I’ve seen these words a lot lately. They are often followed by activities associated with joy and relaxation, such as eating chocolate or taking a bubble bath (LUSH-induced bubble baths are often called out directly.) The statement usually ends with the writer denoting what self-care is, which is always something much more responsible and mature than eating candy and bathing. Yes, it’s as condescending as it reads.
Historically, self-care was a rather simple concept. Patients were encouraged to be active participants in their well-being instead of solely relying on doctors to remedy their health challenges. In the Civil Rights Era, self-care became political. It was an act of resisting a medical paradigm that failed women and people of color. Self-care continued to evolve. First, as a method of health care for those living in poverty, and now sadly, it is one of the primary sources of health care for those without the means to seek professional care for stress, anxiety, depression and other ailments. Within recent years, the term become more commercialized and synonymous with “feel-good” rhetoric but it’s underlying message is the same – take care of you.
There’s danger in this new found act of policing the self-care of others. It’s an unnecessary critique of individuals who are actively pursuing affordable methods of healing and peace in a hectic world. It’s belittling another person’s happy place. It’s finger-pointing. Taunting. “Self-care isn’t” is a guilt-laden accusation that insists – you’re just not doing it right.
Consider this definition of self-care: consciously tending to one’s own well-being.
How to take care of yourself is a personal matter. No one has the right to determine what self-care is or isn’t for another individual. Whatever your interpretation, whatever activities you deem as acts of self-care are just that – yours. Think of self-care as whatever you need it to be. Eat all the chocolate. Take all the bubble baths. Diffuse all the essential oils. Go to yoga class. Pay your bills. Do something. Or do nothing. When it comes to self-care, do whatever you want and need to take care of you.