Many of us start January full of good intentions for the 'good' habits we're going to develop in the coming year, and the 'bad' ones we're going to leave behind.
But by now (February), most of us have become a little lackadaisical about our new regimes. After the first week or so of effort, it gets harder to find space for doing things differently. Life takes enough energy and effort as it is, without the extra energy and effort required to create change.
This is something that can be especially hard when we're trying to do better at self-care.
Not only are we fighting the inertia of existing habits, but also the social programming that paying attention to our own needs is selfish, and therefore 'bad', 'wrong', 'unethical', or '[fill in the blank]'.
This is particularly the case for those of us who were raised as girls and/or are now women. It's all made worse by the cultural narrative of self-care as luxury, a treat, an expensive bath bomb, or a massage, or a spa weekend; something we only occasionally 'deserve'.
We see it in the images in adverts, in the messages of self-help and coaching gurus, in the conversations in online groups: self-care as luxury, self-care as status symbol. Those who 'deserve' the luxury of self-care are the winners in a hierarchy of social capital where the top echelons are inhabited by the pretty, thin, wealthy, white, abled, and straight.
When we don't think critically about self-care, this narrative inhabits our minds without our knowledge or consent. Instead of being a way of valuing and tending to ourselves as human beings, whose very existence makes us worthy, self-care becomes a means by which we bolster our self-esteem. We use it to signal to ourselves and others that we are rising up the power-over pyramid that orders our unjust society -- the very pyramid which is the reason for our self-esteem needing a boost in the first place.
Heavy, huh? (#sorrynotsorry) But what's the alternative?
Well, there are a few. Mine is this:
Self-care = taking responsibility for getting my needs met.
Self-care isn't a luxury, nor is it a demonstration of status, worth, or deserving; it is so much more than a bath bomb, or a massage, or a spa weekend.
- the ongoing act of accurately assessing my needs and my resources, and how they do or do not match up;
- identifying potential sources of support to bridge any gaps;
- making clear requests for support which respect my own and others' boundaries;
- the work of knowing my own boundaries, and asking others about theirs.
Self-care is an act of love.
It is a tending of self and relationship.
It is a consistent commitment to each of our value as human beings, regardless of our social status or power.
Is this the kind of self-care you'd like to learn and practice?
If so, I have an offering for you: a free, DIY, editable template to help you identify your areas of need, and what specific actions or resources will help you meet those needs on a day to day basis.
You can gain access by dropping your name and email address below: