This is an updated version of my previous post “Self Care, Why it’s Important“, I am learning everyday about what it means to have self acceptance and what privilege I have, so I felt like I needed to write a more recent perspective on the issue of self care.
Self care Myths
Self care has become a buzz word (buzz phrase?) that is synonymous with bath bombs, face masks and spending sprees. Businesses and corporations have picked up on the idea of self care and turned it into a trend which can only be achieved through pampering ourselves with glittery face masks and getting our hair blow dried.
While all of these things can be legitimate forms of self care for some people, this over stylised, aesthetically pleasing version of social media savvy self care is not really what I believe Self care is all about.
Myth ONE- Self care is aesthetically pleasing, as with a lot of things these days we believe that things are only worth doing if they are Instagram worthy. A quick search for #selfcare on social media and you will soon be inundated with images of colourful bath bombs swirling about in a bath tub surrounded by candles. Or images of bowls of fruit and veggies artistically displayed at beautiful place settings, or images of white, young, thin, able bodied women with various beauty products slathered on there skin selling stuff for big companies.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like a bath bomb as much as the next person, but self care does not have to look a certain way. Self care is a privilege and is something that not all people have access to. (Think for example, of a person who has a physical or mental disability that means they have to rely wholly on others to take care of all there physical and emotional needs or are unable to express what there needs are)
For those of us who can perform self care, it looks very different to each individual. Self care can include things that are not pretty. For example, self care could be lying in your bed with unwashed hair having a cry with snot dribbling down your chin after a hard day at work. It could be someone with Cystic fibrosis doing breathing treatments and coughing up a load of mucus to clear there lungs in the morning, it could be someone with depression managing to get out of bed to brush there teeth after several days of being bed ridden. Self care isn’t about looking good, its about performing actions that support the belief you are worthy of love, compassion and respect, unconditionally.
Myth TWO- Self care is about your physical self. Again, with the social media adoption of the term self care you would be forgiven if you believed performing self care was only about caring for your physical body. Although components of self care can be about our physical bodies, the idea of self care is to look after your WHOLE self equally. We live in a culture obsessed with our bodies and “health” and “wellness” as if our health is determined only by how many bur-pees we do a day. Self care should be about showing your whole self that you matter, which includes your mental, spiritual and emotional well-being, not just your body. Self care could mean skipping your work-out because you are tired and overworked and you need time to de-compress. Self care could mean going to see a therapist or mental health team when you’re not coping. Self care could mean setting boundaries with people so you feel safe. It is not all about eating 5 a day and doing squats.
Myth THREE-Self care is about spending money. As before mentioned companies have latched on to this new “trend” of self care and are capitalising on it in an attempt to make money. If you have the expendable income to go out and get a mani-pedi and spend the day at a spa and go do a shopping spree every week then good for you, but many people in society do not have the time, money, physical or mental ability to achieve these performances of self care. To do self care you don’t need a scented candle or a bath bomb. You need to perform actions that purely support the belief that you are worthy as a human being. This could be a single mother allowing herself to have a nap while her baby sleeps instead of tidying up for visitors later. It could be someone with a long term health problem or disability getting there repeat prescription filled in. It could be a homeless person going to a Food bank. It could be just putting your phone down and going outside to breathe.
Myth Four- self care is fun and frivolous As mentioned before self care isn’t all bubble baths and drinking prosecco. Sometimes self care isn’t fun! And that’s okay, it doesn’t mean its not worth doing. Going for a mammogram or a cervical smear test isn’t much fun, but it is a form of necessary self care. Doing the washing up and making sure you have clean clothes isn’t exactly party central but its a vital form of self care. A person with CF getting up an hour earlier than there peers everyday to do physiotherapy and take multitudes of medication isn’t what most people dream of but it is important and valuable self care.
Myth Five- we have to earn it People in our culture, particularly women and femmes, have been socially conditioned to believe that we need to earn self care. (Just as diet culture teaches us that we need to earn the right to eat) This is essentially saying we need to earn our worth as a person. That we don’t deserve self care- which means we don’t deserve love, acceptance, understanding and compassion- unless we have performed or lived up to society’s standards, whether that be health standards, work ethic standards, beauty standards, whatever that might be. For example, some mothers might not practice self care because they believe they haven’t earned it, because there body is not “perfect” there home is not tidy, clean and “magazine worthy” enough, they’re not sexy enough for there partners and there relationships aren’t “exciting” enough. And by “enough” they mean by the unrealistic and unobtainable standards set by our culture and society. But the truth is, your worth as a person is not defined by any of these outside standards or rules. Your worth as a person is inherent within you for merely existing on this earth. So you do not have to earn self care, you deserve to have the option to look after yourself and advocate for yourself in whatever way is possible for you whoever you are, whatever your body looks like, whatever your mental and or physical health status, whatever your role in society is- unconditionally.
Essentially self care is the ability to see that you have worth, that you are a whole person that has physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs, and self care are the actions you perform that support this belief. These actions continually prioritise these parts of ourselves, not so we can escape from and never feel bad emotions and never have negative things happen to us, but so we are replenished enough so that we can cope with these things when they occur. So there is enough within us to not only merely survive, but if possible, to live life to the fullest extent we can, whatever that means for each individual at that moment.
I am going to share with you some of the self care practices I utilise currently. Bear in mind I am a middle class, cis gendered, white woman who is in a heterosexual marriage so I have a lot of privilege compared to many others in our society. There is no RIGHT WAY to perform self care, these are just some of the things that I do at this stage in my life to promote self care.
I get up and get myself dressed before I get my child up and ready for treatments and school. I make sure that I am up dressed and washed before Joseph on school days, so that I am sorted and then can focus on getting all his Cystic Fibrosis stuff, and him ready for his day. This often means that I have no make up on and sometimes my hair isn’t exactly stylish (see birds nest) but I ensure I have on clothes and I don’t smell (too bad) if at all possible.
I get as much sleep as I can. If I have a rough night and I don’t get much sleep whenever possible I either have a nap or I go to bed early the next night to make up for it, because I know that I suffer and all the people around me suffer if I don’t get enough sleep.
I do something creative most days, whenever possible. More recently I have been prioritising my creative self more, whether that be painting a picture, writing a blog post or just colouring in a colouring book I know I feel replenished and experience genuine joy when I am making something.
I choose to listen to certain podcasts, read specific books and curate my social media so that I come into contact with diet culture as little as possible, and that I come into contact with culture that reflects my values and beliefs as much as I can. This is necessary for me so I don’t fall back into disordered eating behaviours and mental health problems like anxiety, depression and panic attacks.
I get time to myself- I know this is a big privilege especially compared to people who have a lot of others to care for, or those who rely on constant round the clock care themselves and don’t have the luxury of being alone. But for me, as an introvert, I get my energy and lust for life back when I am given time to recharge alone. This is why being at home alone a lot does not really affect me negatively like it would do others with a more extrovert persuasion. It can take me several days to recover from a big socialising event- now I know this about myself, I can accept it and act accordingly to replenish myself instead of beating myself up about it or ignoring it and becoming ill.
If you’ve got to the end of this post, thank you! It’s a long one! Let me know what ways you practice self care that aren’t necessarily Instagram worthy!
Hope 2018 is treating you well!