Contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot more to loving and taking care of yourself than putting on a face mask and soaking in the bath. While we all love a good bath, this cliche is not only really narrowing, but it’s also quite dangerous! It feminises the act of self-care as well as reducing it down to material stereotypes. This post hopes to add a little more depth to the meaning of self-care and give you some ideas on how to practice it!
Getting to Know Yourself… Completely
How can properly you take care of yourself if you don’t know yourself? Just because we occupy our bodies 24 hours a day doesn’t mean that we really know ourselves. What are your allergies and intolerances? How much sleep do you need to function properly? What’s your best energising food option? For tips and tricks on how to get to know your physical body better, have a look at my last blog post.
While getting familiar with your body, don’t forget the mental side. What music should you play when you’re lacking motivation? What techniques do you use when you’re feeling angry or anxious? Writing lists about things that you like and don’t like, your goals (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly), your dreams, your weaknesses and your strengths will not only indicate who you are right now, but it also helps you to sculpt out a future version of yourself too!
Once you’ve got a nice, chunky list of your strengths, don’t forget to think about the people who nurture those strong traits and let them know that you’re grateful. We all rely on the kindness and advice of other people and it doesn’t take away from your own independence, in fact, it improves it. The flip-side is just as important too. Don’t be too proud to address your weaknesses. There are no audiences or people to judge you with self-care- that’s one of the biggest perks. So air out all of those those weaknesses; it’s the only way to love them into becoming strengths.
Being humbled by life is inevitable at times, but it’s also a part of the self-care process. Accepting when things are hard is essential to looking after yourself. When life seems too much, too dark or you feel completely alone, acknowledge that. There’s no need to feel ashamed at all, shame is a social construct anyway! Instead of feeling ashamed and trying to mask your feelings- cry, draw, sing badly, put on a Disney film or search for inspiring quotes. You can chat to a friend or loved one (no they don’t mind and no they haven’t got too much on to listen!) If you don’t want to chat about your worries, ask them how they’re doing and how you can help!
A good self-carer is honest as well as humble, which includes being honest with themselves! It’s that age old saying we hear in school- ‘if you cheat, the only person you’re cheating is yourself’ and it’s true! Lying to yourself, assigning more ‘attractive’ or socially acceptable weaknesses, or even telling yourself that you’re fine when you’re not only hurts you.
Despite the difficulties at first, being honest with myself has become one of my favourite things to do and it has definitely become a good tool for decision making and confidence building. The conversations that I have with myself allow me to assess my situation, look at what I can cope with and decide what things need to change. I wouldn’t have reduced my workload, for example, if I didn’t accept that I was overwhelmed, struggling to cope and that the sheer amount I was doing was hindering my health!
Taking responsibility for your life is so important and you need to be honest to make the changes you need to improve it! It could be changing your living situation, your job, going to therapy, giving back to the community, distancing yourself from damaging people or even apologising for your own damaging behaviours (and when I say apologising, I mean that the actions match the words!)
So when you’re feeling indecisive or a bit off, ask yourself honestly, do you need to be passive or active to feel better. Do you need a long bath and a nap or do you need to tackle something head on or speak to someone about your feelings? Both are valid and once you have an honest answer, the rest is easy.
Taking Your Time
As much as we’d like it, we aren’t going to wake up one morning levitating off the bed, an embodiment of enlightenment. Progress takes time and the rewards of your hard work won’t all come at once.
Like any relationship, it takes time to get to know yourself properly, so just remembering that is an act of self-care! If you find yourself frustrated or feeling like you’re going backwards, just rationalise with yourself. Were you this self-aware last month or last year?
Putting yourself down not only enables other people to do the same but, more importantly, it makes it easier for you to do it again. Repetition leads to entrenchment. One day your mumbling that you’re worthless or stupid because you drop your keys or don’t do as well on a test or at work, maybe you say you’re ugly or that no one likes you. The next step from that is to believe those things and those beliefs soon become your reality.
Sometimes we put ourselves down to other people, usually in a comparison. It can be an attempt to seem humble or to avoid seeming big-headed. We think we’re serving other people when we do this, making them feel better, but I can promise you that you do more good to other people’s insecurities by addressing, not playing into, your own.
There are some situations that are out of our control and it’s important to remember that. You are not your life experiences, but you can choose to take lessons from them. You are not your trauma, your loss, your abuse. You are not the things that somebody else made you feel and it’s cruel to hold yourself responsible for those things. You are brilliant and beautiful and you are constantly evolving.
Self-care requires a lot of communication. We’ve talked a little about the communication you need to be having with yourself, but communication with others is just as important.
It’s important to let the people in your life know where you’re up to and how you’re feeling. It’s also important to let them know your boundaries. If your self-care involves putting your phone on Do Not Disturb for a couple of hours a day, just giving loved ones the heads up saves from misunderstandings. Wanting time for yourself in the morning might mean a conversation with the people you live with to let them know that you aren’t being rude, you’re just taking some time for yourself and maybe can chat over breakfast.
The crucial part of communication is to do it as often as possible. Letting people know your situation helps them to understand and accept your boundaries- which will lead to more successful relationships in the long run.
Balance is crucial for consistency. If you sprint through everything in a day, gasping and panting your way through each task, it leaves you completely out of juice for the next day. Firas Zahabi talks about this in relation to exercise, but the concept relates to everything in your life. Some days you need to be productive and ticking off your goals, other days you need to be resting and giving yourself time to process and other days you need to be taking care of your relationships, nurturing them and giving back to those people who have supported you.
Falling Over, Then Snort-Laughing at Yourself
There is nothing more beautiful and human than completely f***ing up.
You’re going to fall over, say the wrong thing at work, miss the train, say something careless to someone you love. It’s human. Enjoy your humanity and laugh at yourself for being so silly. Then, once you’ve finished giggling, reflect, get back up, rephrase your sentence, look for an alternate route, apologise to the person that you love and tell them how you really feel.
Doing This for You
Self-care isn’t a quick hack to make your relationship work, or to make people like you more. It’s a long-term, fruitful process to make you like you more. You’re not doing self-care right if you have an ulterior motive relating to someone else, because your focus needs to be on you. There may be difficult points in this process, I won’t lie to you, but the rewards are so so worth the graft.
I hope you found this post useful and I hope that your self-care journey is going well! Did I miss anything? Any key parts to self-care that I missed? Let me know!