Have you noticed that the term “self-care” has recently become a dividing topic? It seems people fall into two camps: those who champion all forms of self-care and those who think self-care is selfishness in disguise. This is made clear by a video released on the popular YouTube channel, College Humor. In the video below, you can see a group of three women discussing increasingly selfish activities, such as having an affair or refusing to pay taxes under the label of self-care. The video is funny and I get the point that there could be selfish people who are starting to use the term “self-care” as an excuse for partaking in less-than-moral behaviors. But I do think the three characters in the video and the writers of the channel are missing important aspects of self-care that no one seems to talk about.
1. Self-care isn’t always fun
Self-care is about doing what is best for you, not necessarily what you feel like doing. Most people would rather have a cheeseburger than salad or spend an hour watching TV than spend ten minutes meditating. It’s important not to confuse the positive mental benefits of self-care with the good feelings that come with indulgence. Spending the evening watching your favorite show might feel good at the time but your feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression will probably be there when you turn off the TV. It’s perfectly fine to indulge in a lazy day or an unhealthy meal occasionally, but doing it frequently is not a form of self-care. Like anything that is good for your health, self-care can take a lot of work. You may be tempted to do other less healthy activities or have difficulty finding room in your busy schedule for yourself. Self-care isn’t about indulging your every whim; it’s about caring for your health even when you don’t want to do so.
2. Self-care is completely subjective
Unlike the women in the College Humor video, I don’t think eating 13 donuts or robbing a convenience store counts as self-care for anyone. Yet, I do think more people need to understand what seems like self-care to one person might seem like a useless or stressful activity to another. For example, nature-loving outdoorsy type people might find a day off camping in the woods or rock climbing to be a form of self-care. After all, they are getting in some fresh air and exercise. But to other types of people, a day out in the woods would seem like a nightmare. Also, keep in mind what might be easy for you to recover from might not be as easy for everyone else. You might be the type of person who can work full time and have a packed social calendar for every night of the week. You might only need a few minutes to unwind at the end of the day. For other people, recovering from social events or long days at work might be harder for them. They might need more downtime or have to keep a less active social calendar than you. Be extra careful before you judge others for their style of self-care.
3. Self-care isn’t about masking problems
Self-care isn’t about masking your problems under a variety of spa treatments or yoga classes. True self-care should be about understanding yourself enough to know when something in your life is wrong and finding out how to deal with it. For example, you might notice that you are constantly feeling sad and stressed out. Your daily exercise sessions and dedicated “me-time” might help, but those feelings of stress and depression always come back. This is when it becomes an act of self-care to investigate the problem further, not just keep repeating the same pattern. You might need to take a serious look at your life and find what is truly making you unhappy. You may even need to talk to a therapist if you can’t figure out why you’re constantly feeling down or how to fix it. It’s not wise to use self-care just to make yourself feel good in the present. True self-care is about addressing issues that will make you happier and healthier in the long run, too.
Golden takeaway: At first, self-care might seem selfish. Learn that self-care is about taking care of your physical and mental health even when you don’t necessarily feel like it. Don’t judge others for taking care of themselves in their own way. Also, be sure to investigate what could be at the root of your troubles instead of covering them up.
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