No one can argue the importance of self-care. It is everywhere-from Facebook memes to Buzzfeed shopping lists to TV shows chanting “treat yaself.” And, it IS important. Without self-care, we will undoubtedly crash, burn out, or just merely exist. But Self-care is more than wine, pizza, and shopping (even though those are crucial too!), and, to be helpful, it has to be more than that.
Self-care is of course, at the most basic level, treating yourself. Allowing yourself to have that spa day. Freeing yourself to eat a bowl of ice cream or a whole pizza, or drink a bottle of wine. It’s letting yourself splurge and buy that pair of shoes, or that book you’ve been wanting to immerse yourself in, or that blanket you’ve been dreaming of cuddling up in and forgetting the world.
But, it goes deeper than that. self-care is allowing yourself to use those vacation days at work to take a break, even if it’s just to lay in bed and binge a new show. It is allowing yourself to cancel plans or obligations that you are not feeling so that you can instead do something that you are feeling. It is knowing that just because you received an invite doesn’t mean you have to say yes. self-care is freeing up the time and money needed to let yourself invest in your hobbies and passions.
And speaking of hobbies, self-care is doing what you love and giving a damn about what other people think. Too often we give up on what makes us happy because we lack the support of the people around us or the confidence to pursue it regardless of anyone’s thoughts. If knitting makes you happy, knit. If makeup makes you happy, learn as much as you can and be a badass at it. If dancing and concerts and clubs make you happy, then go out and dance until the early morning. Or, if you’re like me, and love your alone time and TV binge-watching, then let yourself do it, even when people say it is a lame, boring way to spend your time. Do what makes you happy and recharge your batteries and allow yourself to find happiness in life as often as you can.
Self-care is exploring the world and things around you. There is so much out there, and you’ll be surprised at what you were missing out on all this time. Try that new cuisine, go on that trip, read/watch a new genre of book/movie. Wake up and watch the sunrise over the ocean at the beach. Or stay up late in a field to watch the shooting stars and dancing fireflies. Or go for a walk in the woods and listen to the wind in the trees and the birds singing their lullabies.
Self-care is letting go of toxic people. It is one of the most important parts of self-care. Too often we keep people in our lives out of obligation or simply because we are scared to be alone. Loyalty is a trait that should be earned, not simply given out all willy-nilly. Friends, family, or partners-it doesn’t matter. If they are toxic or bitter or unsupportive or rude or emotionally draining…or anything else that brings bad energy into your life…let them go! The very essence of self-care is putting yourself first. Making sure that you are taking control of your life and making sure that you are allowing yourself to be happy and successful. And sometimes that means letting people go, no matter who they are or how long they have been around.
And piggybacking on that, self-care is not allowing yourself to settle for less. It is demanding what you need and taking what you want. Self-care is not letting second best be what you accept in any part of life. It’s not taking a backseat in your own life. Self-care is realizing when you are someone’s “maybe” or backup plan and making yourself move on to find someone who makes you their number one, who chooses you first. Self-care is knowing what will make you happy and not being afraid to ask for it.
Self-care is realizing your dreams and pursuing them. It doesn’t matter how crazy or big they are. It doesn’t matter what other people say or what roadblocks that may arise. Dreams are what keep us going. Dreams are what make life more than mundane routines. And yes, your dream may never come true. You may never achieve it, but at least you can say you tried. If you want to climb Everest, be the President, be the next Kim K, or just be a parent, then for God’s sake try. Give it your all. You never know what dreams just might come true. And the hope of what can be is what keeps us going, even when life gets hard.
Self-care is being honest. Self-care is not being afraid to quit. If something is not the right fit, then it is ok to stop. Quit your job or school, change your major, leave your relationship, move to a new city. It is ok to quit; it is ok to leave. Give yourself permission to start over anytime you find yourself anything less than happy, satisfied, and fulfilled.
Self-care is learning to love yourself. It is learning to be alone until you find the right person. Self-love is learning to put yourself first. Self-love is finally admitting to yourself that you deserve love and happiness. It is allowing yourself to believe you deserve everything and more.
And lastly, self-care is knowing balance. Walking that line between taking care of yourself and enjoying life and going overboard. Know your limits and weaknesses. Self-care is accepting your flaws and working on them. Knowing your means and making the most of them. Life is a balancing act, and self-care, when done wrong, can dig a deeper hole than it helps.
And in case you need to hear it like I did, you are amazing. You are loved. And you deserve nothing less than the most extraordinary life you can imagine for yourself. And you are free to do, or not do, whatever you think is needed for you to be happy, successful, and fulfilled.