I think I’ve used this hashtag a thousand times: #SelfCareIsntSelfish.
We have a society that seems to value being overworked, exhausted, and constantly trying to achieve more. More what? More everything! More money, more possessions, more experiences. The idea of taking care of ourselves is anathema to this philosophy. And yet, it’s an essential part of being able to care for ourselves and others. It’s crucial, not optional.
I recently contemplated the concept of having a wedding for one. Yes, I said one. The idea is that it would be about celebrating ourselves and committing to honoring our own souls. It’s not about being anti-relationship, as I’ve often been accused of advocating. Rather, this is about promising ourselves not to settle, not to compromise on our core values, and not to accept love that’s not what we need.
It’s about loving ourselves, regardless of relationship status. It’s about choosing only to engage in healthy relationships. It’s all about self-love and self-care—and yet, when I expressed these thoughts, I was accused of being a narcissist for advocating being true to oneself.
But, here’s the thing: taking care of ourselves is often about putting ourselves first. And, many of us grew up in families that talked about how much they sacrificed, so we could have good lives. I get it—and while sacrifice is something that parents do, I feel that our generation has taken it to an extreme. Just like the extreme quest for more, we’ve elevated selflessness to an ideal that we should strive for.
But, we’re not just giving up self-care so our children can have what they need; we give up things so they can have more of what they want. We’re raising entitled children, because we’ve given them more while taking less for ourselves. It creates a vicious cycle, because they think this is what should be done. They’ll give their kids even more, often living vicariously through them, while doing less to take care of themselves.
We see this all the time. Parents who used to be athletes may spend four or five nights a week at a child’s sporting event, but forfeit participating in an adult league. I get it: it’s their turn. But what if it’s not an either-or thing? What if we can have it both ways? Maybe it’s not athletics that interests us—perhaps we enjoy art or want to learn to scuba dive. Our interests don’t stop just because our kids have interests too. We need to look for a balance, so that every family member can enjoy a full range of interests and support each other in them.
The parent who gives up everything is often viewed as better than the one who takes time for him/herself. But why? Don’t we want our children to learn that they, too, have value? Don’t we need to model that caring for ourselves is healthy? Our culture wants to call this narcissism or selfishness—but it’s not. Instead, it’s the best thing that we can do, both for ourselves and for our families. We need to take care of ourselves well, so that we’re in the best health and frame of mind to have healthy relationships with others.
So, what might our self-care look like?
Date nights. If we’re single, we can still take ourselves out on a date “for one.” Having special time for ourselves is important, whether or not we have kids or are in relationships.
Exercise. Exercise is one of the best things we can do for our bodies. We can start with walking if that’s all we’re up for doing. But, we can also make it more interesting. Hiking, swimming, jumping on a trampoline, yoga, and indoor rock climbing all count as exercise. There are so many fun options available if we don’t want to run or lift weights.
Healthy nutrition. I’m not saying don’t indulge. I’m certainly not advocating the latest fad diet or meal replacement plan. I’m talking about the basics. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Drink more water. Eat less processed foods with their added chemicals. We can also make sure that we’re not snacking out of boredom or eating our emotions. All of this adds up to treating our bodies a little better.
Skin care. This one often gets neglected or gets seen as something for women only—but it’s not. Sunscreen is important all year. Moisturizer helps care for our skin. We can use soaps that are gentle, but have a wonderful scent. We can exfoliate in the shower, or even with a dry brush. There are so many ways we can take care of the skin we’re living in.
Laughter. This may be my favorite. We can laugh. Funny movies and TV shows are a great way to do this, but even playing with our kids or spending time with friends can be a great way to enjoy a good laugh. Not in the mood? Try a session of Laughter Yoga if you can find a local class. Laughing is one of the simplest (yet healthiest) ways to take care of ourselves.
Wine, don’t whine. Complaining can sometimes feel cathartic. I’m not saying don’t occasionally indulge. But sometimes, having a glass of wine (or beverage of your choice, non-drinkers) can be relaxing. Giving ourselves a small indulgence can be a good way to take care of ourselves. Moderation is key though; hangovers don’t constitute self-care.
Cry. This may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes we just need a good cry. Taking the time for our emotions is self-care too.
I could go on, but you get the picture. Maybe our self-care is a long bath with fancy bath bombs and a book. Or going for a run. Or spending a weekend camping, or an evening crafting. Whatever it is that helps us find balance with our busy lives, that’s what we need to do. It’s not selfish, so we don’t need to apologize for taking some time out for ourselves. It’s necessary, not narcissistic.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Travvy Travva-dabba-doo Travis May