What it really means to hold space for yourself

What it really means to hold space for yourself

Why taking care of yourself matters

A recent lesson as a mom reminded me of how important it is to hold space for yourself. As a mom there is nothing worse that your child being sick or hurt. Recently we went through a very difficult experience with our son. The look of fear in his eyes was heart wrenching taking every ounce of my being to hold it together. I felt powerless as I sat with doctors surrounding him knowing I could not stop it all from happening.

Through out that night and the days that followed I realized that something profound had happened. As I watched him face this difficult day I realized that I could not take his pain away. I couldn’t be the hero mom who swooped in and take it on for him. My role in those hours was actually completely different. It was to be the observer, to hold his hand and to hold space for his experience. But that’s when it occurred to me, to do that for him I needed to be at my best. I needed to have rest, a clear mind and be present.

In that moment being a mom of a 21 and 18 year old took on a completely new meaning for me. I realized I had spent 2 decades trying to prevent pain and suffering, I had exhausted myself in this role as their superhero. I wore it like a badge of honor, the oh so tired mom badge. And in this moment I realized that all this time, all the sleepless nights of worry, all the hours of working myself to the bone was actually part of the problem. What I learned in those difficult and scary hours is that to take care of him, I had to take care of me. I learned that to hold space for him, I had to hold space for and care for me.

Looking within to see the truth

Since that scary night I have spent time reflecting on how much of my time and energy goes into holding space for others. My husband, my children, my family, my friends, my students and clients. I have invested my life into holding space for others, I am compassionate and giving. But in this reflection I realized that there is a limit to my ability, that for me to grow and expand this ability I would need to learn to give it to myself. That to be able to truly hold space for others, to truly be what they needed of me, I would need to focus inwards.

What I found was that I have core needs that support my being in balance and wellness. Things that supports me in being not only who others need me to be, but also who I want to be. And most of all I found that these were the first things I gave up when I was “busy” helping others. You know those moments when you discover a truth that basically kicks your butt? Well this was one of those moments. In this moment I knew that each time I gave up something I needed to maintain my center I was actually taking from my capacity to help others.

So what does it mean to hold space for yourself?

We have often heard “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, this leads us to treat people with respect, dignity and compassion. What is interesting as we never think about it the other way around. How do others treat me and what can I learn from that?

You may believe that self-care is some new fad. In fact, it’s has been around since Ancient Greece.

What is important to note first is that what it means will actually be different for each one of us. For me to hold space for myself means having time for stillness, for creative and reflective thinking. It means being present with my family and with my emotions. And treating myself with the same curiosity, care, kindness, compassion and love that I would give to another. It requires me to be self-aware and connected to how I am feeling. To give myself permission to feel emotions fully, to be curious about their origin. And definitely the permission to stop, to take the time I need and to say no.

Adding Self-care

Self-care isn’t some buzz word, or new age thing, it actually has deep roots in our history of mental and physical health. It doesn’t require financial investment or fancy gadgets, in fact we all already have what we need to give it to ourselves. And best of all you can start right now!
Take a moment and become present to the needs of your mind and body. What emotions are you feeling? What sensations are you feeling? Name one thing you need that you can give to yourself right now? 
It’s really that simple, you have begun your self-care journey. You see self-care is a way of being, it is a choice we make to be connected to ourselves. To understand our needs without judgement or expectations. To be our own guru, to simply be aware of what we need and meet those needs. It means treating yourself with kindness, care, compassion and self-love.
When you hold space for yourself, you give yourself a place to check in, see where you are and to adjust. It invites self-awareness, creates space for you to reflect and understand yourself. And if you are like me and your life intention is to support others and make a difference in the world, It’s essential to create this space in your life, space for you and space for others.


Tips on how to hold space for yourself

Accept and love who you are today

When I think about self-love I often think about the roots of a tree, some of them are strong and some fragile. Some are twisted up and complicated and some are gently flowing through the ground below. But the tree is not complete or healthy without acknowledging and supporting all it’s roots. The same is true for us as humans. We all have fears and doubts, things we would like to be that we are not. But we also all have value, ways we shine things we do unlike no other.

A helpful way to change your way of looking in is to re-frame the negative things in to positive things. An example being “I am controlling” to “I have a keen focus on details and like things to be the best they can be”. How we look at ourselves is keenly attached to how well we will care for our self. So take some time to notice what you say to yourself, listen to your self-judgement and recognize that it is not the truth. Find the good in who you are, find the highest intention in your quirks and your ways of being. Accept them and use them for good.

Save time to listen 

It is so easy in the hustle and bustle of our day to miss the subtle signs our body and our mind send to us. We miss a meal, work through a break or neglect personal time to drive our kids to a practice. We often give up our personal quiet time where we have space to reflect, to be alone, to be still, to dream making it easy to loose our connection to our self. Instead of being stuck in this cycle, or trying to find chunks of time, start with something small, look for one place you could take a 5 minutes walk in your day or sit quietly for 5 minutes. Allow this time to just listen to your body and your mind observing what comes with acceptance and loving kindness.

Understand your need for boundaries

Have you ever heard that expectations are the root of all disappointment? Take a moment to think back to the last time you felt disappointment and what didn’t happen that you expected? Now take a moment to explore how that expectation was communicated. This exploration can be quite helpful in understand your values, what matters most to you and what needs you needs met. By understanding our needs we are then able to communicate and have good boundaries that allow us to say no without guilt and to set our relationships up for success.

Speaking of saying no

Have you ever found yourself drowning in things you don’t want to do wishing you could be doing the things you do want to? Getting caught in the pleasing others to be accepted by others cycle can be exhausting. For me this was a big part of my well being and lifestyle changes that invited my health and wellness back. Now I begin with 2 questions before I say yes. 1. How does this connect to my values? 2. If I didn’t do this what would I be able to do?

This way of honoring your values and your capacity allows you to be kind to yourself. To be connected with what you are doing and removes the resentment that often follows saying yes when we should have said no. And then by taking the time to hold space for ourselves to be connected to our tasks and our giving we are able to show up in integrity, do a good job and we also give others the permission through watching our actions to do the same.

Ask for help

Give yourself 100% permission to ask for help when you need it. This is a gift to yourself that consistently reaffirms that you are worthy, that you can and will support yourself. It helps you build resilience and relationships.

Be in integrity and be authentic

Be unapologetic-ally you! See yourself for all the amazing uniqueness you are. Stay true to yourself, your dreams your desires. Know your worth, live in your capacity and be there for yourself so you can be there for others.

Give yourself permission

You may have noticed I have said this quite often in this post, so I thought I would touch on in a bit on it’s own. We often place so many expectations and judgement on ourselves and neglect allowing ourselves permission.


Take a moment to think about an area where you feel stuck or struggling to move forward at the pace you want. Now ask yourself this question “what do I need permission to do differently?” Allow yourself the freedom to explore new possibilities, without boundaries, without limitations or judgment. Take yourself to the innocence of being a child, the curiosity and sense of no limits. What would you do if there were no restrictions, limits or boundaries? What wouldn’t be holding your back?

Read our last week’s post “What it takes to hold space for someone else


  1. GG says:

    I read this blog on January 1 2022 as part of intention setting process for the year ahead. It resonated deeply. Thank you for your insights and for sharing the concept of holding space for self as an important capability for holding space for others.

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