What I Wish I Knew About Self-Care.
When I first sat down to write this article, I almost buried myself in a pile of unnecessary work -- like go through studies on happiness and health, poke around the internet for studies that supported my argument for self-care and it's relationship to mental illness, and re-read Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love.
But then I realized, those are just facts. Sure, they’re important facts—and the data from them is fascinating—but they aren't why we struggle with self-care in the first place.
We don't know what true self-care is.
Most people think that self-care means doing something nice for yourself. We imagine it as a destination—a trip to the spa, a long bath, or an afternoon at the beach. But self-care is not an event; it's a process, a way of being. It’s about tending to your needs in order to restore balance and harmony within yourself, so you are better able to be present and available for others.
Self-care does not mean you’re being selfish.
Selfishness usually has negative connotations, yet when taken from this perspective, I tend to see it differently: In caring for myself first, I am actually more available and able to truly offer my best self to others without feeling depleted by the process of giving.
When we engage in healthy practices, like yoga or meditation, we do them because they help us feel good about ourselves and build confidence in our capacity for caring for others—not because they make us feel better about ourselves (though that can certainly be part of the experience).
We think we need to be fixed first.
We often believe that self-care is something we need to do when we don’t feel so broken or in a better place. We think it’s something we can only start when things have improved or once we have made peace with our past.
But here’s what I've learned to be true: none of us are ever “fixed.” We are all works in progress, on an eternal journey of growth and healing, learning to embrace ourselves a little more each day. Self-care is about loving yourself through every step along the way; allowing yourself space for mistakes, successes, and failures; knowing that you deserve love even before you feel like you deserve it.
We think self-care is a luxury reserved for the rich and famous.
But what if, instead of thinking of self-care as a luxury or a selfish indulgence, we think of it as an act of love? What if we recognize that caring for ourselves does not make us less able to care for others? Self-care is actually an act of generosity—of giving ourselves what we need so that we can give more to those around us.
In fact, I’d argue that self-care is a public service. When you're feeling fulfilled, you're better equipped to handle stress and manage conflict—and therefore better suited to help others when God calls you off the sidelines to be of service.
Self-care can be taught to anyone at any age.
Just like any other skill worth learning (yoga or cooking), the more you practice it the better you become at taking care of yourself, and the easier it becomes over time.
Learning how to take care of ourselves isn't just important because it makes us happier (which is reason enough to do it). It's important because it makes us better—better parents, partners, better friends, better artists, and better people!
If you want to get better at taking care of yourself, you need to understand the root causes of your struggles. You can’t just say, “I’m going to start taking better care of myself,” as if it’s that simple. First, you need to examine your current relationship with self-care, why you struggle with it, and where your toxic mindset and behaviors come from.
So I’m short, self-care is a big deal. It’s not just about being nice to yourself and taking time out for yourself—it’s about a holistic approach to life that includes what you eat, who you spend time with, how much sleep you get each night, and so on.
And it’s not something reserved for those who struggle with mental health issues either; it can be used as a tool by anyone who feels like they need some extra TLC in their lives.
The only way that any of us will ever get better at caring for ourselves is when we learn what our self-care actually entails!