We often think that self-care is optional. Or self-care is selfish. Or it’s about being lazy. Or we think we can finally access self-care when we lose weight. When we fit into an old pair of jeans. When we meet a certain goal. When life stops being so busy.
We think we have to earn the right to take care of ourselves. It’s as though self-care is the reward for working a long day. It’s the reward for acing a presentation or completing a project. It’s the reward for skipping dessert.
Self-care is the carrot we dangle while we walk and work, starved.
We get mad at ourselves when we can’t sustain a certain level of productivity. When we need to take a break. When we need a nap (instead of another cup of coffee). When we need fresh air (instead of sitting and staring at our screens for hours).
In her excellent piece “Self-Care is Not a Pie Filling: A PSA” Esmé Wang encourages readers to regularly focus on self-care: “I’m telling you now that self-care isn’t something that you do when the proverbial brakes are shot. You do it because you’re worth caring for. You do it because you are a living being who needs to be fed. You are busy, but you’re not a machine.”
She also notes the importance of self-care in her own life: “I had to become excellent at self-care because I was forced to. I’d been living with chronic illness since I was a preteen, but this past year, I started again; I became sick in new ways, with new diagnoses, and with that epoch of beginning again, came the fine point that if I didn’t become exquisite at caring for myself, I would probably die.”
And this is a key reminder: Self-care sustains us. It’s about our health and well-being. It’s about listening to ourselves and taking action to meet our needs, which are vital.
As Wang writes, your inner voice may say: “A cup of tea. Hold off on that 3pm Scotch. Shut down that project. Send that tough-but-necessary email.”
It may say, Don’t skip that doctor’s appointment because you think you don’t have time. You do. Turn off the TV, and savor a nap. Write your heart out. Call your best friend to talk and reconnect. Make time to meditate. Go on an invigorating run. Rest today. Stretch. Process your sadness. Sleep more.
What is your inner voice saying?
Today, take some time to listen. Take some time to consider what taking exquisite care of yourself looks like. Think about how your approach to self-care changes when you view it as life-saving or life-giving. Because that’s exactly what it is.