We get a lot of messages, both overt and covert, telling us that “self care” is only for able-bodied, emotionally healthy (but a little stressed) folks with money - who else can get bi-monthly massages and afford designer bath bombs?! What we’re seeing in these advertisements is actually the commodification of self care. Wherever advertisers can find a way to make money, they will do that. And by reaching out to people who want feel the way that these images look, it’s enticing.
The truth is that this isn’t authentic self care. For some, absolutely this is reasonable for them and helps them, but it isn’t the full story. For most of the population, self care looks quite different than getting a backrub and taking a bath. Self care has become a buzz term synonymous with “treat yo’ self” as a way to sell luxury goods. But for most people, self care looks more like “boring self care.” Did I feed my body energizing foods to the best of my ability today? Did I get as much sleep as my body needs to the best of my ability? Did I move my body mindfully in some way today to the best of my ability? Did I engage in a meaningful way with another person or activity that I enjoy to the best of my ability? What this looks like will differ from person to person and it must because we are all very different.
Inevitably the next question that someone will ask me when I bring up this topic is, “but isn’t taking care of myself selfish?” And while I tend not to answer questions in absolutes, I feel confident in saying - No. The word selfish denotes a lack of consideration for others. And nowhere in the questions that I posed above were we caring for ourselves to the exclusion of others. In reality, what self care asks us to do, is to show ourselves the same compassion that we already show other living beings. If you have a pet, consider for a moment all of your pet’s needs: food, water, walks (or cleaning litter boxes, cages, etc), pats and snuggles, plenty of sleep. And now ask yourself, do you provide all of that for your pet? And do you not deserve the same level of care? I believe that you do. What if you considered taking care of yourself as well as you care for your pet?
If you don’t have a pet, or if that example simply doesn’t resonate with you, allow me to bring up one more aspect of self care. The self is political. When we make the time and space to care for ourselves - in a society that does everything it can to keep us from doing so - we are engaging in an act of political resistance. In the immortal words of Audre Lorde: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Justine Mastin, MA, LMFT, LADC, E-RYT 200
Owner: Blue Box Counseling LLC, YogaQuest LLC