We know we need to take care of ourselves more than we actually do, but there’s a problem with the self care trend at the moment. We see these strong, powerful women on screen, and we desperately want to be them. We want to command a presence, to demand respect – and we want to look damn good doing it.
How do we do that? Is it through indulgence, allowing ourselves a day at the spa or a sliver of chocolate for dessert? Is it through love and compassion, where we try to understand and empathize with everyone we meet? Is it through working out or martial arts, where we physically take care of ourselves? Could speech classes help so that we might have a greater grasp on language?
All of these things help. I highly recommend all of these in high doses. I can personally speak to all of the above as shaping me into the wonderful woman that I am today, starting with martial arts classes when I was seven. I have always had the confidence to move throughout the world and take on my dreams.
But these things aren’t a recipe for success. There’s one element missing.
Just because I am highly educated and can speak comfortably in front of crowds doesn’t mean that I can stand up to a boss when I’m being unfairly treated in the workplace. The fact that I know how to successfully defend myself doesn’t matter when I still let my boyfriend slam me around during a fight. Just because I indulge in dessert nearly every day doesn’t mean that I’m taking care of myself.
The idea of self care is trendy. There are so many lists of ideas from people who define it in rather simplistic terms and urge you to find time for a walk, a pedicure, or yes, a piece of cake after dinner. That’s all fairly easy to do, and if you need to start there, definitely do it.
But really, self care is about self love. Why did I not speak up when I encountered terrible working conditions? Why did I let an ex-boyfriend manhandle me when we argued?
Because I cared more about them than I cared about myself.
In getting caught up in a guise of love and compassion, I hurt myself far more than I ever intended, both in work and in my personal life. In hindsight, I’ve done this my whole life. This may seem like an unnecessary escalation. After all, how can it be harmful to compromise, especially when you care about another person? But a lifetime of acquiescing to little things leads to bigger things, like falling into an abusive relationship without even realizing it.
Where are you holding back the love for yourself because you don’t want to hurt someone else? What aren’t you saying? Where aren’t you going? What aren’t you doing?
There are so many cliches about self-care that say we should put on your own oxygen mask first, that you can’t pour from an empty cup, and so on, so let me phrase this another way: drowning people drown people.
Look at the women in your life. Hopefully you know a lot of strong, bad ass women. But every single strong, bad ass woman I know now has stories just like mine, if not worse. When we talk to our friends, when we raise our daughters, let’s encourage them to be selfish. Be an example for them. Show them how selfishness can be a good thing. Show them that when you share your feelings, when you take that trip, when you leave fear behind and take a chance, that it’s always a good thing.
Always remember that today is a new day. You are a new person. You are never alone, and everything is going to be okay. Say no if you want. Say yes, if you’d prefer. Don’t disrespect your heart by hearing what it needs and giving it something else. Start living your life on your terms today. And then start again tomorrow.