Mothering yourself is the act of meeting emotional and physical needs as an adult that weren’t taken care of when you were a child. It’s about addressing the gaps in emotional and physical support from childhood and realizing how that trauma translates into who you are as an adult.
Self-mothering is a form of healing your inner child and can be a topic people discuss with life coaches and mental health professionals. That isn’t to say you can’t take this journey on your own; but having someone to act as a sounding board and as an independent third party has advantages, too. However you go about the process, learning to mother yourself can improve your relationship with others and with yourself.
Ideally, we receive love and support from our parents during childhood, but this isn’t always the case. No matter the reason, this absence of love, understanding, and feeling valued by our parents plays a significant role in how we treat ourselves and how we act in our own relationships.
Eight Ways to Mother Yourself
There are ways to learn how to mother ourselves as adults and improve our relationship with others and with ourselves. Learning to mother yourself is a form of radical self-care and can feel like a daunting task. Breaking down the process into smaller steps can help relieve some of the anxiety we feel when taking on such a monumental adventure.
Make self-care a priority.
Self-care is an expression of self-love ‒ and contrary to what you may see on Instagram, it doesn’t have to involve bubble baths and nature walks. Self-care includes the way you eat, the quality of your sleep, the environments you place yourself in, the relationships you spend your energy on, and the way you speak to yourself. Making self-care a priority means putting yourself and your needs above those of others, which will look different for everyone.
Bring awareness to how you feel.
“Emotions are a natural response to our thoughts, feelings, and physiological experiences,” says Sara Wener, an IIN graduate and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. “When we don’t reconcile our feelings or allow them to be expressed, they become trapped within our minds and bodies, causing us to expend enormous amounts of energy.” When you listen to your body, including to how your emotions manifest, it allows you to build a stronger connection with yourself because you’ll better understand how to manage your emotions in ways that work best for you. This will result in healthier relationships, both with others and with yourself!
Nourish yourself physically and emotionally.
Nourishment is more than what you eat, but this aspect is also important. Find what foods fuel your body and make you feel good instead of eating what’s popular, what’s trendy, or what you think you should be eating. This is IIN’s core concept of bio-individuality, which refers to the fact that we’re all unique and need different things, including the foods we eat, to thrive. Discover which ways of eating work best for you.
Getting nourishment also means nourishing your soul. It can be through meditation, dancing, painting – anything that makes you feel alive. This is IIN’s core concept of primary food. From fulfillment in your career and relationships to feeling connected to your purpose and having a spiritual practice, primary food includes all the areas of life that feed you and make you feel whole.
Celebrate all your wins, big and small. Notice the small achievements, the big moments, and everything in between. Acknowledge the steps you take each day toward fulfilling your dreams and celebrate yourself. This could be throwing yourself a dance party after accomplishing a goal or taking yourself on a trip. Be proud of yourself for all you’ve achieved and all you’ll achieve in the future.
Be kind to yourself.
We all make mistakes; it’s just part of life. And just like our mothers may have made mistakes when raising us, we’ll make mistakes when mothering ourselves. Learn from these experiences, then take what you’ve learned and apply it to the future. You can’t grow unless you learn, and you can’t learn unless you make mistakes.
Create a space for becoming your authentic self.
We all need room to be our true, most authentic selves. Whether this space is physical or metaphorical, you deserve to have something all your own. A physical space for yourself should contain things that allow you to be your most authentic self, such as artwork that reflects your personality or books on topics you find interesting.
Metaphorically, creating space for yourself means allowing yourself to exist as you are, without exception. You don’t need to lose weight or live a certain lifestyle to fit in – your current form is perfect as it is. You deserve to take up space.
Believe in yourself.
Self-confidence is more than just how we feel about ourselves – it directly impacts how we behave in our relationships, our jobs, and our day-to-day lives. Confidence is trusting in your abilities and believing in your worth. Recognize what you’ve already achieved, talk yourself up, and focus on the things you know you’re good at. Learn to love yourself and trust in your abilities – they’ve gotten you this far.
Respect your growth.
Growth is never linear, and the process of mothering yourself won’t be, either. When you find yourself stuck, make sure you look back and see how far you’ve come already. Life has its ups and downs; there are challenges that come with every experience. Encourage yourself so you stay on track and keep moving forward, even when things get tough.
The Bottom Line
Mothering yourself is about treating yourself the way you wish you’d been treated while growing up. Listening to, nurturing, trusting, and celebrating yourself are all part of learning to mother yourself.