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Re-Thinking Self-Care

woman sitting on wall

When did “self-care” become synonymous with getting our nails done?

For the record, I love having my nails done, but it’s not self-care. My Self doesn’t need pretty nails; my ego does. (And, yes, I realize people paint their nails for other reasons.)

When we talk about self-care, it’s essential to examine our motivations to be sure that we are supporting our Selves and health rather than inadvertently undermining our self-esteem.

  • Self-care is not irresponsible indulgence; although true self-care may feel indulgent because it’s rarely practiced.

  • Self-care is not about feeding our ego, which is insatiable. It’s not about what we “deserve,” so much as it’s about what we truly need to be a healthy human, which we deserve, but doesn’t come from a place of entitlement.

  • Self-care isn’t about external fixes, it’s about intrinsic fulfillment.

According to Psych Central, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health…Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.”

The beauty industry, a multi-billion dollar business, is organized around a single concept: we aren’t good enough as we are (but we could be if only we would buy product x or service y). It has capitalized on our insecurities and re-packaged “solutions” as “self-care.”

Buying beauty products means buying into this concept, literally. And it’s dangerous to put our mental, emotional and physical health in the hands of an insatiable ego. It’s never satisfied—and the beauty industry loves that.

True self-care works from the inside out. That’s why it’s so hard to practice; self-care asks us to take care of ourselves, which means being honest about what we need, challenging our belief systems, and behaving in new ways that upset the status quo and may not score us any brownie points.

Let’s just start with the basics of what our physical Self needs: food, water, shelter and sleep.

If we want to practice one radical act of self-care, just get enough sleep. For many, this is easier said than done. In our culture that prizes busy-ness, being sleep deprived is like a badge of honor. It’s ludicrous, given all the research about the negative health impacts caused by a lack of sleep. Yet, that is a reality for many, and it’s difficult to shift the mindset and subsequently, the activity level, to get to bed.

Just try to go to bed earlier and watch what happens. (Seriously, if it’s an issue for you, try it.)

I suspect your brain will start feeding you lies about all the reasons you need to stay up, all the things you need to do, all the people you will disappoint, how you’re lazy, how you may get fired... The hard work is in re-prioritizing activities, setting boundaries on your time, and figuring out why you’ve taken on so much to begin with.

True self-care means we are nourishing our Selves, mentally, emotionally or physically. If you aren’t taking care of yourself in a particular area, look at what gets in the way, and why. What are you afraid will happen if you change your behavior? That’s where the work is.

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