photo of pink rose for article on self-care by Dr Anne Malatt

Self-care: who is the self we are caring for?


Self-care is a common topic of conversation these days, and we may think we should be doing more of it, but what is it? And who is the ‘self’ we are caring for?

I used to think I was caring for myself when I had ‘me’ time – staying up late drinking champagne, eating chocolate and watching black comedies … going shopping for yet more shoes that I did not really need … going out for coffee and cake … or out for dinners that were more about the wine than the food … having indulgent holidays in tropical places that were largely spent in a haze of drinking and sleeping … I used to come back from my holidays feeling that I needed another holiday to recover from one I had just had!

The self I was caring for during this time was the part that does what it wants, when it wants, with little to no regard for the consequences on my body or the effect on other people. This self is wilful, and selfish. It is never satisfied, can never get enough, and nothing is ever good enough. This part of me exists in separation from the whole, and indulging this part of myself comes at the expense of my whole self and of everyone else.

But this is the way that many of us live.

We are willing to do whatever it takes, in terms of working, raising a family, being a ‘good’ worker, friend, partner, father, mother, daughter, son, etc., as long as we can have ‘me’ time to do what we feel like doing at the end of the day, the end of the working week, on holidays, when we retire …

This compartmentalised way of living is not truly fulfilling and often leads to us feeling dissatisfied, anxious, depressed, and can lead to physical illness as well … as a consequence of the choices we are making in our time ‘off’ that are taking us way off course from how we are truly meant to live … to the point where now 95% of us are ill (1) and 95% of illnesses such as cancer are related to the way we are living (2).

So is there a way we can care for ourselves, that cares for the whole of us, equally so, and for everyone else too? There is, but it starts with understanding that ‘self’ is much more than we think it is.

Who is the ‘self’ we are caring for?

There are three aspects to the ‘self’.

There is the self we are all familiar with – our personality, the human self – that which we consider is us, and that which others know us by. Our traits, our quirks, our likes and dislikes, that which endears us to others and that which others react to; our human face on earth. Most of us think this is who we are, and that this is all we are, but there is so much more to all of us …

Then there is the part of us that runs the show behind the scenes – our spirit – the part that lives on from life to life and that shapes the way we see and feel about life and people in general … the part that wants its own way, no matter what the consequence, the part that craves recognition and acceptance as an individual at all costs, the part that makes decisions that sometimes make no sense to us, the part that does things the human part regrets …

And then there is our essence – our Soul – the fire that burns within us that is the same spark in each and every one of us – the part of us that is equal with all others and at one with the whole. The spirit is the part that separated from the Soul, to seek its own individual existence, and it does whatever it can to delay its inevitable return, no matter what the cost.

How we live our lives – including how we care for ourselves – is largely determined by whether we allow the spirit or the Soul to express through our human vehicle.

If we allow the spirit to express, we make choices for ourselves as individuals, whether they are in our own best interests or not, and whether or not they are in the interests of others. These choices are often made at the expense of ourselves and others.

The spirit is willing to disregard the human body to get what it wants right now, knowing that it can always get another one. It may treat the body with disregard – smoking, drinking alcohol or taking other drugs, eating junk food, eating excessively, staying up late watching movies or zoning out on social media – and treat others with disregard too. It may make decisions that seem ‘good’ on the surface, but always there is an underlying agenda of seeking recognition, or acceptance, or individuality at all costs.

The spirit may also glorify the human body, and make life all about the body – as do models, performance athletes, and bodybuilders ­– but the body is just our vehicle of expression, it is not the be-all-and-end-all of who we are. We need to care for it, that we may express through it, but our flesh and blood is not the essence of us.

When it comes to self-care, the spirit may exercise to look good, or be fitter than others, or faster or stronger than others, but this is not always done in a way that honours and cares for the body. Or it may eat to look good, rather than to truly nourish the vehicle that enhouses it.

The Soul is One. It is already everything. It has no need of any of this. The Soul knows who it is, and where we come from and are all returning to. There is no push, rush, drive, urgency or need; just the pull to be with the All once again.

When the Soul expresses through us, it does so with deep care for the body it expresses through. The body is never held as less, but honoured deeply, cared for and nurtured. We naturally make decisions that are loving and caring with regard to food, drink, rest, exercise and sleep. We are naturally loving and harmonious with all others, for we see them as our equal brothers. There is no separation between us on the grounds of colour, gender, nationality, religion, race or culture. We naturally want to be with other people, and to serve and inspire them, that they may return to their Soul too.

So when we are contemplating self-care, rather than seeing it as a tick-box exercise, or yet another thing we have to do in our already overcommitted day, how about considering it in this way:

Is what I am about to do, loving and caring for me and for all others equally, or not?

The simplicity of this cuts through the complexity that the mind likes to bring in to justify doing what the spirit wants to do. It allows the Soul free reign to express through us, in a way that is loving and caring for all. It offers us moment-to-moment guidance on the way to live our lives, without needing a book of lists or rules to follow.

The Soul just is. And if we allow the Soul to express through us, we just are.

So what does this look like, in real life?

It starts with a stop. Choosing to stop seeking outside of ourselves for recognition, acceptance and satisfaction of our needs, which in truth can never be satisfied.

The world is designed to pull us out of our centre, away from our essence, to seek outside of ourselves, but we have everything we need within us, for we are already everything inside; all we have to do is let go of trying to control ourselves and life, make an inward movement to reconnect with our essence and let our innermost out …

We have to start somewhere and the first steps are simple:

  • get to know who you truly are by breathing your own breath which allows us to reconnect with the essence of who we are;
  • eat and drink well and lightly, listening to your body and eating and drinking what makes it feel lovely inside and letting go of what does not;
  • exercise gently and regularly, with care for the body you are moving;
  • wind down gently in the evenings and go to bed early, so you can sleep soundly.

The marker of the truth of our choices is our body, which tells us loud and clear whether a choice we have made is true for us or not. If we allow ourselves to listen to our body, and respond to the call it makes, we can be clearly guided to make more and more loving and caring choices in our lives.

We still do what we do, but in a way that nourishes and sustains us, so that we can work hard, without it feeling like hard work. We are energised by the Soul, not exhausted by it. We are loved by the Soul, not drained by it. We are cared for by the Soul, not used by it. And when we are with our Soul, we are with everyone else, equally so, so we have no need of guarding, protection, hurt or hiding. We are open, transparent, and deeply loving and caring, for ourselves and for everyone, equally so.

From such a foundation, what we do is not only possible, it is an absolute joy, as is everything we do, when we are with our Soul.





  1. What a beautiful article.

    This echoes the same principles of Tripartite Psychology, the original inception of psychology as, I understand, taught by Socrates. The body and the being are distinct qualities, unified by the Soul when its expression is explicitly sought, and harmony is within and expressed outwardly as a result. It seems this art and science has been lost over time with Descartes and his separation of the body and mind into the only two distinctions; the Soul relegated to the past as a long-forgotten, over-looked, and misunderstood relic, an intangible and unattainable concept, that could otherwise be resurrected to provide much substance to our lives en masse.

    Given the state of humanity at present, in our bodies with the throes of multiple permutations of un-well-ness, all the way to the extreme acute and/or chronic disease states, our fractured and disharmonious relationships, and the devastation and havoc we wreak unto each other in the built and natural world, it would seem now more than ever, a useful thing to at least consider. We have much to learn.

    Your use of research is sublime.


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