Last month I wrote a piece on why I’m not gentle, despite the fact that I run a course on gentle living and support others to be just that.
The blog resulted in lovely chat and some interesting comments, essentially along the lines of ‘you’re brave to be this honest when it’s what you say you’re the expert in’.
Which is brilliant. Because this raises a really important point about honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability, and especially in practitioners and experts themselves.
I certainly don’t want to pretend I’m some untouchable person to failure, difficulties, struggles. Neither do you want, I’m sure, to hear about someone’s struggles and their transformation and be led to believe that they’re healed, all sorted and perfect now. Keeping on going in tough times, or when you don’t feel like showing up is the part of the story we’re usually most interested in. Our initial transformation is rarely the end of the road – it is merely the start of a winding journey.
The message I’d like to convey from that is this: don’t let difficulties stop you from doing what you want to do. Don’t let apparent failure derail you on whatever path you want. We’ve all been through them, we all continue to go through them and please don’t feel like you’re different to anyone else on this path. Transformation and change doesn’t happen just once – it continues and we continue to learn and grow from it ad infinitum.
We all achieve, fail, develop, learn, just as everyone else.
So with that in mind, I felt compelled to shine a light on this a little further with experts who are willing to share their failures (and successes!) and I’m so grateful to have contributors to this mini blog series on how vulnerability and failure, even when you’re an expert, are indeed our strengths.
First up, we have Suzy Reading, self-care guru (or is she?!) and Psychologist. I’m so happy she took to my questions with such gusto and I think you’ll agree how powerful her thoughts on this topic are.
Here’s what she shared…
Q1. You have been described as a self-care guru. How do you feel about this?
I am thrilled that my message about self-care is rippling out, but I am no guru. I am a normal, fallible human being, learning lessons the hard way and sharing my insights to help others avoid the traps I’ve fallen into myself. I think of it as I’m climbing my mountain and everyone else is climbing theirs. I’m not at the top helping people up, I am sharing the ascent and the tools that help me along the way. Authenticity is deeply important to me so while I’m no ‘guru’, I have done the work and the research to practice in the wellbeing sphere and feel I’ve earned my stripes professionally and personally.
There have been many twists and turns to my career and over the last two decades I’ve trained and worked as a psychologist, personal trainer and yoga teacher, all of which have shaped my self-care toolkit. That toolkit has made all the difference in my life and I want to empower other people with the same skills.
Q2. Where do you feel you succeed in self-care the most in your life now?
I make sure there is some kind of self-care ritual in every day. I learnt first-hand what happens when self-care gets dropped from the daily routine and I never want to experience that state of energetic bankruptcy again! As a result of that experience and drawing all my professional skills together, I developed a framework of self-care to remind me of a type of self-care when life gets tough.
I’ve spent the last eight years building a broad toolkit of nourishing practices so I always have an activity or skill when I need it the most. I find it enormously helpful having lots of different nurturing options to choose from, things that are accessible even when I am fatigued, overwhelmed and time poor. Self-care is an art form and it takes practice to learn how to tune in, take proactive steps and get the balance right.
I am still learning every day.
Q3. Although of course we want to celebrate successes, I’d love to know where you feel you ‘fail’ in your own self-care and what you might learn from this?
Ah, I love this question. My whole journey with self-care began with a massive fail and my work now is a beautiful silver lining to that painful time. I want people to know I don’t always get it right. Self-care is health care and it’s not always easy to take the truly health-giving option.
My current lesson is achieving balance by not pushing too hard – I have a tendency to strive and be a bit all or nothing. I spent the first half of this year writing a second book and it’s been a great labour of love leaving little space for other nourishing activities like the kind of physical activity I’d like to be doing more regularly. I made time for some simple and short daily yoga sequences but not much else. Now that time has opened up again I was so excited about getting out running again that I overdid it and wound up fitter but also depleted and Scary Mummy was showing up by the end of the day. Running for me in the right volume and intensity is 100% a self-care activity but I have to be careful not to fry my adrenals and to carve balance with rest, stillness and soothing moves that heal my nervous system. Listening to my body-mind and really honouring what I need is something I am still honing and not always nailing! A work in progress.
Q4. What do you think we could all learn from knowing that even experts or gurus don’t have it all together all of the time?
No one is immune from struggle, fatigue, overwhelm, or challenging emotional or mood states. We all lose people we love, we face stress in our daily lives and we have a body and mind that can falter. We are all fallible human beings who sometimes get it right and sometimes get it wrong. I wanted to be very open and honest about my experiences, the mistakes I made and the lessons I learnt in my book, The Self-Care Revolution. I think it can be very normalising to know that everybody has tough times, and very healing to know that we truly are in it together. This is where self-compassion is born and great things blossom from there.
Q5. What’s the one thing you think we can all do to give ourselves better care?
First and foremost we need to give ourselves permission to engage in regular self-care. When we get clear on how we conceptualise self-care a lot of the barriers fall away. Self-care is health care. It is nourishment for the head, the heart and the body, helping us cope, heal and to boost our resilience in the face of future stress. It is the means by which we become who we aspire to be. I would encourage everyone to reflect on this definition, to think about how self-care benefits you and everyone your life touches and to take a good look at any self-imposed barriers.
When we nourish ourselves we are more capable, resourceful and compassionate people and what a beautiful win win that is. Please give yourself permission to lovingly nurture yourself and watch the dividends ripple out beyond you.
More about Suzy
Suzy is a mother of two, a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, and Health Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges. Suzy is a contributing editor for Psychologies Magazine and the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics. She figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in hills of Hertfordshire, UK. Her first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster, is out now:
You can join Suzy’s Wellbeing Community at: