The phrase “self-care” has become popular today as a new term for treat ‘yo self, when we indulge ourselves with often decadent treats to make up for something bad we experienced. This can take the form of a tub of ice cream, expensive soaps, or a luxurious massage. For the truly moneyed, it could be a weekend trip to another country.
It’s easy to understand how self-care blew up. People are doing and working more, the political climate is toxic, and social media, the place where we can share our thoughts and build connections, has divided us. Of course, it’s natural to want to reward ourselves for surviving the times and to motivate us to do better next time. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
I do this, too. After a rough week, I buy something and justify it as self-care. But the thing is, I’ve purchased everything that I could afford and justified it as self-care but I’m still tired, I still have unticked boxes on my checklist, and I’m still stressed with the people around me. I smell better because of my new lotion but I still feel terrible. Am I doing something wrong here?
After a particularly bad breakdown last year, I decided to do something different. I decided to take a hard look at myself and see what went wrong. For some reason, I was always overworking myself, beginning from the moment I wake up to the time I fall asleep. It doesn’t help that I work from home, where boundaries are blurrier.
What followed was an intense conversation with myself, where I tried to look for the root cause and see how I could approach things differently. An oft-mentioned quote goes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
And that’s when I learned what self-care was.
Self-care is not treating yourself to material things or paying for an experience. Because at the end of the day, you’re still coming back to your problem.
Self-care is often not pretty, and can sometimes be hard and painful. It’s adulting yourself and facing the issues you’ve been trying to avoid.
After examining my breakdown, I realized I wasn’t managing my time well. Instead of working in one go, I would have tons of breaks, some of them an hour long.
Self-care is really just about making sure you do the things you need to do, especially the unglamorous bits. And it’s something you do all the time, every day, by choosing to do things that will truly make your life better. So that when you do choose to buy that fancy soap, you’re doing it to reward yourself instead of consoling yourself.