper in their workplace.

However, the trouble comes when we use this rage in unproductive ways – such as withdrawing, deciding not to do as much work, ignoring the person or issue or just storming around the office without venting.

Anger, when harnessed correctly, is a powerful emotional tool. When used productively, anger can help us move forward, forge new paths and better relationships and empower us to achieve our goals in new ways.

Anger Creates Determination.

Have you ever noticed that when someone does you wrong, the first thing that comes to mind is often revenge?

When we’re angry, we’re determined. We want to get back at the person or situation which has hurt us, and we want to prove ourselves.

When used in the right way, we can use our anger and determination to find ways to be better. We want vengeance, and we want it to be swift.

So what better way to become better, than channeling our will for vengeance into a positive force. Use that determination to get something done you’ve been pushing aside. Finish that project you’ve been working on. Apply for that new job you were thinking about. Get that pile of washing folded. Whatever it is, smash it!

Turn your anger into determination and use it to power through.

Empower Yourself.

When we are angry, we are often angry that someone has insulted or harmed us in some way. When someone does this, it is only natural that we want to prove them wrong.

Not only do we have thoughts of seeking revenge, and also of proving to ourselves and others, but we feel like we need to be redeemed. We need to prove to the world that we a worthy of better. Better treatment, better people and better situations.

When we are personally insulted in any way, it can spark anger in us – and that is completely valid and completely normal.

So what better way to use that angry energy, than to use it to show the world we are worthy? Just because one person tells us we aren’t good enough, doesn’t mean that we have to believe it. With the right attitude, we can empower ourselves and seek out our feelings of worthiness.

We can use our anger to show people who we truly are, what we stand for and what we won‘t put up with.

Anger Breeds Optimism.

When something bad happens to us, our mindset tends to change. Perhaps not straight away, but eventually, whatever happens to us shapes us.

If we’ve been through something before, we’re more likely to feel like we can get through it again. We can stare at our aggressor and say: ‘Hit me with your best shot.’

Because we know we can deal with it. Humans are designed to adapt and overcome the issues we are faced with. It’s in our genetic make-up.

We are constantly changing and evolving as we experience new things – and sometimes that means bad things too. The best part of going through something that makes us mad, is that we can laugh in its face the next time around.

Next time you’re angry…

Next time you’re angry, remember to breathe, and try not to do anything rash. While anger can be an obstacle to success, it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to harness anger and turn it into something usable – it’s about what works for you. Channeling your anger and planning for your future are incredibly powerful tools when it comes to dealing with an issue that’s come to a head.

You are worthy, you are strong and you grow through what you go through. Don’t let anyone get in the way of your success, no matter how they make you feel!

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out more, at: www.theartofoverthinking.com/

5 Signs You’re in an Abusive Relationship; My Experience & What I Learned.

My story and the lessons I learned along the way.

 

NOTE:

Before I go any further, let me just say – it isn’t anyone’s place to judge another’s relationship, and that is not the intent of this article. This is simply a personal experience, and the things I found to be true for me.

 

 

MY STORY

The topic of a abuse within a relationship is often hard for a lot of people, which is one of the reasons I haven’t written about it until now. A lot of the time, the person that puts you through this type of thing has such a profound emotional hold over you, it’s hard to talk about your experiences, no matter how much time has passed.

For that reason, in this particular article, I’ll refer to that person as ‘He’.

For me, ‘He’ was the one. We had known each other for a couple of years, He was a social butterfly, He made me laugh and every time we hung out, it turned into some kind of fun adventure. People talk about the ‘Honeymoon Period’ of relationships – a brief period of time where everything seems perfect, you agree on everything and arguments are non-existent. This was the Honeymoon Period to beat any other – and I should have realised then that it was too good to be true.

I had suffered from Anxiety and Depression for a number of years before meeting him, and he helped me see the fun in life. He was smart and logical, but He had a spontaneous streak that was so much fun.

I truly believed we would get married, have children and live happily ever after. We had stupid nicknames for each other, we played pranks on each other, we stayed up late giggling and we took photos of each other snoring. We spent our weekends happily exploring the city and beaches and never fought about anything. Everything was fun and easy.

At that time in my life, I was a University Student, and he was a tradie/ labourer. It didn’t take long for us to move in together. He worked long hours and was the main breadwinner, and He was proud of that. I would spend my days studying, going to Uni, cleaning the house and making sure there was food on the table for Him when He finally trudged through the door.

Soon enough though, I could see He was starting to resent the fact that I didn’t have a job, although I was trying to work my way through Law School and look after things at home. I spent every penny of my Student Allowance on rent and things for the house, but it wasn’t enough. Before I knew it, I had picked up a couple of casual jobs working retail to try and even things out. I wanted to help. I loved Him. He could do no wrong in my eyes.

It wasn’t long after this that He came home and said He had been let go. At the time, I didn’t see it as too much of an issue – He was a robust and confident person, and I was sure He would pick up something new quite quickly.

I was wrong.

Ever since He was an apprentice, He had never not had a job, and His confidence plummeted. Something ‘snapped’ so to speak and He was never the same. Him being fired sent Him into a rapid depression, followed by paranoia and anxiety.

I tried everything in my power to help Him, but I was struggling too. I began taking my anti-depressants again, was stressed and taking on extra shifts at work to get us through to the next week. I eventually realised that I would have to drop out of University if I was going to help us get by. So I did. I deferred University to focus on looking after us. I loved him. I wanted to help.

I had heard about people developing paranoia, but His paranoia was something I had never experienced before, and I had no idea what I was meant to say or do to help Him. I tried everything. I listened to his rants without judgment, I offered my support, I told Him I believed Him when He said He was worried about people following him. I helped Him write job applications, introduced Him to new people, suggested He get professional help.

Nothing would calm him down.

He truly believed someone was ‘out to get Him’. Every conversation we had would go down the same path; ‘there’s someone following me’, ‘someone’s been in the house’, ‘they know too much’, ‘don’t talk about personal stuff over the phone’… it was overwhelming.

I came home one day and He was scanning the walls with a device that checks for ‘bugs’. He wouldn’t apply for jobs because he was convinced ‘they’ would sabotage him. He would constantly sat he was being followed in his car, or at the shops.

He started to become suspicious of me. I didn’t understand it, because I couldn’t see it. There was never anyone following us, nothing out of the ordinary happening in our lives besides His behaviour. I couldn’t find a way to help Him. All I knew was that I loved Him dearly and believed that He would snap out of it as quickly as it all started, if He just got another job and got back on track.

But it didn’t work that way.

Things went downhill. Rapidly. Nothing I would say would convince Him that there was no-one out to ‘get’ Him. I was so caught up with trying to help the person I loved, I failed to see I was becoming tangled in an abusive and toxic situation.

It was subtle at first, but by the end of our tumultuous relationship, the house was a war zone. Even now, years after, I experience the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Small things like someone grabbing my wrist, coming too close to my face, raising their hands or even the slightest raise in someone’s voice sets me off.

 

I’ve wanted to write this for a long time. And I wanted to list the types of warning signs I missed, but wished I hadn’t. It’s hard to recognise these things when you’re blinded by your situation. Because you don’t want to believe that the person you love is also the person destroying you.

Even if this helps one person recognise their situation for what it is, that would be enough for me. Keeping in mind that every relationship is unique along with the people in it, these are the 5 signs I look back on and wished I’d noticed:

 

 

 

NUMBER ONE:

Isolation.

I realised too late that I had distanced myself from many of my friends, probably at a time when I needed them the most. Once He became paranoid, He needed to keep me ‘safe’. He was scared someone was out to ‘get’ me too. He didn’t want me on Social Media, He was suspicious of visitors, new friends and even old friends.

I ended up cutting ties with a lot of people, all based on who ‘He’ thought was ‘safe’. Every person He met was a threat. He believed people who visited the house planted devices or stole things, and eventually it became easier to placate him by simply cutting people off.

 

 

NUMBER TWO:

Gas Lighting.

Whether it was intentional or not, He made me believe I was going crazy. He used my history of mental illness against me, telling me I was the crazy one. He would tell me that I was a psychopath, that I was the one with no heart and that I had no idea how much I put Him through.

When we fought, He’d tell me to ‘take another pill, crazy’, ‘go cut your wrists in the bath’ or ‘do the world a favour and kill yourself’. We had a small unit, so I would try and lock myself in the bathroom to get away from the taunts. When I did, He would yell that I was crazy and why would I lock the door on HimClearly was the suicidal one, and would kill myself in the bathroom. He’d break down the door to get to me, ripping the handle completely off, or making a hole in it – just so He could tell me to stop being an attention seeker.

If I tried to leave the house to get away from Him, He would stop me. He would stand in the door frame and tell me I was being dramatic. He’d tell me I had started the fight and that He hadn’t done anything wrong. He’d tell me I wasn’t leaving because I might hurt myself. He’d steal my keys, break my phone and threaten me. All the ‘help’ me.

He truly convinced me that I was the crazy one. That hiding in the bathroom to get away from Him meant I was the one with the issues. .

When I’d eventually open the door (or He’d break it down), He’d say things like: ‘I’m trying to help you’ or ‘I don’t want to have to break down the door again or call the police on you because I think you’re going to kill yourself in there’. He and I both knew that it was never my intention to hurt myself, but I began to believe that maybe I might. Maybe I was crazy. Maybe I was suffering from my mental illness in such a way, I couldn’t see how crazy I really was.

 

 

NUMBER THREE:

Becoming Physical.

This is the stereotypical sign of being in an abusive relationship, but it wasn’t until the physical abuse became very violent that I realised it had started long ago.

It started with things like grabbing my wrists or arm to stop me leaving a room, or holding me on the ground or on the bed so I couldn’t use my phone. But it got worse.

Any time we had an argument and I tried to leave, phone a friend or go into another room to get away from all the verbal abuse and tension, things would go flying (me included). He would put things like my laptop outside in the middle of the road. He would take my dinner outside and tell me to eat out there ‘like the dog I was’. He would laugh when I cried and begged to be allowed to leave.

Arguments in the car were common, because He know I couldn’t escape. He wouldn’t get out when I asked Him to, and He wouldn’t let me pull over and get out either. I had no choice but to keep driving, while He screamed in my ear, spat in my face and kicked the interior of the car.

One day He was so out of His mind with rage, He ripped the radio clean out of my car, wires dangling, and threw it out the window of my car into traffic while I was driving.

I was constantly having to come up with stories to tell my family and friends about why my things were constantly damaged and broken. The radio had ‘malfunctioned’. My phones were always being ‘dropped’ or ‘run over’ or simply ‘stopped working and needed to be replaced’. Sets of glasses never lasted long, the holes in the doors were from ‘tripping’ and the bruises were brushed off as me being clumsy.

Make no mistake, all of these things are abusive and violent. But when you love someone, sometimes you don’t see them for what they truly are, and brush them off.

 

 

NUMBER FOUR:

Put Downs and Name Calling.

There’s a saying: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’. But they do. Especially when you’re told everyday how awful you are. When you’re told you’re fat. Told you’re a psycho. Told you need to go to a psychiatric home. Told that no one will ever love you besides Him. Told that you deserved all the bad things that ever happened to you. That you deserve to be alone. Especially when you’re told all this by someone you love.

Eventually these things get to you. And once you start believing them, you gain a sense of hopelessness that doesn’t fade, even after you leave. You truly believe you are defected, damaged and no-good. It has taken years to be able to look in the mirror without hating my own reflection, and even now, I suffer the consequences of the verbal torment I was put through.

 

 

NUMBER FIVE:

Guilt and Blame.

This mightn’t seem as important as the other signs. But this is the thing that affected me more than anything else.

Every fight we had, no matter how violent, ended with Him saying things like: ‘I’m sorry, I love you’, ‘Please don’t leave me, you’re all I’ve got’ or hours of tears and promises to do better.

It was emotional torture. The man I once wanted a future with and who I loved so dearly, was hurting me in ways I never knew I could hurt. Of course I wanted to believe Him. Of course I wanted to brush off His behaviour as nothing more than a momentary lapse in judgment.

I remember the fights, and the anxiety crushing my chest. The tears, the fists and the threats. Then one day, His beloved Nan died. I knew this would make everything so much worse. If He was depressed, anxious and paranoid now, then this would surely tip Him over the edge completely. I wanted desperately to be there for Him. I wanted to comfort Him, to bring Him back to what He used to be, but I couldn’t do it anymore.

I was exhausted. I knew every fight we wold have from thereon out, every time he would hurt me, it wouldn’t be ‘His’ fault anymore. It would be because His Nan had died. Everything He did would be blamed away.

So I left.

Maybe deep down He was messed up and maybe He was sorry and perhaps He truly did need me. And I knew He must have been feeling very isolated and hurt too. But I realised much too late, that you can’t help someone who isn’t willing to help themselves.

I left Him after His Nan’s funeral. I would have left sooner, but again, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I loved Him. I felt like I needed to at least get Him through the funeral. I didn’t want to be ‘that’ person.

But who is ‘that’ person? I stayed so long. Put up with so much. For what?

 

WHAT NEXT?

Leaving Him was the most painful thing I have had to do in a long time. I’m not going to pretend that it was easy. I was so emotionally broken, I could feel my heart breaking with every breath I took.

Even after I left, I paid the rent in the unit we lived in for months until He moved out. I cleaned up all the mess He had left once he finally did leave. I never sent Him the bill.

I called Him every day after He moved out to make sure He was okay. He would cry on the phone and tell me He was so sorry. I would drive past His new house and bring Him food, because I knew He hadn’t eaten for days. I took Him to appointments, kept in touch, made sure He was okay and wasn’t going to hurt Himself.

Once I would get home, I would cry by myself on the kitchen floor for hours and hours, wondering how everything had gone so horribly wrong. I had given Him everything I had, and I had nothing left to give.

He begged me to give Him another chance.

But I couldn’t.

Because you can love someone so much, but at the end of the day, you have to love yourself more. And sometimes it takes a long time to realise that. When I look back on what I went through now, I wish I had seen the signs earlier. It took me so long to leave. Because I kept putting Him first, making excuses for Him, allowing His toxic behaviour to continue, because I was more worried about losing Him.

We do so much for the people we love.

But in the end, we are all human. I’ve come to terms with the fact that we are all on a journey. And you can’t save everyone on the journey to save yourself.

And that’s okay.

 

 

 

 

 

A Beginner’s Guide To Self Love

‘Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.’

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

My friend once gave me the perfect analogy for self love:

‘Shayde – there’s a reason they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first when you’re on an airplane. You can’t help the people around you if you haven’t first helped yourself.’

How nice it is, to have friends that point out the glaringly obvious, when you can’t see it for yourself.

 

Some days are incredibly hard. That’s just life. Sometimes we forget about ourselves, on our journey through life. We give and give and give, until we have nothing left for us to fall back on. But it’s inherently important to take time to slow down and look after yourself.

But loving yourself is not an easy task. It never has been and never will be.

 

But why don’t we love ourselves?

‘You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.’

– Buddha

 

We are surrounded by things that say we shouldn’t love ourselves, day in and day out. Of course, you all know what I’m talking about: magazines, social-media, advertisements, unrealistic ‘reality’ shows on television, sales professionals, sometimes even our bosses or our loved ones… wherever we turn, we seem to constantly be being told we are not quite good enough.

We’re told we need to be thinner. We need to have clearer skin. We should be more tan. We need less cellulite on our thighs. We need higher sales figures. We should have a house and kids by now. We should be getting better grades. We shouldn’t talk about our mental illnesses. We need a newer car, a bigger house and a six figure salary. We need to have prettier clothes, taller shoes and more make-up.

Everywhere we look, there is something to compare ourselves to. But the problem is – we shouldn’t have to. We need to realise that society has an unrealistic expectation of what ‘perfect’ is.

And it is really none of their business!

Perfect for you may look completely different to my idea of perfect. You may hate your curly hair, but another may envy you for it. Your friend eats whatever she wants and stays as thin as a rake – and yet she wants the curves you have.

Someone you know may like dating younger people, another may prefer someone more mature. Perhaps your friend may find someone who is strong and muscly preferable over someone who is academically gifted.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

And I’m here to tell you that no matter what you look like, where you’re from, what your age or preference, who you are – you are worthy of love – just as much as the next person.

And so we come to our first obstacle on the road to self-love:

 

 

ACCEPTING YOU ARE WORTHY.

‘Your problem is you’re… too busy holding onto your unworthiness.’

– Ram Dass

Before we can even think about giving ourselves the love we so desperately need, we need to believe we are deserving of it. And that’s where a lot of our problems start. We sow seeds of doubt in our mind that we aren’t good enough, we don’t deserve anything, and we end up feeling guilty at the very thought of looking after ourselves.

There is so much hate and pain and suffering in this world to simply act like it doesn’t exist, that is the plain and simple truth of it. But that does not mean we need to neglect ourselves out of some desperate attempt to help the people around us.

We must press on, or else be swallowed up by our insecurities, our pain and our problems.

‘You cannot pour from an empty vessel.’

Self-love is harder than what you see at surface value. It’s easy to have a bath, get a massage or a manicure, or spend a day in bed. What’s not easy is convincing yourself you truly deserve such things. It’s not easy to see past the action itself and into the ‘why am I doing this for myself?’.

There is an art to self-love. An art of really appreciating and understanding the love you give to yourself is in fact just that: LOVE. Love is something that needs to have room for growth – or else it wilts like a pruned rose in a lonely vase.

One of the greatest wonders in life is love. We simply cannot live without it. It’s proven time and time again in various forms – living beings that receive love and nourishment thrive next to their neglected counterparts. So it only makes sense that in order to spread that love, to truly thrive in the world around us, we must first know what it feels like to be loved.

So the first thing we must do on our journey to self-love, is to accept our flaws and to understand we are deserving of love in spite of them.

Treat yourself with respect and dignity, and never feel as though you aren’t worthy. If you don’t feel you are worthy of being loved, you will wilt. You may receive love, but it will be clouded by guilt.

It takes time and patience and won’t always seem right, but once you realise you are worthy of love, you can start to find yourself – which brings us to the next step in learning to love yourself:

 

 

SOUL SEARCHING.

‘Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.’

– Carl Gustav Jung

Someone once said something to me that made me stop and think for a really long time:

‘Every single person you meet has a different version of you in their mind. No two people know and remember you in the same way.’

It’s true. The way I think or feel about some of my friends will be completely different to how the person next to me perceives them. So the real question then, is this:

Who do you think you are?

How would you describe yourself? What are your favourite things to do? Who do you think about before you fall asleep? What are your aspirations? Your values?

To truly be able to take care of yourself, you need to know yourself. You need to know what you stand for, what you believe in, what you would fight for.

What use is it, trying to care and stand up for yourself, if you do not truly know what you actually stand for in the first place? Self-care loses meaning without knowing who you are. You may as well buy yourself a present from the Kris Kringle variety isle and be done with it.

So again: who do you think you are? It’s a question worth asking again and again until you’re sure. The stronger your foundations, the stronger the structure on top – fundamentally speaking.

This isn’t always easy. Especially when you start thinking about societal norms, expectations, religion, sexual preference, gender, war, history etc., etc., etc.. But not to worry – there are plenty of ways for you to begin to pick yourself apart – so to speak. Here are some interesting ideas for helping to find your true self and values:

  • Keep a journal
  • Keep up-to-date with current affairs
  • Find a creative outlet
  • Travel
  • Ask your friends what they think you’re good at
  • Take a personality/ strength quiz
  • Talk to people you normally wouldn’t
  • Learn to meditate
  • Keep a note of what and who you say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to
  • Read your horoscopes
  • Acknowledge your fears
  • Accept your shortcomings
  • Apologize when you’re wrong
  • Research your heritage

There are so many ways to explore who you are as a person – it is all about keeping an open mind and finding what makes you ‘tick’ as a person. No two people are going to be exactly alike. Just like no two people are going to see you in the same way. So who do you think you are?

Once you have an idea of who you are, you can start exploring the next step on your self-love journey, which is:

 

 

WHAT DOES SELF-CARE LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

‘When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits – anything that kept me small. My judgment called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.’

– Kim McMillen

Everyone’s idea of self-care is going to be different, based on their loves, values and personal ideas.

For one person, that might mean going and getting a pedicure. For another, a pedicure is an absolutely horrid ordeal.

Another person may want to buy tickets to a much-loved band, whereas someone else may cringe at the idea of a crowded venue being anyone’s idea of ‘self-care’.

It is all about you.

That’s why it’s called self-care and not other’s-care. And why it’s so important to know who you are, and what you love. And sometimes, certain situations call for different types of self-care.

For example, when I’m feeling at my worst, emotionally speaking, I’ll hide under my blanket for a few hours and block out the world, or I message my friend and ask him how he is and whether he wants to get coffee. And I feel better for it.

Other times, I might wake up and decide the definition of ‘self-care’ for that particular day is to not worry about the dishes on the sink, and watch a good Ted Talk or a documentary.

On the contrary, my partner’s idea of ‘self-care’ may be time with his friends, or going for a motorbike ride, or heading to the gym. Everyone is different, and every day is different.

It’s about recognizing how you’re feeling, and adjusting accordingly.

There is nothing wrong with learning to love yourself, understand yourself, and deciding to look after yourself. And there is certainly no shame in admitting you may not look after yourself as well as you perhaps should. It’s easy to lose sight of ourselves when the world is so loud, busy and consumer focused.

And so it makes sense then, in such a busy world, that the last (and probably the most important) step in our self-love journey is:

 

 

PRIORITIZING YOURSELF.

‘Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.’

– M. Scott Peck

It’s all well and good to think about self-care, and what it looks like and how deserving you are of it. But how many of you are thinking:

‘I don’t have time.’

Well I’m going to break it to you hard and fast. I won’t apologize for it, either. You do have time. We all have time. You just need to prioritize yourself.

What do you do that takes up so much time that you aren’t looking after yourself? Are you working too much? Taking on too much? Saying ‘yes’ too much, and ‘no’ too little?

Are you giving too much, and receiving little in return?

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

Take the time to look at your life, your schedule, your priorities, and truly evaluate. What is taking up so much time and energy that you have decided you aren’t important enough to look after?

And then make some adjustments. Perhaps you decide to take the train to work, so you can read for an hour rather than be stuck in traffic. Maybe you wake up an hour earlier so you can do some yoga, or make a healthy breakfast. You could start a self-care tradition to go get a massage on a Thursday night after work.

Whatever self-care looks like for you, you need to make it a priority. Because at the end of the day, you are all you have – and that can be scary or comforting, depending solely on how you treat yourself.

 

 

And always remember you are worthy, you are unique and self-care is important in order to grow:

‘Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.’

– Ralph Waldo Emerson