It isn’t about being selfish—it’s about, well, caring for yourself
Self-care is an important part of a healthy life for everyone. The term isn’t new, but it has gained in popularity recently, particularly during the stay-at-home phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s also been simplified, and sometimes maligned. Some people immediately equate it with pure self-indulgence, but it’s much more than that.
What Self-Care Isn’t…
Self-care isn’t just about pampering yourself
Sometimes self-care is a decision to do something that will be good for us in the long run, even though it doesn’t feel like it right now. A simple thing, like going to the doctor or dentist even though you’re nervous, or calling a psychiatrist for help, even though you may be ashamed. Sometimes the greatest act of care you can give yourself is to get out of bed and brush your teeth, even when you’d rather crawl deeper under the covers.
Hardly any of these things will make us happy straightaway; in fact, they’ll likely feel unpleasant. But they will slowly build us into healthier, better people. Some future self will thank the “you” of today for deciding to care for your body and mind.
Self-care isn’t selfishness
Sometimes self-care requires us to please and prioritize ourselves. At times, it also means setting clear boundaries in relation to others. For those who aren’t used to it, such decisions seem like selfishness, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
A general rule you can always follow is to ask yourself whether and how much your decision harms others. If you go out for coffee or drinks with a friend one evening, and leave the keiki with your husband, they won’t grow up with the idea that they missed a mother’s love. The opposite is true—they’ll get the opportunity to be closer to their father.
However, if you go out every night and come back when the children are already asleep, then they will start to really miss you. Taking care of yourself means finding that balance.
Self-care isn’t thoughtlessness and impulsiveness
Just as we have to go to the doctor, even though we’re afraid, sometimes we have to refrain from satisfying our desires or needs this very second. Planning and being prudent—both financially and emotionally—is key. Weigh the pros and cons of any decision, big or small, before you dive in. (That said, there is nothing wrong with a little healthy spontaneity.)
What Self-Care is…
Self-care is a process
There is little chance that one act of self-care will instantly make us happier and mentally healthier. It requires consistency, but also flexibility. You don’t have to repeat the same thing over and over again. Maybe you decide to go to the doctor today.
Tomorrow there probably won’t be any need for that, so you can reward yourself with your favorite dessert, cook your favorite meal, or go out for a nice dinner. Alternately, grab your board and head to your favorite spot, simply go float in the saltwater or take a walk in the sand.
Don’t expect permanent results from individual decisions right away; you need to accumulate them and create a kind of self-care capital.
Self-care is part of everyday life
While we’re certainly more drawn to something grander or more special, like taking a trip or turning your apartment into a spa for the day, there’s more to self-care than that.
It can be going for a walk, or a longer showering ritual with carefully selected shampoos and just the right water temperature. Although it’s undeniable that taking a break from everyday life has its advantages, you shouldn’t rely on it alone. Daily decisions may not be as exciting, but they’re just as important—and just as rewarding.
Self-care is individual
There is no one universal recipe that makes each of us feel better. Don’t give up or feel bad if advice you read “doesn’t work.” That doesn’t mean there’s no help for you. Self-care is every decision you make to improve yourself, in the short- or long-term. Get out there and make at least one such decision today.