Graham came home one night a few weeks ago and I was done. “I’m going out,” I said. “Where?” he asked. “Anywhere but here,” I responded. Y’all. There are days when parenting and decision making and disciplining and diaper changing is just too much. Graham knows me so well by now he doesn’t really need to ask. “Go,” he said. “I’ll take care of things here.”
Ladies, if w’ere going to survive adulting, we need to practice self-care on a regular basis. Take a walk. Read a book. Soak in a bath. Go to a bookstore. Journal. Bake. Listen to music. Practice yoga. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Garden.
There are so many ways to make the practice of self-care unique to you. I don’t need to devote a blog post to what you can find with a quick Google search. You do you.
No, what I want to chat about briefly is what self-care is NOT.
Because we all know ways to pamper ourselves (even if we don’t practice like we should). But do we know why it’s important? And are we aware of how self-care has become distorted over time? Here’s what self-care is not:
Self-care is NOT soft care.
Self-care looks like regular practices that help us feel stronger and more connected to ourselves and others. Soft care makes us feel better in the moment but doesn’t ultimately serve us. Stress eating and shopping therapy give us a hit of endorphins, but they’re temporary, and often times lead to shame. Soft care is a way to avoid our feelings, while self-care is an honest attempt to lean in to our emotions and do the real work of self-reflection. Is it better to indulge at the spa, or work through the fight you had with your spouse last night by journaling your feelings? Maybe it’s a both/and, and if that’s true for you, I can totally get behind that, girlfriend. Let’s just make sure that when we come home relaxed from our pedicures, we do the hard work of putting our feet in the murky waters of self-protectionism and distrust until we come out clean on the other side.
Practicing self-care is NOT selfish. Resisting self-care is NOT selfless.
The answer lies in the in-between. I am a firm believer that one of the kindest things you can do for those you love is take good care of yourself. When I told Graham I needed to be “anywhere but here,” I meant that I needed to pause and breathe so that I could come back later and throw my whole self into my loves again, my family. It is not selfish to hold space for you. On the other hand, it’s not selfless to resist that care. Friend, you are important enough not to be labeled “selfless” (ie martyr). I know, I know. Doesn’t that smack against all the virtues you grew up learning? Serving others, preferring one another, building each other up. These are good things. Spending all your emotional currency so that you can care for others is not good. It isn’t helpful to your family. It doesn’t model healthy habits to your children.
Self-care is NOT self-love.
Certainly, it can precede self-love, but don’t be fooled. I can read all the books, get all the manis, take all the walks, practice all the yoga and still lack the ability to love myself. Don’t assume that because you’re doing one, it must imply the other. There are plenty of people who actively maintain a practice of self-loathing while working out at the gym five days a week. Friend, while you move toward a practice of self-care this year, begin—always begin—with affirmation of self. Stand in front of a mirror and remind the reflection looking back at you that what you see is beautiful. Ask those closest to you to tell you what they see. Ask God what He sees. When self-love comes first, self-care is more effective and longer lasting.
Start with love.