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Last week, I was invited to interview Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood to discuss his latest art project. Ronnie talked to me with beautiful candour about making precious memories with his young family, free from the suffering of active addiction.
But we also made global news headlines and a very busy Monday for the Rolling Stones PR team after Ronnie revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer for a second time. “I had lung cancer in 2017 and I had small-cell more recently that I fought in the last lockdown,” he told me. “I came through with the all-clear.”
I had previewed the entire exhibition of his works – hundreds of them – last summer, and one piece had stayed with me, so much so, I’d had it printed and hung in my office. By coincidence, it was this single painting up for discussion when we met.
Affirmation I was made in response to a rehab counsellor’s request for Ronnie to create a mantra to living successfully. “That affirmation came to me in aftercare in rehab” he explained. “A female counsellor, who really helped me, told me to state what I would love as my mantra. ‘Keep it positive. When I take care of myself, I can achieve anything’. [It] says so much, and it’s true. That is something I can live by.
“We used to do a check-in at rehab at the end of every day, where we had to say whether we were feeling physically strong, spiritually connected, mentally well,” the 73-year-old continued. “If I can say those three things, I’m having a good day.”
So, answer this question honestly – are you taking care of yourself? It sounds simple, but it can be the hardest thing in the world. Proper self-care is about gauging your chances of happiness in your own skin by defining the status of your relationship with yourself and creating a world you don’t want to escape from.
For me, it was realising that I was in a toxic relationship with myself. By changing my habits, I was able to create a world I no longer needed to escape from. More than bubble baths and pedicures, proper self-care helped me to start to understand my worth.
Since last year, I have taken steps in self-care to deal with a lifelong problem with anxiety and depression, which I previously chose to numb by any means. I drank to escape, restricted my eating and exercised to “shrink myself happy”. I battled on in the belief that chipping away on the outside would miraculously break through to the inside. My inner critic was screaming that I wasn’t enough for anyone or anything and I’d become stuck in a cycle of unhealthy coping mechanisms that no longer worked.
The caring started with addressing the negative self-talk in my head and realising that being unfairly cruel to myself was as damaging as being disparaging to someone else. Hope surfaced in the realisation that it was possible to silence this negative mental chatter and deal with those demons that had led to such self-neglect.
Taking care of yourself first isn’t selfish; successfully doing so reveals a version of yourself most able to serve those who share your world – whether as a parent, friend or partner. The tricky part is working out what makes you feel good because the central tenant is making sure self-care is 100 per cent personal.
For Ronnie Wood, it’s music, art and horses, as well as the occasional treat of caviar on poached eggs. “There is so much inspiration around,” he said. Personally, it’s about avoiding comparison, being as mindful about what I put in my mind as my body, and reminding myself to be my own best friend because no one, especially if they’re on Tinder, can fix me but me.
The best part is that once you engage with your spark, once you find the key to making a good relationship with yourself, anything is possible.
The last year has proven that as soon one fire is put out, life lights you up another. But by genuinely taking care of yourself, you can be ready to take on anything life throws at you– whether it’s lockdown, losing a loved one or even a cancer diagnosis.
Ronnie Wood is selling 500 prints of ‘Affirmation I’ to raise money for Melia Clapton’s charity, Turn Up For Recovery, which funds lifesaving abstinence-based recovery for those suffering from addiction For more information, visit digitalstores.co.uk