Self-care has become a buzzword.
All the cool kids are doing it. At the same time, it seems that all those same kids are ultra-successful in school and life.
If you’re anything like I was, you’re wondering how the hell they have the time for it all. I hear you. I remember the days when I was trying to balance being a perfectionist and making time for manicures to stay on top of my game—being all the things I thought I should be, while doing all the things I thought I should do to “take care of myself.”
Since then, I’ve learned that what I was doing was actually self-abandonment, self-care’s opposite. Having your nails on point is not an indication that you’re taking care of yourself. It simply means you have colored nails and that doesn’t count for much in the grand scheme of things.
Let’s re-think self-care and learn the right ways to implement a good dose of it into our daily lives. Once we do that, a manicure might make our to-do list. It might not. We’ll see.
The dictionary definition of self-care is this: Care for oneself—the necessity of busy working parents to take time for self-care; specifically: health care provided by oneself often without the consultation of a medical professional.
That definition is certainly not helpful. Let’s try another.
Psychology’s definition of self-care is this: Self-care means choosing behaviors that balance the effects of emotional and physical stressors: exercising, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, practicing yoga or meditation or relaxation techniques, abstaining from substance abuse, pursuing creative outlets, engaging in psychotherapy.
Now we’re getting somewhere, but this definition is missing something, too.
When I say, “self-care,” what I’m talking about is managing the energy coming in and going out. For me, I need to make sure that the people I hang out with, the things I read and the music I listen to feed my soul. If any of those things take from me, they’ve gotta go.
In addition, I’ve got to be aware of the energy I’m putting out into the world. It’s my responsibility to know if I’m exuding good shit or toxic shit. Toxicity is a red flag that usually means I’m not doing the best job of caring for myself. When I get stressed and put others’ comfort levels above my own values, I get out of alignment and feel dissonance. That’s when I mess up and become walking, talking bad vibes. No joke.
To keep the good energy coming in hot, I set boundaries with people, places and things. To manage the energy going out, I breathe. I don’t overbook myself. I take baths and I nap when I need to. I eat good food. I exercise and spend time with friends.
Just because I do it, doesn’t mean you have to. What I do to care for myself is not a recipe for you. You are the only one who can create your individualized self-care plan.
At different ages and stages, I’ve required different things to manage my energy. Sometimes it was yoga, while other times, therapy was in order. I’ve left boyfriends, moved across town, decreased my workload. I’ve even adopted a no tech rule after 7 pm. (That one didn’t last so long, but you get the point.) The key here is not what it takes to get yourself feeling aligned and present, it’s that you do whatever it takes for you to get yourself feeling aligned and present.
Present and aligned. You may not yet know what that feels like. At your age, I didn’t. Even now, I’ll admit that I nail it every so often, but it’s certainly not a constant.
Regardless, I’m sure you know what the opposite feels like. We all do. As girls and women, we know the consequences of NOT taking care of ourselves for fear of the social ramifications. Let’s face it. When we are kind to ourselves, like ourselves and put our needs above everyone else’s, we’re the weirdo in the room and often deemed the class bitch.
Recently, I heard the amazing Cleo Wade talk about self care. She brilliantly pointed out how the opposite of self-care is self-abandonment. That hit me—hard. How come? Well, as girls and women we’re taught from the time we’re very small to care for others. We are socialized caretakers, of other people, not ourselves.
In order for us to stand in our power and feel our value, we’ve got to flip the script (both externally and internally) and change how we think, feel and behave. None of us can do it alone. Each of us needs to do it for all of us. To feel our value, we’ve gotta treat ourselves like we have value.
I had always thought the opposite: that when I finally felt my value, caring for myself would kick in. I’ve learned that it actually happens the other way around. The act of caring comes first.
Here’s how to start…
- Set boundaries
If there’s something in your environment that is stealing your joy, it’s up to you to get rid of it.
Sounds harsh, especially if it’s a friend of yours, but remember, you need to be your own best friend first. If being your own friend and someone else’s cannot happen simultaneously, it’s your duty to choose you. Block ‘em on your phone, Snapchat, Instagram, walk down a different hallway between classes, and sit at a different lunch table.
Most importantly, don’t feel badly about it. You’re not doing something TO them, you’re doing it something FOR you. Very different.
- Take responsibility
If you’ve become a walking, talking, bad vibe, it’s up to you to change that shit.
#DoThisThing and see what’s in your daily regimen that doesn’t fuel you. Then, see what you might include instead.
It’s time to take charge of your days, a necessary part of managing your energy. Live your life according to you, not according to how you think you should live it to keep up with the other girls. What they’re doing has nothing to do with you, and visa versa. Being who you think you should be is taking its toll and making it tough to be around you, even for you.
Make the decision to get back to you, today.
- Be your own good company
Many of us choose to only do the fun things when other people are around. One of the best ways to self-care is to do fun things alone.
Make a cool playlist, dance around your room, drink a milkshake, sleep in a fort on the floor. Entertain yourself!
Look, this won’t all happen overnight—you’re a work in progress—but you will start to feel the changes immediately. Start today.
Art by Shyanne Trutwein.