DEAR DEANNA: IS IT SELF-CARE OR IS IT SELFISH?
“SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE I SEE PEOPLE MAKING EXCUSES FOR FOOD OR TV BINGES BY CALLING IT ‘SELF-CARE’. IS THIS WHAT SELF-CARE IS ABOUT?” -- JAKE
In a culture that praises overwork, insufficiently compensates workers, upholds racial imbalance, and maintains vast social class disparity, self-care is essential.
The act of claiming self-care is a form of rebellion for many, and can come at great personal cost.
However, as the concept of self-care has been made a trend by large corporations looking to cash in, there’s a lot of criticism that “self-care” is an excuse to indulge in any type of behavior, flaunt privilege, and exert a sense of entitlement over others.
Unfortunately, it is the case that whatever humans can conceive of, they can push out of balance.
Self-care seems simple. Buy some bath salts, make an appointment for a massage, place cucumber slices over your eyes, put up your feet, do absolutely nothing. And the tricky part is—yes, these are absolutely examples of self-care. The crucial component is that Self-Care Looks Different For Every Body and Mind.
Self-care doesn’t have to have a price tag on it. And self-care doesn’t always feel cozy. It doesn’t necessarily require attention from others. And it definitely doesn’t include requiring others to serve your needs.
Self-care is the act of caring for your physical and mental health in order to support your role in the world around you. Self-care enables you to give of yourself in all your responsibilities each day to the best of your ability.
On the other hand, routinely ignoring your obligations in favor of more fun or pleasurable activities bends toward selfishness.
As you can imagine, this is a very fine line. And in order to gauge where you’re at on the continuum, you need to have a good amount of self-awareness and honest self-inquiry.
When you get down to basics, self-care should improve your physical and mental health. Therefore, it’s an ongoing process that ebbs and flows. If you find that your self-care practices keep you from responsibilities or leave you feeling hungover, reassess your practice.
Then ask a difficult question: are you using self-care as an excuse to escape?
Answering yourself honestly allows you to examine what you’re escaping from. Is your unhappy condition something that can be changed? Do you need direct assistance (e.g. a physical therapist, a social worker, a bookkeeper) in the situation, rather than band aid of self-care? To work to make a bad situation better is absolutely self-care, too. Seeking professional help is self-care. Setting boundaries is self-care. Striving for a better job is self-care. Having candid conversations with others is self-care. Letting go of unhealthy relationships is self-care.
To help you make changes in the bigger picture, establish foundations like good hydration and a healthy, whole foods diet. It’s remarkable how nutrition and hydration factor into our emotional state. Again, seeking the best quality foods within your means, having a treat occasionally, and including as much outdoor movement as you can, all ensure that your human body works optimally. It’s so much better to choose your time off, rather than be knocked down by illness and forced to rest. Putting great food into your body is excellent self-care.
Watch out for the desire to broadcast your self-care; examine your motives. We live in a world where the pressure to share the fun and beautiful parts of our lives is intense and the feeling that others are doing better things than you is undeniable. So, before you upload that poolside selfie, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Does sharing this experience genuinely improve it for you, or are you seeking approval? True self-care typically isn’t improved as a spectacle. You do self-care for YOU, not for anyone else.
I like to think in terms of self-care that can be done anywhere. There are so many unlikely opportunities to take care of yourself, whether that’s while you’re sitting on hold, taking a break at work, running errands, or eating a meal. I like sharing the ideas I’ve collected over the years from working with clients whose lives are so very hectic, so look for those on the dhyana Instagram feed and in my Ask Anything livestreams.
Self-care is a practice that can benefit everyone. It is a form of personal responsibility and health care. When we practice honest healthful habits that improve our energy and outlook, we are prepared to show up in the world as our best selves.
Here are a few of DeAnna’s favorite self-care health tools that bring a lot of high-quality care with simple materials: