“Self-care” is a buzzy, trendy word that evokes in any reader oodles of comfort and safety when they read it. While candy bar companies have been milking the self-care lane for years (“take a break, you deserve it!”), self-care is quite en vogue right now, spreading its message far beyond chocolates wrapped in colorful paper.
Glass of wine? Self-care.
Skipping the gym? Self-care.
“Cheat meal”? Self-care.
Expensive clothing item? Self-care.
Netflix marathon? Self-care.
…You get the picture. It seems any “vice” or seemingly “naughty” thing to do is seen as an automatic form of self-care. There’s no denying that any one of the above could be considered self-care. It’ll always depend on the person and what they consider to be a fair tradeoff. These all can be valid forms of self-care. But actively rebelling against your health and your own interests (whether than be financial, nutrition, or fitness-related) should not have a monopoly over what self-care is. ♟
If eating a tray of donuts will fill you with guilt and shame afterwards, causing you to miss later commitments and to spiral further, if it will cause you to react and retaliate against yourself, if it will spur a cycle that will only cause more pain for you, then eating that tray of donuts is not self-care.
If buying an expensive item you don’t really need creates more stress than it brings meaning and value to your life, then buying that expensive item is not self-care.
Skipping the gym is a tricky one: as a gym owner, I want to be careful I am not suggesting that anyone should ever feel held hostage to their gym routine. It is normal and healthy to take breaks, rest days, and to have other responsibilities that might keep you from a workout. But if skipping the gym becomes a pattern that feels more like self-sabotage than self-care, it is worth considering if you’ve put the right boundaries in place in your personal life and social life that will allow you to stay consistent with your fitness. If skipping the gym feels like a binary choice of “I can have no life and go to the gym” OR “I can go to the gym and meet my fitness goals” then skipping the gym is not self-care (but going to the gym is never going to be self-care, either). It simply means you have more work to do: more boundaries to draw up, more priorities to get crystal clear on, and more practice in articulating those priorities clearly to the people around you.
Are you guys catching my drift on this? The bottom line is this: self-care does not have to be actively unhealthy choices. Self-care can also be
- Waking up early on vacation to work out because it feels good to have some quiet “me” time before the craziness of the day, and it will energize me for the rest of the day
- Sharpening pencils and admiring how pretty they look afterwards 😍
- Saying “no thank you” to a mediocre treat I don’t really want but feel obligated to eat
- When a friend asks if I want to get dinner at the same time I planned on working out, letting that friend know that I will be busy but will be free after, instead of skipping the workout altogether
- Feasting your eyes on a work of art or simply being in nature
- Spending time with an animal
- Cooking while listening to a favorite podcast or music
- Riding the bus or waiting for an appointment without looking at my phone, but rather just quietly observing the world around me and feeling content in my own thoughts
- Accepting a compliment from someone without belittling myself
- Asking for something (that isn’t hurting anybody) without apologizing
Self-care simply doesn’t need to be the cliche image of lounging in a bathrobe and online shopping with a glass of wine in hand. It can be as simple as doing a type of exercise you enjoy, decluttering a closet, or being early instead of rushing. It can be as profound as letting go of something toxic in your life that isn’t serving you.
However you want to define self-care, that is your business. No two self-care protocols will look the same, and what’s not worth it to me might be worth it to you, in the same way one person may view a $500 bag as “worth it” while someone else won’t. If you’re paying off the bag long after the thrill and novelty wore off, maybe it simply isn’t worth it. If you’re feeling sluggish and bloated and craving yet more sugar after treating yourself to a few self-care cupcakes, maybe those cupcakes aren’t really a form of self-care, for you, right now. This stuff is never set in stone. It just requires reflection and inquisitiveness. No judgements. No punishments. Only information.
I believe you must advocate for yourself and play for your own team. Absolutely. But I also believe you must be detached enough to be CURIOUS rather than judgmental. Instead of “omg I can’t believe I ate that…” try the approach of a neutral researcher: “Hmm. That’s interesting that I reacted that way. I wonder what would happen if…”
Let this curiosity guide your self-care routine. Self-care is also a form of self-respect.
That’s all I got ✌️
Now go out there and love yourself!