Self-care has become quite a buzzword the past couple of years. I think that’s great – I mean, I’ve been preaching self-care for about 8 years now, so it’s wonderful that the idea of caring for ourselves has finally become recognized and accepted. But with this mainstreaming of “self-care,” I worry that the actual meaning has been diluted. We seem to be bombarded with messages of self-care – articles encouraging us to get that mani-pedi, take that girls’ weekend, buy this or that. All well and good to do those things, but let’s not confuse them for the real work of deeply loving, nurturing, and accepting ourselves. I mean, rewarding yourself with the chocolate is not self-care if you are then going to berate yourself for eating it as you look in the mirror and pick yourself apart.
So what exactly is self care then, and how can I practice it?
Self care is doing the hard work of learning to love yourself first. Asking yourself what your body-mind-spirit truly needs and then trying to fulfill that need in a healthy way. By healthy I mean a way that makes you feel more whole, not more disconnected from yourself.
Self care is looking in the mirror and loving the beautiful soul that looks back at you. It is making healthy choices for yourself, even when you feel internal or external pressure to not make those choices. It’s eating the food that truly nourishes you, and avoiding those that things don’t – even when other people might pressure you to have that drink, or that “junk food.” It’s also knowing when it’s okay to free your self-imposed restrictions (and when it isn’t).
It’s distancing yourself from toxic people who bring you down and criticize you or keep you stuck in ways that are harmful to your growth and wellness. Self care is forging new friendships and relationships based on mutual respect and support for your authentic self.
Self care is not going into debt so you have all the things that someone else says you need to be happy. It is asking yourself what you need to be content. And you can’t put “contentment” on your credit card.
Self care is setting boundaries. It is owning your stories, as Brené Brown might say. And loving yourself despite those stories –or because of them. It is forgiving yourself. Flaws and all.
And it isn’t enough just to say you love yourself. You’ve got to show yourself, through your actions, your decisions, your SELF TALK! Self care is drowning out that little voice in your head that says you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, strong enough…fill-in-the-blank enough. Because you are enough. And sometimes the work of realizing that is a day in, day out, lifetime work of remembering and honoring that.
Self care is self love. And sometimes that means making the hard choices.