I’m a huge advocate for self-care. As someone who has suffered from mental illness, and continues to deal with bouts of severe anxiety, I do not fool around when it comes to self-care. When I need to time the eff out, I time the eff out, and I make no apologies about it.
That being said, I often feel the messaging behind self-care has gotten all bent out of shape. It’s all about taking bubble baths, getting manicures, and taking long walks on the beach. And all of that is well and good, but what is the point of it all if at the end the day the circumstances that caused you stress in the first place haven’t been dealt with?
I also feel that folks often use “self-care” as a license to be an asshole, while continuing to engage self-destructive behavior. For me, self-care is about doing the hard work. The often gut-wrenching, soul-crushing work that forces you to come to terms with the cards you have been dealt. For instance, this time last year I found myself at one of the lowest points of my life.
I was not in a great place, emotionally, but I pushed all of that aside and made arrangements to visit a friend. Needless to say, the visit did not go so well. Without going into too much detail, what should have been a weekend stay came to an abrupt end. I knew I couldn’t spend another minute at this friend’s apartment, so I walked out, with my suitcase in tow and headed to God knows where. Okay, that was dramatic, I was in New York, so I walked to the closest Starbucks. Bear in mind, I had no money, but I knew that if I could just get to my Aunt’s house on Long Island I would be okay.
So I’m at the Starbucks and I’m a complete crying, anxious, wreck, but I manage to call my good friend in Tennessee. She stays on the phone with me for close to 3 hours, and while I’m on the phone with her she makes arrangements for a mutual friend of ours to pick me up, take me to get something to eat, and then drive me to my Aunt’s house. The mutual friend also picked me up at 5am the next morning to take me the airport. It all worked out beautifully in the end.
I knew then that I really do have angels all around me. But the lesson in all of this is that I ended up in the Starbucks, crying, lugging around my heavy a$$ suitcase because I had not been practicing self-care. I thought that by going to New York to sort of “escape” I would be okay, but instead, my burdens followed me straight in the Starbucks, chile. Hungry. Broke, and feeling absolutely worthless.
When I got back home I vowed to do the real work. I called the friend whose apartment I had fled, and apologized for storming off; she accepted my apology but she hasn’t spoken to me since. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve made peace with it. Which leads to me what self-care means to me. I am happy to report that I feel the most solid I’ve felt in a long time and it’s because I actually practice self-care.
- Self-care is accepting that folks may not want to be your friend forever, and allowing those people the freedom to choose to let you go. I love and care for myself enough to know that if you don’t want me, I don’t want you.
- Self-care is being aware of your triggers and your boundaries, thereby granting you the power to control who and what you let into your life
- Self-care is owning that you have work to do, but not using this fact as a crutch. Everyone has work to do, so do the work.
- Self-care is learning to say I’m sorry, and meaning it.
- Self-care is being able to look in the mirror every day and knowing that you are a good person who treats people with kindness and fairness.
Sure, take time out to treat nicely every once in a while. Give yourself time, every day, to just breathe and be present. But don’t forget that real self-care begins when you commit yourself to being the best version of yourself. And trust me, you won’t find her in a bubble bath.