The challenge of self-care and how to overcome it
“Self-care” is everywhere on social media, which is a wonderful thing: a movement into awareness of our needs. Unfortunately, the messaging we see on social media is usually accompanied by “do this for self-care….don’t do this…definitely do this” -- a form of what I call self-care policing: other people dictating what is acceptable and what is unacceptable as forms of self-care.
Is self-care chocolates, wine, and mani/pedi’s? Or, meditation, healthy boundaries, letting go of relationships that are no longer in alignment with us?
How about this: self-care is recognizing the care you need, in the moment, and taking action towards achieving that care.
Self-care is exactly what it sounds like: care of self. It’s less about what other people are telling you to do and more of honoring who you are and how you feel and where you’re at. And, it looks different for everyone.
When I was struggling with depression and hormonal imbalances from my PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), I ordered food all the time because I didn’t have the motivation to grocery shop or cook. I ate desserts every night. Went to bed late. Slept in. Didn’t have the energy to exercise or meet with friends. But I promised myself that this would be temporary, and made it a constant practice to not judge myself for what I was doing or how I was feeling, actively trying to not give in to shame, guilt or fear. My self-care was a new practice of self-love.
Flash forward to now – I’m more balanced than ever before, back to cooking healthy and high vibrational meals, gaining the ability to love myself regardless of my situation – something I didn’t realize I lacked until this experience with depression, engaging in daily exercise and a devoted sadhana (practice) of yoga/meditation/breath work. I feel fulfilled and purposeful. This might sound more like “self-care” to some people.
My self-care looked drastically different during these two time periods. When I was feeling low, yes I gained weight. Yes my depression sucked me into a hole of despair. But it also offered the contrast I needed to see where my holes in self-love were, and where I needed to grow in my capaciousness for self-love, regardless of how I was feeling or experiencing. I needed to drop the self-judgement and criticism. I realized up until then, my self-love was conditional, and based on my idea of happiness and success: if I was doing good and feeling good, I had more love for myself. But if I screwed up or wasn’t feeling the best, I didn’t show love to myself as much. In hindsight, the ordering food and dessert was a form of self-care that allowed me a break in trying to show up as perfect. But, the key is, I did know it was temporary and was still seeking the healing I needed elsewhere via acupuncture and energy work. I didn’t give up on life, I just needed a pause to have my view of love mirrored back at me so I could heal it.
Self-care for me today looks a lot different, but I can perform these actions with more self-love and gratitude because of the hardships and low times I faced.
Some might argue “accepting” feeling low is not a healthy thing to do. I disagree. I think acceptance allows us to be fully present with the experience. When we don’t accept, we push away, or deny and therefore repress the experience – which ultimately is exactly that: denial.
But every experience is meant to be felt. Acceptance does not mean “giving up.” Giving up is having no desire to change or evolve. But acceptance is a powerful drop into the present moment, honoring the reality of the situation, feeling it even if it's uncomfortable. Doing this allows for a powerful shift into healing and a transformation to begin.
Some might also believe simple pleasures, such as a glass of wine, manicures and pedicures are not self-care, but material things we engage in to distract ourselves from the evolution or healing that needs to take place. I also disagree – because every single person is so unique. I think even simple pleasures can help propel us into a different mind set that is uplifted, that can be of aid to shift the entire psyche into an uplifted and motivated energy. The tricky thing is not to use these simple pleasures as a means to perpetuate a toxic cycle (more on this later in another blog!).
Self-care isn’t just a trend – it’s a way of being that encompasses both the desire to and the actual practice of returning to self through care that we recognize as a need in that moment or time of our life – whether that care be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.
Most importantly, self-care is unique to you. And honoring that as truth is, well, a form of self-care.
What is your favorite self-care practice?
Photo credit @photosbyfreespirit