5 Popular Lies About Self-Care

Photo by Rose Elena on Unsplash.

Photo by Rose Elena on Unsplash.

OKAY.  I have to say something.  ‘Self-Care’ is not synonymous with ‘Treat Yo’Self’.

As a Spiritual Director I both love and hate the rampant popularization of the term and concept of Self-Care.  We all need more in our lives.  We run ourselves into the ground and wonder why we can’t keep it together or cope.  There are some major lies associated with this faddy understanding of self-care that could keep us from feeling rejuvenated or having that self-care really penetrate our lives at all.  

Now for the lies.

1. It’s about pampering

I was going to say, “You wouldn’t believe how often I see self-care correlated or equalled to pampering one’s self.”  But I actually bet you would believe… because you see it too.  Everything I see on social media and regular media about self-care is about heading to the spa or the nail salon.  While that is an amazing thing to get to do for yourself, so many of us don’t have access to that luxury in our lives.  Not to mention that even the most relaxing spa day could fail to penetrate your wellbeing if you can’t unplug, let go, or have a deeper experience of yourself and your inner world.  I’ve had entire massages where I can’t even let go.  I’ve felt like I need a pre-massage for my actual massage.  It’s because what happens on the outside has to be mixed with work or effort on our inside.  In a way, we need a relaxing environment for our inner world just as much or more as we need a relaxing environment for our outer or physical world.   

2. It’s about binge watching TV

This is my biggest one.  Every. single. time.  Binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix does not count as self-care.  You are watching something emotionally stressful and very stimulating for your senses.  Even if it’s not Stranger Things, taking-on information for hours on end and turning your brain off is not self-care.  Your body may find rest in that space, and I’m ALL for that, but your mind, emotions, and soul have not had space.  Your inner world is still in the same state it was before you turned the TV or computer on.

3. It’s always saying “yes” to yourself

Sometimes I hear self-care in a way that is the anti diet or the permission banner.  Like allowing yourself to drink a soda (because you never do) is self-care.  Please!  Don’t insult my profession or the multitudes of counselors and caregivers out there!  Self-care is not having a soda because you deserve it.  Self-care is not a catch-all that makes breaking your own rules (especially healthy, well-being based rules) permissible in the name of taking care of yourself.  I find more often than not self-care is about saying “no” to myself.  After living with my own body for 29 years, I have learned that soda, carbs, and overeating KILL my mood, my energy, my libido, and my overall confidence as well as my ability to be around other humans.  I also know that not working out makes me feel like crap and makes me more susceptible to thoughts of self-loathing or criticism.  I know what my body needs.  And if we’re talking about caring for myself… it’s making all those small decisions toward overall health that is truly caring for myself.  

4. It’s a vacation

Self-care is not a vacation to the Bahamas.  Though there can be self-care built into a beautiful vacation.  If you can’t take a vacation, that’s not an excuse for not engaging self-care.  There are multitudes of tiny tiny, built-into-your-day-type activities and choices you can make to care for yourself without having to break the bank to get to a mai-tai on a beach.

5. It’s for special Saturdays

I know for many people finding a weekend off is pretty near impossible, (I’m looking at you, parents).  Self-care isn’t sequestered to Saturdays.  Truly practicing self-care means you don’t wait til the weekend to check in and give yourself space.  At the foundation of self-care there’s self-awareness.  Engaging self-awareness is watching your interactions with others, checking in with yourself throughout the day to see where you are and what you’re feeling.  When we’re self-aware, we know what we need.  The biggest task of self-care is actually pursuing and making space for what we know we need.  Being in a caring profession, self-care can often become this thing that we all know about and march around, but never actually practice.  Don’t wait for Saturday.  Make space for yourself in the little but effective ways you need everyday.

There are negative and positive means of coping with the stressors and hardships of life.  Self-care should encompass all the positive and none of the negative.  The term, after all, is ‘self’ ‘care’.  Therefore, it’s not about drinking that bottle of wine or eating a whole pizza while you binge watch something.  Self-care is making the choices for yourself that not only make space for you to step back from your life a little bit, but the choices that help you move toward a better place in the midst of engaging your life.

My biggest beef with these misconceptions of self-care is that self-care isn’t about consuming.  You don’t need to spend money (purchase products, services, or experiences) to care for yourself.  What you may need most is a walk down a quiet road, a quiet meditation for 10 minutes in the morning, or time with a close friend.  All of these things are free and don’t give into the idea that you need to purchase something to make yourself better off.  You have access to self-care without spending a dime.  Get yourself in some deep space to check in with your inner world.  If you don’t know how to access deep space with God, drop us a line or check out our downloadable guides.

How do you truly care for yourself?  What is your most beneficial self-care tactic?