Notes on Self Care
Self care is important. So important that a huge chunk of the internet for ~ladies~ is consumed by the idea. But the proposition of taking care of yourself isn't as easy as an at-home-spa day.
The idea of taking care of yourself is a radical one. For many women, and for women of color and of the working class especially, the proposition of taking time out of the 24 hours for yourself is deemed excessive, selfish, unnecessary. Women are working to support themselves and their children and many are pulling second shifts in their homes. Simply, their time is valuable and a woman's value still comes from serving others (children, partners, communities, etc). This means that a woman's needs are often second to all. Why on earth would we be obsessed with this idea of self care if it wasn't?
The definition of self care is often misconstrued as necessitating some kind of luxury or the luxury of doing nothing. Self care is not about Netflix binges. It is about the essential upkeep of your psyche. It's the process of taking care of yourself. It should leave you with more than just nice nails. Here are some essentials of self care that you can fold into your current routine or use as a guide to start a new one.
1. Taking care of yourself isn't always fun or relaxing.
Netflix binges are great, and watching a tv show could be part of your self care, but for years I mistook the relaxation of diving into a binge as self care. I would watch as many episodes as my eyes could handle but I wouldn't feel any more cared for. I felt less stressed sure, but there were things in my life that still needed doing, the things that stressed me out in the first place.
What I didn't realize at the time is that self care is not only about relaxation, it's about taking care of yourself as if you were someone else. When you go over to take care of a sick friend, you don't just watch a million episodes of SVU. You bring soup, you do dishes if they're dirty, you make sure that their needs are met. In self care you have to do the same thing. Do you have food available that makes you feel good? No? Go to the grocery store. Do you have clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good? No? Do your laundry. Is your space usable? Can't see the surface of your desk? Clean it. Try to give yourself the best support you can. Then you can rewatch all of Pretty Little Liars.
2. To take care of yourself, you have to know yourself.
Part of self care is bringing your brain to a better space. To do that you kind of have to know the beast you're dealing with. You need to know where you are before you can try to get to that positive place. Your self care may just be a matter of slathering on a face mask and taking a nap, but you need to know the rhythms of your self to really take care of yourself.
If you are the type (like myself) who often doubts her skills or worth, part of your self care should include reassuring yourself that you do have skills, that you are worthy of the path that you're on, that you are a person that people love. You may want to remind yourself of the positive ways that other people see you. If you're the type (like myself) to be stressed out by a messy space, then clean your space. If you feel yourself getting sick or irritable, you should stock up on soup and get some rest. (Yes, soup solves both sickness and irritation. Trust.) Think about what you're feeling, the things you may need to fill up on, and proceed in your self care in a more targeted way. If you don't know what you need, your self care routine (no matter how long or expensive) will not make you feel any better.
3. You have to be in a safe place to take care of yourself.
This is a tricky one. There is a hierarchy of needs and your base needs must be met before you can take care of yourself. If you don't feel safe or supported at a base level, there is no way you can care for yourself beyond survival. There are times in our lives when we feel attacked or in danger, and there are many people who are living in a constant state of trauma because of their otherness in our society. In these times, self care becomes infinitely harder. This is important to note because, on some levels, self care is a privilege. It is a privilege not only of time but of peace of mind.
To begin self care, you need to get to a place where you feel safe. Unfortunately, if you are seen as other by our society, those spaces are few. It's recently come to my attention that yoga studios, spas, parks, etc may not be a super safe option for everyone. If you feel like you're put in danger or even if you just feel like you're in a space don't belong, it is not going to be an environment where you can truly meet your own needs.
[Author's note: we should work a lot harder to make spaces safer and more welcoming for all people so that no one is limited when seeking the care they need.]
4. You must believe that you're worthy of love to engage in self care.
This is the most important piece of self care. When you are trying to meet your needs, you need to first recognize that you are worthy of love and care. If this is hard for you, try seeing yourself as separate from you. Objectively, I think we can all agree that everyone deserves love and care. Yes? So, you are a person in need of love and care. And you are in a unique position to give yourself the exact love and care that will make you feel supported and whole. What an awesome thing!
Hope this supercharges your next self care time. Go treat yo self right. xoxo