Taking Care of Yourself
Hwee-Meng Tan


Take a minute to reflect on this question:

What does “Taking Care of Yourself” mean to you? If you were invited to take care yourself, what would you do?

Some of the responses have included buying vitamin supplements, having a facial, taking a nap, improving the diet and ensuring there is enough money for retirement. Our self-care is usually focused on the physical and material aspects of human life.

There are more aspects to who you are than just your Physical Self. You also possess an Emotional Self, a Mental Self, a Relational Self, an Authentic Self, an Intuitive Self and a Spiritual Self. Each of these Selves represents an area of human experience.


To have a full and balanced life, you must pay attention to all areas of yourself. It takes different skills and knowledge to nurture each of your Selves. The health of your Relational Self depends on how loving your relationships are. Do you feel loved? Are you able to give love? If you feel lonely, isolated and alienated, you may have to do some healing work on your Relational Self. Meditating, chanting and reading Holy Scriptures will not help your Relational Self but these great practices will strengthen your Spiritual Self. Some good skills to enhance your Relational Self are skills in loving kindness, forgiveness and communication.

Your Mental Self is your thinking mind and is a reflection of all your thoughts and beliefs. Negative thinking styles such as being narrow-minded, pessimistic, cynical, critical, worried weaken the Mental Self, as do fantastical thinking and magical thinking. If you are always full of great ideas and wonderful dreams, but none of them ever manifests, there is a high probability that you need to do some learning around the Mental Self.

True wellbeing is more than just good physical health or the absence of disease. It is healthy functioning on every level of our humanness. Most of us are strong in one area of our lives but are weak in another.

John eats healthily, exercises regularly, and receives weekly massages. These strategies are wonderful for conditioning his physical body. He reaps the rewards of good physical health. However, his wife complains that talking to him is like talking to the WALL! He buries himself in front of the television and barricades himself behind newspapers. He is clueless as to why his wife of 20 years is threatening him with divorce.

John’s Emotional Self has been deadened. Emotions add color and spice to life. Imagine greeting the sunrise with no feelings! Having a healthy emotional life makes us empathetic to our fellow human beings. It also deepens and enriches our relationships. It makes us real as humans. People who have a weak Emotional Self live in a grey and flat world. Like John, they learned somewhere in their childhood that emotions were frightening and spent the rest of their lives dampening and controlling their emotions.

Most of us fear our emotions. We know of friends and family who are stuck in chronic sadness, uncontrollable rage, vengeful fantasies, or unhealthy guilt. We pretend we do not have any feelings or we numb them with alcohol, busyness, shopping or drugs. Emotions are simply part of the human experience. To ignore our emotions is like cutting off our hands or legs. It is wiser to make the effort in mastering the necessary skills to navigate our emotional life intelligently.

Mary’s life looks perfect. She has a successful career, a loving family, and a beautiful home. However, she is plagued by a depressing sense of emptiness. Friends tell her that she is crazy or selfish. After all, her life is the pinnacle of everyone’s dreams. Believing that she should be happy and grateful, Mary feels guiltier for feeling the way she does. She throws herself into charity works and committees in a last-ditch attempt to fill her emptiness. It does not work.

Mary needs to listen and respond to her Authentic Self. Our Authentic Self holds our blueprint in life. Each of us has a unique purpose to fulfill. In order to remind us of our purpose, our Authentic Self calls to us in many ways: it troubles us with a sense of meaninglessness, speaks to us in our dreams and inflames us through our envies. Part of our work here is to understand the language of our Authentic Self so that we create a life that has heart and meaning for us.


Our Selves do not function as separate entities. One part of your Selves can impact another positively or negatively. For example, to become more of our Authentic Self is to hold a positive vision of our future. This adds tremendous healing energy and vitality to our Physical Self and fills our Emotional Self with hope and joy. Conversely, a weak Emotional Self directly influences our Relational Self. The inability to express our deepest feelings to our loved ones is one of the biggest block to creating intimacy in a relationship.


Wellness is a constant balancing act. It is not easy to master all areas of our life. There are people who are successful at work because they have a good Mental Self but have failed in relationships. There are people who are spiritual and yet, are emotionally dead. There are people with strong physical bodies with an immature Emotional Self.

I invite you to just do a quick check in your life. Where are you most comfortable? Which Self are you most uncomfortable with? What works for you? What does not work for you? It is important not to be judgmental of yourself as you do this. There is no living person who has perfected every area of life. We all have work to do on ourselves.

PHYSICAL SELF: How is your physical body? Do you feel comfortable and alive in the body? Do you attend to the simple needs of your physical body?

EMOTIONAL SELF: Are you emotionally closed? Do you feel at ease with your feelings so that they do not overwhelm you? Or do emotions run your life?

MENTAL SELF: Do you know how to use your mind effectively? Or are you controlled by worry, pessimism, critical thinking and prejudicial thoughts?

RELATIONAL SELF: Are you surrounded by loving family and friends? Or are you involved in abusive and unhealthy relationships? Do you fear intimacy and closeness?

AUTHENTIC SELF: Do you wake up with a sense of aliveness, meaning and purpose? Is your life an accurate mirror of what is deepest in your heart? Or do you feel lost and empty?

INTUITIVE SELF: Do you have a sense of being guided by a higher wisdom? Do you have a sense of higher beings such as bodhisattvas, angels or Gods and Goddesses protecting and guiding you? Or do you feel uninspired and cynical? Do you see yourself as an insignificant ant in the midst of this Universe?

SPIRITUAL SELF: Do you have a knowing there is a greater pattern at work in your life? Do you understand how each part of your life makes sense and fits together? Do you see the perfection in everything that happens?Or do you feel that this Universe is a random and chaotic mess?

Whichever Self you find to be the weakest, is where you start your work of self-care.


Many people erroneously believe that looking after yourself is self-indulgent and selfish. On the contrary, it takes an enormous amount of work and learning to honor and value our lives. The truth is most of us are lousy at committing to ourselves. Why do we run into such difficulty? These are some of the more common reasons.

  • We simply do not know how to do it. We have never been taught. We do not even know it is possible.
  • We suffer from low self-worth. We believe that we are not worthy of time and loving attention.s In my work as a healing practitioner, I meet so many people who find it easier to spend money and time on everyone else.
  • We are taught that it is selfish to focus energy on ourselves. Instead, we spend our lives on the hopeless task of trying to improve other people’s lives. It does not work! Otherwise, our friends and family would have already changed.
  • We are so afraid of risk and change that we prefer to stay in an unhealthy situation than to change it. We also fear the disapproval of our friends and family so we do not wish to rock the status quo with our changes.
  • It is so much easier to blame others, to have self-pity, to remain a victim and to complain than to do the hard work of changing ourselves.
  • We are caught in the myth of no time and yet, we do not examine how we unconsciously choose to spend our time. Many who complain they have no time, spend many hours on television shows, gossiping on the phone, and attending many social gatherings. There is nothing wrong with that! However, if we are pressed for time, we need to consciously decide how best to use our time.

In my personal opinion, self-care is one of the most important skills to acquire. Otherwise you create a lot of unnecessary suffering and unhappiness for yourself. Without this essential skill in life, you cannot blossom to your maximum potential.

Each one of you possesses something precious called LIFE. Your life is a gift that has been given to you. It is a piece of raw potential that you hold in your hands. Imagine this raw potential as a piece of fertile land. What would you do with it? How would you cherish this piece of land so that your life would bear the kind of fruits and flowers you want? Or would you let the land lie barren and undeveloped?

Do you feel that this piece of land called your life is worthy of your time, investment, love and care?

Just think for a few seconds.

I hope that your answer is yes. The greatest self-betrayal is not giving yourself the life you want. This is the essence of true self-care. It is about valuing yourself enough to create a life that makes you glow with inner happiness. Unfortunately, you cannot just snap your fingers and make your life happen without making a conscious effort. You have to do the work in learning the skills and overcoming the inner barriers to create a high quality of life that speaks to you.

I wish you well on your journey through life!

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the participants of TAKING CARE OF YOUSELF workshops. Through their questions and issues, they have helped me co-create this body of teaching.

Hwee-Meng Tan is a practitioner of healing arts. She writes, lectures and conducts workshops on TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF in Singapore. If you would like more information, please contact Lapis Lazuli Light for a comprehensive brochure.

The next evening lecture and workshop held in October 2005 is focused on the Spiritual Self – FROM DIFFICULTY TO LIBERATION. She will be co-leading this workshop with Rachel Kaufman.

Rachel Kaufman is an internationally known psychospiritual facilitator and teacher. Along with her husband, Rick Phillips, she co-founded the Deva Foundation to help raise the consciousness of the planet through individual healing session work and Deva professional training programs. To learn more about Deva Foundation, please go to www.deva.org.

Rachel Kaufman has been involved in many charitable and social actions. Her latest project is the CREATIVITY FOR PEACE CAMP. For more information, please go to www.creativityforpeace.com.