I know what you are thinking: don’t get down on the self-care. Self-care is super important. You won’t hear me preaching anything else on this blog. But what I want to ponder today is this: Is self-care really trendy and beautiful? Is it an escape from our life?
From the title, you can be sure my answer is NO to both of those questions.
Let’s dive in and see what the thought behind this.
Self-Care is Ugly
I like how Brianna Wiest puts it:
Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing.
It is making a spreadsheet of your debt and enforcing a morning routine and cooking yourself healthy meals and no longer just running from your problems and calling the distraction a solution.
It is often doing the ugliest thing that you have to do, like sweat through another workout or tell a toxic friend you don’t want to see them anymore or get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time and then needing to take deliberate, mandated breaks from living to do basic things like drop some oil into a bath and read Marie Claire and turn your phone off for the day.
Isn’t that the best definition you’ve ever heard? It really resonated with me.
Sometimes we have to do the hard, ugly things in order to take care of ourselves. Maybe we cut out that toxic relationship, or go to that dreaded doctor’s appointment or clear the clutter from our home that is making us sick. It’s not pretty. It often goes against what we want to do–ignore, isolate, defend, or stick our head in the sand.
Is Self-Care An Escape?
I also love what Brianna says about life and using self-care as an escape plan.
A world in which self-care has to be such a trendy topic is a world that is sick. Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure.
True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.
And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.
If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.
It is no longer using your hectic and unreasonable life as justification for self-sabotage in the form of liquor and procrastination. It is learning how to stop trying to “fix yourself” and start trying to take care of yourself… and maybe finding that taking care lovingly attends to a lot of the problems you were trying to fix in the first place.
It means being the hero of your life, not the victim. It means rewiring what you have until your everyday life isn’t something you need therapy to recover from. It is no longer choosing a life that looks good over a life that feels good. It is giving the hell up on some goals so you can care about others. It is being honest even if that means you aren’t universally liked. It is meeting your own needs so you aren’t anxious and dependent on other people.
It is becoming the person you know you want and are meant to be. Someone who knows that salt baths and chocolate cake are ways to enjoy life – not escape from it.
I love that! Spa treatments and sugar-laden coffee drinks aren’t an escape, but a way to enjoy life once in a while. That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
Create a Life You Love
What if we built a life we loved instead of trying to escape from the one we have? What if we were brutally honest with ourselves and made a strategy to embrace the things that made us really feel alive and loved? That means not holding back on cutting out the toxicity from our lives whether that’s people, jobs, or junk. It is taking a knife and hacking off the things that don’t provide us with anything but pain. Maybe it’s setting boundaries for the things you can’t cut off or remove right now. With wild abandon, it is saying “I am important and my needs matter” instead of always putting yourself on the chopping block and then being the victim of your own drama.
It is ruthlessly abandoning everything and anyone who doesn’t love, honor or support you.
Scary stuff, right?
No one likes to be on an island, especially an empty one. But when you can look honestly at your life and assess what isn’t suiting you, you can build an island of people that do love you and support you.
Giving Too Much Attention to Relationships
In therapy, I learned about something called “The Relationship Target”. This has helped me evaluate the people I put in my “bullseye”. Catherine Bruns wrote an informative article detailing this concept, which you should read if you struggle with relationships like I do.
She explains this “relationship target”:
Think about all the people in your life, from your besties, to a neighbor, to a fun acquaintance, to a hello in the hallway work colleague. Do you have the expectation that you need to have the same close relationship with everyone in your world; that everyone around you is of equal trustworthiness and priority? Sometimes my clients think that. The problem is that’s a belief that doesn’t work since it creates the idea that if you are not super close with everyone (and don’t want to be) that something is wrong with you. That’s where the idea of the Relationship Target comes in quite handy.
I am not a therapist, but based on my experiences as a human, I think this is what ends up hurting us. This is where we get tangled up and confused, ultimately avoiding our own care and well-being. We think we need to cater to everyone when we shouldn’t.
The basics of the bullseye or “target” go something like this:
- You are in the middle of the target, right in the bullseye–where you belong. (Yes, it’s ok to be the center of your own universe!)
- Also in the bullseye are people you can trust without hesitation. These are your closest confidants, family, and friends. No one gets there without building trust.
- The ring closest to the bullseye contains people who are close to you, who trust you, but they aren’t “bullseye” material. They aren’t people you can count on “for anything” but they are people who are important to you.
- The second circle from the bullseye would contain acquaintances or friends–people still close to you and you want to be around, but not in a connected, trusting way. These could be developing friendships or relationships.
- The third ring would be people you are connected to, yet not in a close relationship. Neighbors, co-workers, or other people in your community are contained here.
(Adapted from The Relationship Target–Who’s in Your Bullseye)
It’s likely you’ve placed some people in your bullseye that don’t belong there. Or you’ve outed yourself to the farthest circles and not treated yourself as important.
You might need to kick some people around and put yourself in that bullseye. It’s painful, but guess what? It’s necessary. When you start putting people where they belong and prioritizing yourself, something amazing happens.
You feel better. You recognize red flags. Boundaries become normal.
It’s freaking amazing really. But when that isn’t your habit or go-to pattern, it’s really scary.
Your life becomes the sum of what you tolerate –Brianna Wiest
While self-care can look ugly and sometimes painful, what results is something quite beautiful. You get to create a life you love with supporting, caring people surrounding you. Behind the wheel of your car, you get to make decisions that influence your life for the better.
Don’t give other people all the power. You are not a victim.
Little by little, take back your space, your relationships, your interests, and your well-being.
Self-care isn’t an escape. It’s the seeds you plant into the ground as you grow into something lovely and breath-taking. You have the opportunity to water your garden and grow, but only if you let go of the weeds and thorns that are wreaking havoc in your life.