Today, it’s impossible escape the term self care, but what does it really mean? Many definitions exist and anyone selling anything, wants you to believe their product is integral to your self care routine. With all the “Insta-fabulous” self care inspirations out there, it feels like something reserved for the privileged and wealthy. When I first started my healing journey, I was quickly overwhelmed, so I created my own definition of what it was and was not. Here are 7 common myths I found about self care, debunked.
Self care costs (a LOT of) money — Retailers, beauty brands and marketers don’t want you to know this little secret, but it’s not true. It does not require fancy foaming face washes, “wellkend” retreats or salt floats. Don’t get me wrong, I will be the first to jump into a 90 minute sensory deprivation float tank, but I don’t need a salt soak to feel less stress. I can feel less stressed, simply by sitting in my desk chair, closing my eyes, and breathing deeply for 60 seconds.
Self care is complicated — Being a strong type-A, I initially felt self care needed elaborate rituals or processes. My self care routine required wrapping myself in hand knit blankets of the finest baby unicorn hair, in a room of 97.6 degrees, covered in Mongolian yak butter, with chilled organic cucumber slices on my eyes, or it would not be effective. After a few minutes back in reality, and listening to what my body and mind actually needed, I realized not hitting snooze, or making my bed in the morning, qualified as self care. Today, self care means going to sleep when I’m tired and folding my laundry as soon as it comes from the dryer.
Self care is only for women — While self care primarily targets women, everyone needs it. Maybe you need to sneak in a quick run before lunch, or devote 10 minutes to preparing the coffee pot before bed, so it’s ready in the morning, but these routines are gender agnostic.
Self care is a material thing — Sometimes we need that $7 bottle of green juice. That’s OK and there is no reason to be demonized or carry green juice shame. Life is hard enough, without feeling guilty for your morning matcha-lucuma latte. I enthusiastically participate in the skin-care-equals-self-care model, so I can appreciate these splurges, but self care doesn’t require expedited shipping or fancy boutiques. It can be taking a shower before you go to bed in freshly cleaned sheets, or having a glass of water before bed, so you don’t wake up thirsty.
Self care needs to follow certain rules — The best thing about self care is the complete and utter absence of rules! YOU get to define what self-care means to YOU. I go to the farmers’ market Saturday mornings and after I return home, I spend an hour to two, cleaning my fruits and veggies. I eventually realized the role this ritual played (and still plays for me) in self care. Diet and food is a HUGE part of my personal self care, and this puts me on the right path to preparing healthy meals during the week. It doesn’t mean I can’t adjust my schedule, but now I understand why it’s important to me, and how it relates to my self care and personal boundaries, so I can operate around them in a healthy way.
Self care is automatic — You have to make time for self care, plain and simple. There is no way around it; you have to choose and make the conscious effort to take care of yourself. Somedays, it may look like getting out of bed to take a shower and brush your teeth and nothing more. That’s completely OK. For some people it is masturbating or cross-fit, but make time for whatever fills your tank.
Self care isn’t necessary — It is such a cliche to say “you have to put on your oxygen mask before helping others,” but it could not be more true. That’s the point! If you are filling everyone’s cup but your own, eventually you are left with an empty cup. I used to make this mistake all the time and would give, give, give, until I had nothing left, leaving me resentful. This is how I came to understand what self care meant to me, and the importance of my own tiny rituals and practices. Self care needs to be part of everyone’s life, because it can sometimes mean the difference between a healthy and happy life, and the alternative.
If you only take one thing from these myths, take the fact that nobody defines your self care, but you. You get to determine what it means, and there is no right or wrong answer. There is no self care committee passing judgement on what is good or bad, and what is self-care to you may be torture to another. We can all learn compassion for one another in this space. I hope you are finding ways to care for yourself in your best way possible.
What other myths have you heard about self care? Share your personal myths in the comments and we can debunk them together.
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“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audrey Lorde
I consider Audrey Lorde to be the originator of the term and concept, self care. As a woman of color who fought her entire life for the rights of herself and others, to merely exist, she deserves to be recognized for her work and the role she played in creating and naming this important concept that is leveraged so fully today.