Don’t get me wrong, I’m the biggest proponent for increasing self-awareness and encouraging people to take care of themselves, but I’ve realized that how I define “self-care” extends beyond the marketable, aesthetic products on the shelves. It’s important to remember the that primary focus of self-care should always be yourself and if it is ultimately going to be best for you – it can, and likely will, conflict with what you see on TV.
When my self-care looks very “mainstream” I feel pretty good about it. I can brag and say that I went to yoga, did grocery shopping, and ended the day with a moisturizing face mask to top it all off. But did I really enjoy these things or am I satisfied about the external role they fill? Did they make me feel good just because they’re what I thought I was supposed to do? At the end of the day, maybe it’s not entirely a bad thing if I still feel a little better for it, but it bears always keeping yourself in mind because continually adopting someone else’s idea of self-care can cloud your ability to be truly self-aware. There may be nothing inherently wrong with feeling good about sharing that colourful bubble bath with a glass of wine to your Snapchat story, but there is something wrong with tying your sense of worth to external standards and relying on validation for security. Self-care isn’t just another realm where we have to compete to measure-up.
It’s hard to appreciate my self-care when it looks like dragging myself out of bed to take a shower or letting myself full-on ugly-cry. I might even feel disappointed with myself when self-preservation looks like awkwardly making an excuse to leave a situation that’s making me uncomfortable. When your self-care looks or feels a little different, it might be harder to appreciate it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t equally important, if not more so.
The way you take care of yourself can look different from day to day or even moment to moment. The important part is checking in with yourself and practicing moving past the imposing expectation that things should look a certain way.
I believe self-care is rooted in self-compassion and while this might always be something I struggle with, I have made a commitment to myself to try. I’m taking the first steps and hoping I buy-in along the way. I’m fighting the voices in my head telling me that I’m not worth it. I’m trying to acknowledge that I am first and foremost my own responsibility and that taking care of myself can be empowering. No one else is going to do it for me and I can stop expecting them to. I am cultivating a home within myself where my sense of security comes from learning to recognize what I need and proving to myself that I can get it.
Healing isn’t always scented candles and yoga mats – it’s so much more, and ignoring the hard work that goes into it by focusing on only the appealing aspects detracts from the effort we put in. Everyone has to start somewhere – and consumer self-care products might be a decent starting point, but they aren’t one-size-fits-all. The beauty about human nature is our unlimited diversity, meaning it’s doubtful that skin-care really is the secret to everlasting confidence. These things can definitely contribute to helping us feel better but they can’t replace the hard work that is required for true internal growth and healing.
It doesn’t always feel good and that’s okay. If you’re willing to invest in the “beauty work” be sure to invest in the dirty work as well. Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees and take care of your whole damn self.