We see the term “self-care” being thrown around like confetti these days.
Everyone’s practicing it or hashtagging it on social media with their evening glass of wine or cup of tea, professing an allegiance to this habit of nurturing one’s spirit after being rundown by a day’s work. It’s an opposition and an act of rebellion in the face of being consumed by the tentacles of capitalism. It’s saying no to laying crossways on the train tracks of a hard day (or life), and instead, reclaiming our power, our worth.
We live in the age of anxiety, where one third of the world’s population is affected by an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. That’s a pretty big number. Seeking ways in which we can comfort ourselves is only natural to protect our sanity and keep the engine running—or we risk burn out.
Self-care is self-preservation. It used to denote self-improvement in some ways, but nowadays, just maintaining a certain functional level of mental and emotional safety and coherence is more than enough to keep us going. Then back to another day, another dollar.
Self-care now has become an all-encompassing term. It can mean anything from going for a walk, watching a movie, having a bath, smudging your home and listening to your favourite playlist, or getting your nails done to turning down an invite, saying no more often, seeing a therapist, and other more mental health focused aspects of self-care.
Personally, my favourite form of self-care is having a shower at night with one candle on and a playlist. I wash away the day and drift into another world. I’ve noticed, however, that I’ve been needing more than that lately, that something is missing.
I found myself going through those self-care rituals but, oftentimes, I would feel that even though I take care of myself, I’m not quite sure that I’m loving myself with an open heart. I realised these are two different things.
While care invites and opens the door for us to show up for ourselves and for love to come through, it doesn’t always come through. Love (or as I would like to call it, affection) might be too polite to come in without a bit of prompting from our end.
That’s when I started to feel like I need to practice some self-affection. How to be affectionate toward myself and my inner child so that I’m not wrapping up the day and going to bed carrying the day’s baggage with me, or feeling like a failure to accomplish means I’m an inadequate person. When I have affection for the deepest parts of me, even the subconscious parts, a better human comes out.
Dr. Joe Dispenza, world-renowned teacher, researcher, consultant, and writer explains:
“5% of your conscious mind that is plugged into reality is working against 95% of what you’ve memorize subconsciously.”
I find that steering toward self-affection and going one more step beyond simple self-care accesses a part of our brain that may need safety, security, and perhaps this improves nervous system regulation. I’m no scientist myself, but there have been moments where I’ve felt profound change and calmness when I’ve held myself in this space.
To me, self-affection has looked like:
>> Hugging myself or a stuffed animal to sleep (or an actual pet if you have one).
>> Staying a few minutes longer after a meditation and simply allowing love to wash through me.
>> Saying the words “I love you” to myself, silently and loudly.
>> Writing a love letter to my past self and joking with her about all her blunders. She did alright.
>> Going on a lil’ date with a part of my body and admiring it. Like a five-minute stroll with gratitude for the feet I get to have that take me everywhere, or a hand massage because these hands work tirelessly every day, or a one-minute lip scrub to nourish the lips that move when I speak to those around me. I give loving affection to every part of me that serves me.
>> Warming both my hands by rubbing them together then placing one hand over my heart and the other on top. I feel the heat warming up my chest and imagine it travelling through all my body, giving my cells love energy.
Of course, there are many ways where we can receive love and affection through others too, not just through ourselves. And I’m very careful not to put self-affection on a pedestal and ignore our fundamental need for community care too. We need each other. An “I love you” from someone can be just as healing, if not more.
However, having this loving affection toward ourselves creates a shift in our personal sense of security. We can nourish ourselves before we start feeling like others need to do that for us—and this is incredibly satisfying.
Ultimately, love isn’t something that’s “out there” and we’re “in here.” It’s not something that’s far away and hard to grasp. Love is present, internal, and eternal, and it transfigures our experiences. We just need to tap into it more.
Like Rumi once said:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”