posted on February 9, 2018
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and if I’m being totally honest, it’s not my favorite holiday. So instead of writing about workouts you can do with your boyfriend or whatever, I’d like to focus on loving and caring for the most important person in your life, who you probably neglect especially around this time of year: you.
I want to talk about self-care today.
This is a topic I know that I struggle with, and from my interactions with our members, I’d guess many of you do too. I find it so easy to pour myself into helping other people – at work, at home, at school; family, friends, significant others especially. But I find it incredibly difficult to turn around and care that much about myself. I give and give until there’s nothing left, hit a breaking point where the only thing that helps me recharge is an extended vacation in some beautiful tropical country. Then come home and do it all again. In 2018 I’m trying to cut that cycle short by taking better care of myself so I can take better care of others (without the breakdown). I’ve learned a few things about self-love and self-care so far this year that I’d like to share:
What self-care ISN’T
When I started this self-care project, I did what every millenial does best and read a million lists on a million clickbaity websites. “Take a hot bath, light a candle, have a spa day, eat some comfort food, buy a whole new wardrobe, go broke at Sephora, drink a glass of wine in front of the fireplace you don’t have and reflect on your beautiful life,” etc. These things are all great if you enjoy them (I unapologetically do), and they can be a form of self-care, but let’s be honest: this is some surface level stuff.
It’s EASY to sit in the tub with some candles and drink wine and tell yourself that this right here is the thing that’s going to fix the stress and make everything okay again. It certainly feels good in the moment. But when it’s all done and you’re still laying in bed at night unable to sleep and you don’t know why, I think it’s safe to say that your self-care practice wasn’t really cutting it.
What self-care IS
No one likes to hear it, but this is the truth: self-care is WORK. Buying new shoes isn’t getting at my real problems – especially if my real problems include paying off my student loans (they do) and better managing my money. I might get some instant gratification out of a new purchase, but that wears off and then I’m back to square one, just with even less money.
In a lot of ways, self-care means putting your current whims and wants on hold to focus on the bigger picture. Yes, maybe eating a tub of ice cream would feel awesome right now, and in some circles that would even count as self-care. But if what you really want for yourself is to be a faster runner, is that what you actually need?
This version of self-care feels to me more like a parenting relationship than the enabling best friend one I found in those self-care lists. It’s weird to be both the parent and the kid in this relationship, but just roll with it: would I let my kid sleep in and skip class all the time because they didn’t feel up to it that day? Of course not. Care about your future self as much as you care about your hypothetical (or real) child.
So here’s my self-care listicle. It’s not as fun as lying in a meadow surrounded by butterflies or whatever, but it’s definitely been more effective than the other things I’ve tried:
This kind of self-care is hard. I’m still working on it everyday. Tackling some of the more serious issues in my life is draining and often terrifying, but I know that I’m going to come out on the other side a happier person. And for now, I’m lucky to be surrounded by people that are willing and want to help me get there. I hope you can do the same and consider loving yourself first this Valentine’s Day.