Jan. 27, 2020

What is “self care?”

Over the last few years, there has been a social media and advertising uptick in the focus on the concept of “self care.” In the ads that I’ve seen, they are primarily targeting women in a certain subset  – mothers. Bath and body products, fitness subscriptions and even more items like jewelry and expensive clothing. I think there is a fuzzy line between “self care” and “treat yourself.” (If you watched Parks and Recreation, you will understand why it will forever be “Treat Yo Self” in my mind).

A close up of a logo

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Why does this matter? When I think about these concepts, there is a distinct and significant line, that has become a bit blurry in marketing and ad tactics and I think it may be creating a mindset of justifying unhealthy behaviors. 

To me, self care is a valuable and necessary concept for all humans, especially in this age of stress, overcommitment and overindulgence.  To make sure that you are rested, physically healthy, mentally healthy, strong, and caring for the people and relationships in your life can feel impossible. Reminding yourself to take care of yourself is extremely important. In my life, my self care is an ever-changing objective. Some weeks, I need quiet time to recharge and time to focus on getting my physical spaces in order to bring me peace. Other times, I need exercise and time outdoors. It is important to be able to truly step away from yourself to see what it is that YOU need because no one’s needs are the same, and, as is true for me, those needs are always evolving depending on the season of my life.

What has been bothering me is that I think people are getting wrapped up in this concept in an unhealthy way. The blurring of the lines between self care and treating yourself can be a slippery slope. If you really need down time and quiet after an exhausting and overstimulating week, Netflix and couch time might be self care. However, using “self care” as an excuse to spend time doing unhealthy things is not self care.

A group of people posing for the camera

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In the midst of writing this, I had a weekend away with girlfriends and also watched the movie “Brittany Runs a Marathon” (thank you, plane time without kids).  The weekend away was a luxury. I was able to truly enjoy not only some physical self care (hello, hotel gym), but also emotional self care by spending time with two of my best friends and enjoying their company without distraction. This is something that I truly need at certain times to recharge. I need that time with friends and, because my closest friends are out of state, that often means a quick trip to make it happen. Now, watching a movie uninterrupted on an airplane was also a luxury. The reason I mention this particular movie is because it really stuck with me for two reasons. First, it is an amazing inspirational story about someone who made true self care a priority and changed her life (with real life hurdles and falls). Second, it showed the ways self care can be abused. The title gives away what she accomplishes, but in training for a marathon, the main character has people in her life trying to convince her to do things that are not in line with her health journey. For example, she’s encouraged to go out for drinks or smoke pot to unwind or “because she deserves a break.” In the movie, it was so obvious and infuriating how unhelpful these suggestions really were. You see her trying so hard and doing amazing, and then her friend trying to get her to do things that are so evidently bad for her. 

In real life, of course, it is never that simple or clear. Sometimes a night out with friends really is what is needed, but I think it is important as we see these ads and messages of  self care to truly evaluate on a case by case basis what your self care looks like. Don’t get tricked into doing harmful, unhealthy things in the name of self. Identify what self care looks like and if you need to treat yo self a bit too, that’s great- let’s just not confuse the two. 

infographic of items of self care

Take a look at this infographic. Are these the same items you think of for your own self care? What would you add for your own? Tag me in your posts about your own self care journey. I’d love other suggestions of how you engage in self care too!

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