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Avalon Recovery Society

Self-love and healthy relationships with SHE RECOVERS


Written by Kim Westlake

Experiencing joy in giving to ourselves and others is good for us. Neuroscientist Tania Singer has discovered that compassion towards ourselves and others triggers the brain’s reward centres and pleasure networks.

She believes that humans are wired for kindness. When we act from kindness, we feel aligned with our deepest human values. We take joy in our actions and life feels more meaningful.

Setting boundaries is a way of caring for myself.  It doesn’t make me mean, selfish, or uncaring because I don’t do things your way.  I care about me too. - Christine Morgan

Why is it often difficult to create healthy boundaries between the love we express to others and the love we give to ourselves?  Why do we allow unhealthy relationships in our lives?

Tracey Cleantis, author of An Invitation to Self Care explains “many people have a lot of resistance...the reasons we aren’t always aware of; guilt, shame, a sense of inadequacy and low self-worth, self-sabotage, self-harm, family-of-origin issues (modelling our parents treatment of themselves or us), depression, masochism, victim mentality, a too-stringent work ethic, a refusal to grow up (including an infantile desire to be taken care of by other people) - the list goes on.”

How do we recognize when we’ve crossed the line when giving to others is self-centred and unhealthy?  A familiar example of unhealthy love is codependency, in which we focus on the needs of others to the detriment of our own, often enabling addictive behaviour in the process.

When our actions inadvertently harm others, we often don’t feel well, we lose sleep, become irritable, anxious, fearful and worse.

Self-love goes beyond going to yoga class, getting a manicure or our hair done. Self-love is being as kind, compassionate and caring towards ourselves as we are to others.

I learned this recently when my Dad was admitted to Hospice with terminal bone cancer and my Mother was admitted to Acute Care for dementia- both at the same time. I felt overwhelmed by caring for work obligations, family, extended family and recognized it was time to reach for help.  I applied for compassionate leave to create the space I needed to show up in my life and the lives of others in a way I could be truly present and this I am grateful for.

Healthy relationships are about treating ourselves with as much love, compassion, kindness and respect as we do to others.  Self-love and healthy relationships are about staying connected to the feelings that arise when we’ve crossed the line. When we’ve gone over the edge.  When we learn to view self-love and healthy relationships with an edge, we can recognize when we are balancing on the precipice, we can realize what is at stake; harming others or ourselves and we can pull ourselves off the precipice onto solid ground.

Continue the conversation about self-love and healthy relationships at our next SHE RECOVERS Sharing Circle on Saturday, February 8 at the North Shore and White Rock Avalon locations. Details and links to register are below.

SHE RECOVERS Sharing Circle Times & Location:

Saturday, February 8, 10:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at Avalon Women's Centre North Shore

Saturday, February 8, 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Avalon Women's Centre White Rock

Please note: Sharing Circles are facilitated by donation, however no one will be turned away based on ability to pay. If you would like to attend but are unable to donate please contact to reserve your space.

SHE RECOVERS Coach Kim Westlake

Kim Westlake is a Certified Life & Recovery Coach and SHE RECOVERS Coach and facilitates the monthly circles. 

Each month at our SHE RECOVERS Sharing Circles Sea to Sky Group we focus on a different topic that supports building recovery capital and resilience in our lives.

For more information or to join us, please visit Sea to Sky Coaching or contact Kim at

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