What is Self-Work?

What is Self-Work?


Though self-work sounds like a chore, like washing the dishes or vacuuming the floor, it’s actually a very enjoyable process (once, of course, you get over the shock of stepping outside of your comfort zone and potentially meeting all of your insecurities.)

So what is it? Self-work is any action you take towards self-improvement. Everyone needs self-work, even if you are the most well adjusted human being. Why? Because we’ve been conditioned to believe that once we become adults, our fun days are over. We must get a good job, pay our taxes, get married, have children, and then retire. Maybe once we retire we will finally have some time to explore our interests, enroll in a painting class or take up tap dancing. We put off the things that could potentially enrich our lives because we fear rejection, failing, falling, or being made a fool. But what if I told you that courage is not something you’re born with neither is “feeling happy”, “being overjoyed”, or “feeling at peace”. These are things you have to WORK at. Think of them like muscles you have to work out.

We are more than our identities — you are not just a boss, mom, sister, taxpayer, community member. You are SO much more than that. And it’s YOUR responsibility to uncover who that is so you can live the most joyful life possible.

The best way I know how to describe the process of self-work is that it’s a returning of home to oneself. Along the journey home, you’ll discover the things that make you tick, that make your eyes light up, and that fill your heart with joy and make you feel A L I V E. The best part about the whole process, is that you already have ALL you need to get started. You have all the answers you already need located within you (though they are likely buried deep under many years of conditioning.) That’s why I wanted to write this post, so that I could share some examples of self-work that worked for me in my own uncovering process.

How is Self-Work Different from Self-love or Self-care?

While self-care and self-love are important parts of the puzzle, they are also frequently used as buzz words, clickbait, or marketing schticks. If a company ever tries to convince you that self love or self care is equivalent to “treating yo’self” to whatever product they’re slinging— run away immediately, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

That being said, there is nothing wrong with self-care or self-love. The reason I chose to call self-work, “work” is because I wanted to emphasize the fact that you’ll need to do something different if you want to achieve change. If you are unsatisfied with the way your life is going, putting in self-work will not only allow you to live a more joyful, passionate, and purposeful life but it will inspire others around you to do the same damn thing. After all, only I am accountable for my own happiness. Not my friends, not my partner, not my boss. Self work such as learning a new skill for your resume, delving deeper into a topic of interest, or learning how to make repairs around their house has the power to empower, enlighten and inspire.

What Self-Work Isn’t:

Bath bombs and face masks. Self-work is hard work. It takes time, effort, self-compassion and patience, a lot of patience. Digging, hurting, feeling, removing, rebuilding, and failing is tough, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.. It is worth it and the reward is tenfold.

Here are Some Examples of Things That Count as “Self-Work”:

  • Meditating every day even when you don’t feel like it.

  • Eating mindfully, letting whatever hits your tongue move you

  • Nourishing your body

  • Dancing often

  • Stretching nightly

  • Practicing yoga

  • Sticking your belly out when you breathe

  • Laughing loudly

  • Listening more than you speak

  • Recognizing your own privilege

  • Using your privilege to help someone in your community

  • Creating for the sake of creating; painting, collaging, writing

  • Hanging up your creations on your refrigerator

  • Playing an instrument (especially if you’ve never been formally trained)

  • Practicing random acts of kindness until they aren’t random anymore

  • Decluttering your living space, desk space, car, purse, backpack frequently

  • Walking in the grass/or on the earth barefoot

  • Exploring the nature around your neighborhood

  • Freeing yourself from distractions (i.e. taking a technology timeout)

  • Spending time with a child or dog and doing as they do (i.e, howl, shake your tail, throw your head back in laughter.)

  • Giving a compliment to a stranger (if you can’t think of something nice to say, smiling is always nice)

  • Writing down a list of 5 things you enjoyed doing when you were 8, then doing those things

  • Swinging on a swing

  • Taking a new route home

  • Attending a workshop that peeks your interest: kombucha brewing, rock climbing, poetry writing,

  • Organizing a book club, new moon club, cooking club, tarot reading club, or just ANY KINDA CLUB

  • Standing on a stage at an open mic night and reading a page from your middle school diary

  • Making yourself vulnerable

  • Traveling

  • Identifying your triggers

  • Telling the people you love the most that they are the people you love the most

  • Going to a therapist regularly

  • Being protective of the media you consume

  • Taking responsibility of the energy you bring into a room

  • Expressing gratitude out loud whenever possible (& sending thank you cards for everything)

  • Reflecting on how far you’ve come

  • Questioning the status quo

  • Paying attention to the bodily sensations that arise when you feel certain emotions

  • Not letting your emotions succumb you, control you, or suffocate you

  • Manifesting something W I L D

  • Checking in with your mental, physical, emotional state regularly

  • Listening to your gut

  • Focusing on the things that matter most

  • Forgiving your enemies (including the biggest baddest one of them all…yourself)

  • Empathising with everyone you meet

  • Being, just being (you are human being, not a human doing.)

Do these things. Do all of them. And then when you wake up, do them again. Do them again until they become habits. If you don’t know how to do them, Google it, YouTube it, or order a book about it on Amazon. The internet will be a huge help on your self-work journey, especially if you live somewhere rural and your community doesn’t offer a lot in terms of workshops, open mic nights or bookshops. Facebook’s event search and Meetup.com are also great places to find fellow self-workers/interesting events.

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