Exposing the 4 common myths about self-care and revealing what taking care of yourself really means.
“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” - Aldous Huxley
Self-care has been a buzzword in the past year or so, as many of us who were stuck in lockdown were forced to find coping mechanisms in order to take care of our mental and physical states. Ah, nothing like taking silly photos of your pet living their best life to distract us from the reality of the whole world falling apart around us.... #nawwww
This period meant we had no option but to confront ourselves with the truth of what we would really do when we didn't have external factors outside of the home distracting us, when "I just don't have enough time" is no longer a valid excuse for why we've been holding off on the things that we've been meaning to do for so long (and if it were possible to do them at home without any screaming children around, obvz).
In turn, self-care suddenly became a much more trendy topic than usual, but there are definitely some major misconceptions on self-care that we need to eradicate ASAP!
Myth #1: Self-care requires (a sh*t tonne of) money
Bath bombs, candles, face masks and all other nice smelling things are the typical products associated with self-care, but lighting some candles and taking a bubble bath won't magically soak all your problems away. Whilst one-off treatments are great - you wouldn’t take just one shower and assume you’ll never have to shower ever again...
Instant gratification methods like drinking wine and eating chocolate require money and are only short-term pleasures that will wear off eventually, which is exactly why they are addictive. Note that self-care practices should not be compulsive or harmful to your body or bank account. Obviously treating yourself to self-care products every now and again may feel necessary (I mean, who doesn't love eating sugar or a luxurious spa trip?!), but the reality is that self-care has become a commercial money-making scheme, so try not to fall for the marketing ploys.
You don't need to book a retreat or buy an over-priced face cream in order to practice self-care. If you find yourself regularly indulging in consumer self-care, you may be disconnected from actual self-care, where “treating yourself” is an excuse to not put in the deep work for your long-term wellness. There is a difference between unwinding and relaxing compared to real self-care. There is no product that we can purchase that will take our anxiety away - chocolate and bubble baths should be used as a part of enjoying life, rather than escaping it.
The next time you feel the need to indulge in costly self-care products, choose to try a wallet-friendly alternative instead. Keep in mind that simple actions like meditation, journalling, getting to bed early, calling a friend, going for a walk or pursuing a creative project can all count towards self-care!
Myth #2: Self-care looks good
Nope it's not always pretty and popular, as much as glamorous celebrities and their perfectly crafted açai bowls on Instagram love to tell us otherwise. There is a subtle superficial belief embedded in us that if people's lives look amazing on the outside then they must be doing great on the inside, but that is obviously not true.
Self-care can be exhausting and often doesn't look very fun at all. But it's also being less concerned about how self-care makes you look, and more focussed on how it improves the way you feel. Whilst looking good for a couple of hours might feel great there and then – self-care is taking care of your mind and body regularly for the rest of your life, no matter how it looks.
Remember that self-care doesn’t always feel like self-care as its happening. It is sometimes challenging and uncomfortable - perhaps releasing emotions which you have bottled up for a while now, and letting out one big fat ugly cry. Building your own self-worth is intense inner work that isn't always beautiful on the outside. But that's okay, if it helps you feel better on the inside, f*ck how you look on the outside.
Myth #3: Self-care means being selfish
Over-committing is a fast way to feel burnt out and unhappy, but we can't help but have FOMO or feel obliged to do things for others sometimes, meaning that we end up having little time to ourselves.
Evaluate when you're feeling like you should do something, and whether it is really a priority for you. Learn to say no to things that make you uncomfortable even when you think they shouldn’t - even if it means sometimes disappointing people, so be it. You need to let go of the urge of pleasing everyone all the time, especially when you know you don’t have the time, energy or brain space. You will find happiness when you can be more honest with yourself and others.
So opt to stay home when you’re emotionally depleted instead of going out for drinks again, and use that time to restore your energy and re-centre yourself instead. Taking care of yourself is the opposite of being selfish, as it empowers you to show up more fully as the person you want to be for both yourself and your loved ones.
It is essential to have compassion for yourself and take personal time to find clarity. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself - those who can’t comprehend this don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. Self-care isn’t selfish - you can’t love others until you love yourself first.
Myth #4: Self-care is optional
"Don't take your health for granted. Don't take your body for granted. Do something today that communicates to your body that you desire to care for it. Tomorrow is not promised." - Jada Pinkett Smith
Anything you do requires time, watching Netflix, shopping, cleaning the house, yet self-care is often not compulsory for most as it is seen as too "time-consuming". Okay, you might have tried five minutes of mindfulness meditation and feel no different, but self-care is often a longer but rewarding process. The more you prioritise self-care above anything else, the closer you will get to a sense of inner peace.
Self-care means asking if your future self will thank you for what you're about to do versus your in-this-moment self, and actually listening to what the answer is. It is not skipping the things that are good for you because you are fixated on something toxic. It sometimes means doing what’s necessary over what’s fun. Self-care is quite literally taking care of yourself, your whole self - so not committing to your own personal growth isn't an option!
Start and end your day with intention - what do you plan to do as your day begins? How do you want to reflect on the day as it comes to an end? The first and last hour of your day will often determine how productive you are throughout each day, which are often the best times to practice self-care. Even if you have had a bad day, be brave enough to dust yourself off and keep on going with your self-care routine.
Looking after your wellbeing should be a daily priority and not just something that is considered in a crisis situation. Self-care is a journey, not a destination - you are a whole universe to explore, so find sacred time to really focus on your needs and discover who you are. Transformation happens slowly, and when you heal, the universe heals. Make self-care non-negotiable - real self care is having enough patience for long lasting results.
What self-care methods do you think can help support your evolution? Let me know!
You can find me on Instagram @mindfulmonkay :)