I’ll begin by saying that the generally accepted associations of the term ‘self-care’ as I have known them are very different from the way I now understand the practice. Conventionally promoted methods of self-care, from bubble baths to retail therapy, are not only incredibly general but are primarily guided by consumerism: a capitalisation of the trends that self-care and ‘wellness’ have become. That’s not to say that it isn’t relaxing and beneficial to have the odd bubble bath or invest in a new lipstick or nail polish, but when we’re discussing ‘self-care’, it’s important to recognise that it must also implicitly involve something far deeper. A genuine ‘care’ of the self is not something that can be mollified by anything external.
Two key elements of my personal self-care actually stemmed from misguided attempts to imitate what works for other people. In the name of being healthy and looking and feeling good, I went through a phase of obsessive exercising and restrictive eating; frequently looking to social media for guidance and justification of what was, in reality, a very unhealthy lifestyle. What really turned this on its head for me and snapped me out of this mindset was the harsh reality I encountered when, having reached my desired aesthetic state, mirroring all of those Instagram models and fitness pages, I didn’t feel good at all, only perpetually exhausted and stressed.
From that point onwards, I began to make the effort to genuinely listen to my body, resulting in the components of my self-care which are intuitive eating (trusting yourself to have complete food freedom) and regular yoga practise (a form of exercise which I’ve managed to disengage from my previous superficial motivations).
This journey is a journey that I am still on myself and will probably continue to be on for a long time to come. But it is mostly about listening to your body, and finding what works for you – and this is often a task of lengthy trial and error. Genuine self-care requires a combination of self-honesty and self-trust and is never a one-size-fits-all matter, something which can be especially hard to stomach in the influencer era.
Considering how susceptible I was to the ‘influencer’ culture, I also limit and finetune my social media presence; although no one’s self-care rituals are universal, I think the majority of us could benefit from a ‘less is more’ approach to internet usage.
How do you practise self-care?