I’ve been thinking a lot lately about self-love and self-care. I’ve also been thinking a lot about lavender. I’m currently undertaking a plant spirit healing apprenticeship, and we were asked to choose our own plant to work with for the final weekend of our nine-month course. I suspected that lavender might be the plant spirit to work with for self-love, but to confirm this, I went to a local lavender farm to ask the plants themselves.
It was a glorious summer day in southeast England, and the rows of lavender were filled with fat, fuzzy bees. I wandered among the rows before stopping in a far corner of the field where I could sit down and speak with the spirit of the plants in peace, without being interrupted by the other visitors to the farm. It was the peak of flowering season, and though it was a late mid-week morning, the car park was packed. Thankfully, the farm was so large that it didn’t feel crowded at all.
It wasn’t long before Lavender spoke to me:
I am the plant of self-love. I am the plant of self-love because I am the plant of self-care. When you think of lavender you think of sleep, gentle, relaxation, kindness to yourself, caring for yourself, loving yourself, taking the time out of a busy day to give to yourself, to care for yourself, to love for yourself. Taking the time out of doing things for other people, helping other people, and instead choosing to help yourself.
This is not selfish, this is not being unkind to others. This is being kind to yourself first because you cannot truly be kind to others, you cannot truly be kind to others without helping yourself first.
You must always help yourself first so that you can live in a balanced state, a place of peace, a place of centeredness, a place of groundedness so that you can help others. You cannot be of service to others if you are not of service to yourself first – if you do not care for yourself first.
You cannot. And I speak of groundedness. You see we are in a line – in many, many lines – grounded and deeply rooted in the earth. My fragrance is not a sweet, light, fragrance. It is a deep, earthy fragrance. It is a warm fragrance, a comforting fragrance, a fragrance that helps me to help you.
This is one of my purposes: To help. To help with self-love, to help with self-care, to help with self-kindness. Being kind to yourself, loving yourself gently, calmly, quietly. Caring for yourself with sweetness, with gentleness, with love.
I am here to help with self-love, which we know can be difficult. We know it can be tricky. We know it can be difficult for you humans because you are so often taught that to love yourself is arrogant, to care for yourself too much is selfish, and as I have said and as I will say again you must help yourself first.
Without helping yourself first you cannot truly be of service to others.
Sometimes I am good with self-care, and sometimes I feel guilty. Guilty for taking time off for myself, to just sit and read a book, or to linger in a bubble bath…or whatever I feel like doing. Lavender was right: sometimes it does feel selfish, even if I don’t have any other pressing things to do at the time.
I absolutely agree with Lavender in this: if we do not care for ourselves, we won’t have the energy to care for others. So often we put others’ needs first, helping and serving and caring for them. And then we’re shocked when we reach a point of burnout.
Burnout comes in many different levels, and sometimes I’ve been shocked to notice that after long months of working intensively on a project I start to feel the symptoms of burnout…even though I’m still managing to function. That’s when I have no guilt about stopping to take it easy. I’ve worked myself too hard in the past, and I’ve learned from that experience: take care of myself.
Since this conversation with Lavender, I’ve surrounded myself with lavender things: dried bouquets of lavender in my office, a roll-on lavender perfume on my desk, lavender room freshener in my bedroom, lavender pillow spray. All these elements of lavender have served to remind me of the importance of caring for myself. Every time my eye catches the bouquet of dried lavender in my office, I take it as a reminder to check in with myself: how am I feeling? Overly stressed? Do I need a break.
So what can you do to bring more of the spirit of Lavender into your life? What can you do to care for yourself, to be kind to yourself?
Holly Worton is a podcaster and author of nine books who helps people get to know themselves better through connecting with Nature, so they can feel happier and more fulfilled. Holly enjoys spending time outdoors, walking long-distance trails and exploring Britain’s sacred sites. She is a member of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids.