Self-care isn’t a moment. It’s a lifestyle.
The simple, idealistic way to approach self-care (the way it’s portrayed in the media and casually discussed in real life) is to spend time on yourself – get a manicure, take a bubble bath with a glass of wine or a good book, or treat yourself to a massage. A quick little escape from reality.
I’d argue that true self-care it’s actually creating a better reality.
I pass no judgment on these activities, aside from the glass of wine, those are some of my favorite things in life, but these are not the things that stand between you and inner peace, happiness, or fulfillment. These are simple and easy. Self-care, while not necessarily difficult, requires a bit more of the self part.
When I say simple, I don’t mean possible, feasible, or accessible. Having been raised by a single mother and understanding the struggle of limited time and resources, I am keenly aware of the privilege and entitlement that seeps from those “How to Take Better Care of Yourself” lists from websites and magazines. I don’t say simple to imply that everyone can spend 30 minutes and $20 on one of these activities.
When I say these are the easy/simple ways to approach self-care, I mean emotionally. These are moments. Shallow moments that, while enjoyable, accomplish very little once you’re out of them. Self-care, TRUE self-care, in my opinion, is a lifestyle.
It’s the way you approach the day. It’s the way you prioritize your energy and efforts, it’s the way you speak to yourself, treat yourself, and the expectations you put out into the world around you. It’s each decision you make, moment by moment, as you choose yourself and your needs and wants and ideals.
Self-care is satisfying, it’s fulfilling, and its impact lasts long beyond a single moment. It can cost nothing and require no additional time carved out of your day. It’s setting a goal or an intention and then working towards that. It’s doing something that sets your heart on fire and makes you feel alive and then doing more and more of that.
Self-care is engaging in meaningful conversations while intentionally removing yourself from the relationships that weigh you down and no longer serve you.
Self-care is saying NO when a request doesn’t serve you and your goals; freeing yourself to say YES to the things that fuel your passions and light you up.
Self-care is not allowing yourself to be pulled into unnecessary drama.
Self-care is doing anything to makes you feel, physically and emotionally, strong and satisfied.
Self-care is the freedom and power to make decisions without weighing the opinions of those interested but unaffected by the outcome.
Self-care is anything where you prioritize your SELF over someone else’s expectations.
Self-care is doing all of this in a way that conveys kindness and compassion. I’m not promoting self-care as an excuse to be a jerk, though some around you may perceive it that way.
Self-care is walking away from relationships and partnerships that no longer serve you. Leaving can create and be part of the things that feed your goals, desires, and priorities.
Self-care is creating boundaries.
Self-care is speaking to yourself with kindness and compassion. It’s feeling proud of your accomplishments, showing yourself grace at missteps or shortcomings, and encouraging yourself to keep going.
Self-care is treating yourself the way you’d want others to treat your kids, best friend, or favorite person. Would you be ok with someone else treating your child the way you treat yourself?
“You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet” – Dr. Mark Hyman
Similarly, you can’t pamper your way out of an unfulfilling life… There are so many FREE options available to help you tap into the things that set your heart on fire. So many different ways to find fulfillment and to feel powerful and confident.
Self-care is not a passive activity. While there are resources available – podcasts, Ted Talks, Facebook groups, YouTube channels, and so on – it’s up to you to find the things that make you perk up and feel inspired…AND THEN DO SOMETHING! The magic comes from the action. The act of trusting your instincts, fueling your dreams, and following your heart is true self-care. You will never feel more cared for, loved, or powerful as when you’re tapped into that thing that is uniquely you. That thing where you feel like you’re invincible. Self-care is discovering that thing and then doing as much of it as possible.
One final note on this… while I’ve used the word “self” about 100 times here, the things you’re creating in yourself in this process aren’t just about you. You could read these words and, at face value, assume this to be selfish or indulgent, leading to people only caring about themselves. I’d argue that the exact opposite is true. The people who shine happiness on others are the ones who’ve put these things into practice. The people who have more than enough grace, kindness and knowledge to sprinkle it around like glitter, are the people who’ve already discovered it for themselves and want to share it. The people who’ve mastered the true art of self-care are the ones who model it for others. All of the goodness that this world needs has to be created within each one of us first so that we share it.