What Self-Care Is, What It Is Not, & Why You Need to Know the Difference

Self-care. It’s quite the buzzword these days. I hear it a lot in the health world and I even find myself using it a lot. I firmly believe in self-care and I think it is important for everyone to implement into their lives, but I think the point of it has gotten a little misunderstood. And by a little, I mean a lot.

I say that because most of the forms of self-care we see promoted on healthy-living magazines, by health and wellness instagramers, and by celebrities are these really lavish, expensive, and time-consuming acts in order to treat oneself. While yes, those are forms of self-care- treating yourself with hot-stone massages, acai bowls, salt baths and chocolate truffles is not at all what self-care is at it’s core.

Self-care is a discipline. It’s not always pretty. It’s not always fun. It’s not always “Instagram worthy”, but true self-care is indeed important.

If we go back to English class for a sec and take the phrase as literally as possible, self-care means “taking care of one’s self”. I think we can all agree that makes sense. The American Psychological Association’s definition is not too far off, stating that self-care is “providing adequate attention to one's own physical and psychological wellness”.(1)

 Brunch with friends is quite literally one of my favorite things to do! Pro Tip: Find you life-giving and uplifting friends. Nothing is better than not only being able to laugh together, but grow together too!

Brunch with friends is quite literally one of my favorite things to do! Pro Tip: Find you life-giving and uplifting friends. Nothing is better than not only being able to laugh together, but grow together too!

So what does that mean on a practical, everyday level?

Glad you asked.

Self-care is anything I can do to better take care of my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health in that moment, with what I have available to me. Which is a concept I and soooo many other people overlook in the “hustle culture” we live in. The “no days off”, “do more”, “stay at work later”, “finish my to-do list or else”, “anti-rest” world we live in, we often totally disconnect from our needs until we have hit rock bottom. Sick, tired, unmotivated and frankly just run-down. Self-care means implementing small, easy disciplines into your day for your own good, to prevent such a massive build-up of exhaustion. 

So ya, that can obviously look like more than a bubble bath or beach get-away, because not sure who can do that on the reg. Not me. That can look like:

  • making a budget
  • setting a bedtime for yourself
  • not watching “just one more” episode of the Office at midnight because you work early in the morning
  • enforcing a morning and/or bedtime routine
  • prepping healthy meals for a busy week ahead

Doesn’t sound too glamorous huh? My point is that showing yourself care is an important habit to form, but let’s not get it twisted into some selfish excuse to distract yourself from the world and people around you. Just because you don’t want to deal with it. A distraction is not a solution. Self-care in the case of a problem is to carve out time and make a plan to solve it- not go to yoga to escape it. Does that make sense?

What self-care is not:

 Another way I practice self-care is going on walks! Oh and on this day that walk led me to this beautiful iced latte. One of my better decisions. (the pretty flower picture in this article's main picture was also taken this day from my walk... again, 10/10 day)

Another way I practice self-care is going on walks! Oh and on this day that walk led me to this beautiful iced latte. One of my better decisions. (the pretty flower picture in this article's main picture was also taken this day from my walk... again, 10/10 day)

Self-care is not something that we force ourselves to do, stress over fitting into our schedule, or something we don’t enjoy doing for the sake of “bettering ourselves”. If your tight for cash, but are buying a $30 face mask from Sephora- is that really what’s best for you? If you spend your morning stressed-out about fitting in a “stress-relieving” workout, isn’t that somewhat contradictory? And if you are going to yoga to “clear your mind” but hate every second of it- for pete’s sake, stop going!! All that to say, just because other people call these things forms of self-care, doesn’t mean that it is for you or ever will be. You do you boo-boo.

Self-care also is not selfish. It's not only about considering our needs; it's more so about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, in order to be able to take care of others well. Personally, I think there’s really no better place to look for wisdom than from the one man who literally did life perfectly (@Jesus). When asked what the greatest commandment was for followers of Jesus was, He said in Matthew 22:

1. love God first and foremost.

Aka- not yourself first. That means, not self-care first. Make it a priority, but not the highest priority.

2. Love others as you love yourself.

He didn’t just say love others, Jesus said love others as you love yourself. Treat yourself with the respect, love and grace you would want to give others and for others to give you. If you don’t give yourself what you need to live an energized and joy-filled life, how do you expect to give that energy and joy to your family and friends? You can’t.

Just like a waitress needs to first fill a pitcher of water in order to fill the thirsty customer’s glasses, you must also be filled up in order to be poured out.

To sum it all up, self-care is ultimately about balance.

It really is one of the keys to living a balanced life, but not always in the ways that it's portrayed and it's not always going to be the same for everyone.

Knowing that, what are ways you can start practicing true forms of self-care? What are some things you can do to better yourself and better your situation?

Do you need to implement a budget for a future, more costly goal you have? Make time to walk on your lunch-break? Treat yourself to an afternoon iced latte? Establish a bedtime routine? It’s totally personalized, so the options are really endless!

I challenge you to implement at least one act of self-care a day this week! If you do, comment below and let me know what you plan to try! I’d love to know what you come up with!

Until then, have a fab-a-loss week and much love my peeps.

References:

1. American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 57, 1060-1073.