Self-care articles make me want to scream. “12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself”? “Self-Care 101”? “30 Ways to Practice Self-Care: Take Care of Yourself”. Barf.
I know I’m not the only one that cringes through these titles. I’m not the only one fighting the beast that lies between self-care and this self of mine that desperately needs to be cared for.
It. Is. Hard.
And, it is necessary.
Self-care can look like a glass of champagne at a spa, manicured nails, getting up early to journal. Self-care can look like each example in all of those articles. And, every one of those examples always seemed a hundred miles out of my reach.
Self-care can also look like a wrestling match. It can look like guilt and feel like selfishness making you want to crawl out of your skin. It can be heavy and disappointing. Self-care can be a full body struggle to find a deep breath. A battle, a battle in which I’m often the clear underdog.
But you know what? If I’m in the fight, I win.
I think the struggle to give ourselves the time, permission and space for self-care is what we need to read about in those articles. Permission to indulge. Permission to feel good. And especially, permission to feel bad about it too. That’s what I was looking for in those articles, but that can’t come from an article, that has to come from within. Barf again. So, where does that leave those of us that struggle? We already know that we need to put our own mask on first, we know we can’t give to our kids from an empty tank, and we know 10 things we could do for ourselves just off the top of our heads. But, how? That elusive how, that’s what we need. And the answer? Just start. I don’t mean the typical one step in front of the other crap. I mean embrace the difficulty, that mean inner voice, the guilt, embrace all the bad with the good stuff. Stumble through it. Accept that the path to self-care is ugly. If you can’t show up at the spa and enjoy that champagne, THAT IS OKAY. And, girl, if you can, CHEERS!
I can get my nails done, but if I’m sitting there looking at the clock or feeling guilty over the indulgence or the cost, if I’m running through all of the things I think I should be doing…then, that’s not really self-care, right? Wrong! That IS what self-care can look like, especially in the beginning. It’s baby-steps. It’s practice. And if you’re trying, you’re winning. The self-care beast that is trying to stop you, it can be overcome, it just takes time and practice. Wear that beast down!
One night I set out to indulge, feed my soul, relax, take care of myself. I ran a bath, I lit a candle, I put music on my phone (which I did so rarely I had to look the app up because I couldn’t find it) and I deliberately placed my phone out of reach. I added salts and some smelly, creamy expensive stuff that was all going to help. These things were my armor headed into the fight.
This is what self-care looked like in my house in the beginning: I stopped myself from getting out of the bath easily 8 different times. I nearly forgot how to breathe entirely in my attempts to find a single deep calming breath. I attempted to clear my mind and failed epically. I tried focusing on the music, but that mostly made me question the decision to put my phone out of reach. Finally, I decided to just stare at the candle. Seriously! I pulled the candle to the edge of the tub, my face inches from it and stared!
That made me laugh (adding to the absurdity, the side of my candle flaunted the word: relax). I surrendered, proud of myself that I had attempted it. I had entered the arena. I had stepped into battle with the beast.
I lasted two songs. I believe that may have been the longest 7 minutes of my life. But, I did it. So, I won. Because I tried.
For 7 awkward, long, uncomfortable minutes, I sent the message to myself that I had permission, time and space to indulge and I was worth fighting for. And, I did feel a bit better after. Then, I worked on making the next 7 minutes just a little more enjoyable, and then 7 more after that. And, it got easier. I got stronger.
Wherever you are on the self-care spectrum, keep going.
That is self-care. It’s a fight for you. You are worth it.