In case you haven’t noticed, I write about self-care a lot. It happens to be something I fiercely believe in. You deserve to have a life you feel great about (there, I said it), and self-care is an integral part of creating that life for yourself.
And while I’ve talked about what self-care is — and what it isn’t — recently I started hearing certain phrases that made me realize that our conversation around self-care is still seriously lacking. With that in mind, here are some of the myths about self-care that I think are worth addressing.
1. “You can only [take care of/love/etc] someone else if you’re [taking care of/loving/etc] yourself.”
I hear this one a lot, and — if I’m completely transparent — I’ve probably said it myself. The problem with this statement is that there’s an element of truth in it. We should be taking care of ourselves, especially if we want to take care of other people. The more I take care of my physical and mental health, the more capable I am of taking care of others, right? It makes sense.
However, the issue with this statement is that it’s exclusionary. You don’t have to take care of yourself to take care of someone else. Yes, it’s ideal — even beneficial — but it’s not an either/or situation. In fact, there have been times in my life where I’ve been at my lowest point and been my most supportive self.
I don’t want anyone to think that they’re somehow “less than” just because they don’t have the time/energy/etc to take care of themselves. You’re valid whether or not self-care is part of your routine.
2. Self-care is all about indulgence.
Thanks to the commercialization of self-care, you’ve probably seen people talking about self-care more in the past six months than the past six years. As a result, we’re now seeing self-care used to sell just about everything — expensive face masks, champagne, bubble baths, and “girl, just eat the damn cupcake.” (Okay, but that last one is true.)
That can lead people to (mistakenly) believe that self-care needs to be expensive, and that it’s all about the splurge. It’s not! While there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself — because sometimes self-care and splurge *can* overlap — it’s important to know that self-care isn’t always that glamorous. And that’s okay! It doesn’t have to be.
Personally, my version of self-care includes taking regular showers, getting out of bed on time, popping my vitamins, trying to meditate, and *actually* washing my face twice a day. When I’m feeling particularly stressed? It might include a face mask or bubble bath, but I actually turn to a workout, a book (and a warm blanket), or a nap more than anything super luxurious.
3. You don’t actually *need* self-care.
We’ve all spent X number of years surviving without self-care, so we clearly don’t need it, right? Wrong. The thing about self-care is that — chances are — you’ve already been doing it in some way, shape, or form. Going to the doctor? Self-care. Sleeping in when you feel sick? Self-care. Cutting that toxic friend out of your life? Self 👏 freaking 👏 care. 👏
Just because the term is (relatively) new doesn’t mean the concept is. And sure, we could argue until the cows come home over whether or not self-care is critical to your survival, but do you really want to just survive? Or do you want to thrive?
4. Self-care should make you feel relaxed.
I’m going to be honest with you, sometimes self-care doesn’t relax me. Sometimes I grumble and swear as I roll out of bed five minutes after laying down because I forgot to take off my makeup, and other times I’m an anxious wreck as I’m five minutes late driving to krav maga.
That’s because, despite the myths about self-care, it isn’t always about the instant pay-off. It’s not just about what feels good now (devouring a pizza), but it’s also about what’s going to feel good *later* (drinking enough water.)
5. It’s selfish to practice self-care.
This is one of the myths about self-care that a lot of people struggle with, and I totally get it. Sometimes I’m guilty (ha) of feeling guilty about self-care and taking time for myself. As a self-employed entrepreneur, there are days when my productivity is zilch. I’ll be teetering on the edge of burnout, crying, and struggling to get anything done, and it’s *still* hard to convince myself that I’m allowed to take some time for myself.
Since my husband is the primary $$ maker in our household, I often feel like I’m being selfish for needing time for self-care when I don’t feel like I’m contributing as much as I could/should.
6. You have to “earn” self-care.
This is one of the biggest myths about self-care, and it often goes hand-in-hand with the belief that self-care is selfish. Sometimes I feel like I don’t “deserve” self-care. When I haven’t gotten much done, when my day has already been slow/lazy, when I’m feeling particularly bad about myself…it can be ridiculously hard to be like, “Hey, you deserve some time off.”
Because, trust me, I’m thinking the opposite. Surely now is the time to work harder, right? Now is the time to push through, to make yourself get sh*t done, etc. But guess what? Sometimes you need that time, that self-care, to enable you to finish what needs to get done.
If you’re struggling at work or school, sometimes taking a ten minute break to go for a walk or do some meditation can be a game changer. (Seriously, meditation can literally change your brain.) Even if you haven’t “earned” it, you’re still allowed to take it.
And please, harsh truth time: Spare me the “I don’t have the opportunity to take it,” speech. Whenever I talk about self-care, this inevitably pops up in some way. I get it! We’re busy. We have obligations, families, jobs, hobbies, lives, etc…and those things take time.
But self-care? That sh*t is actually way easier than you think (especially when you eliminate all of the above myths) and if you have time to login to Twitter — or to read this blog post — then you probably have time to do a few minutes of deep breathing in the bathroom. (Don’t believe me? Here are four ways you’re probably wasting your own time.)
Remember: self-care is an active and political choice. We don’t always have the luxury of waiting for an opportunity or an invitation to engage in self-care. Sometimes we need to create space for ourselves. No one else is going to do it for you.