the high bar of #selfcare and the internal work it really needs
A quick hashtag search of #selfcare on Instagram reels in hundreds of images of perfectly held yoga poses, bubble baths, weekend getaways, expensive beauty products, smoothie bowls, and oh yes, the avocado toast. The trend of self care has seemed to flood our feed with perfectly captured photos of pampering, food and activities, at the same time it's also set the often high bar for what it looks like, how much it costs and the people that deserve it.
While exercise, nourishing foods and indulgence can be wonderful forms of self-care for some, caring for your mental, physical and spiritual health digs deeper than a pedicure. In my experience the word "self-care" naturally goes hand in hand with two others words: self-sabotage and self-awareness.
In order to care for ourselves, checking in to see if/where we are dipping our toe into self-sabotage is critical. Our lives are not perfectly linear, our personal ups and downs create peaks and dips from the time we we're born. Our life heartbeat is never constant - always active. Sometimes we love ourselves and feel incredibly connected with our mind and body while other times, we are our worst critic and have the capacity to cause much internal damage.
Going towards where we create this internal pollution of self-sabotage isn't easy. For myself, self-sabotage flows in and out, I try to become more aware when it is at high tide, but it's usually coupled with general irritation so that's now my little alarm. Self-sabotage can wear many different masks. It can wear the mask of harassment about your body - "shit, I ate bad this week, now I need to restrict my eating or work out more". It can wear the mask of the constant critic "why did I say that to her? What does she think of me now? Should I say something else? Why can't I do anything right?". Or maybe its the melancholy mask social media often unearths "Sarah's vacation looks so amazing, her body is perfect, she looks so happy. My life is boring, I'll never get to do these things." or simply "why can't I be like that?" (usually we do think in reaction to a filtered photo that took about 10 shots or 5 stomach suck in's to get it just right). When we catch ourselves in self-sabotage mode, we become more in sync with ourselves and allow our dark, insecure side to unearth. Where can we dislodge or soften this toxic noise is a form of self care. It can make the ways you care for yourself deep and powerful.
Are we aware of our body, desires or intuition or have we fallen asleep? Practicing self-awareness, becoming more attentive to your changes, imbalances, irritations and happiness is a powerful form of self-care and one that doesn't require shelling out money. Leaning deeper into my own self-awareness has shone light on where I need to establish boundaries. This is something I've been actively working on and in this reconstruction I've said "no" more than ever, I've realized my value, I've cut cords with people who weren't lifting me up or felt inauthentic and I'm more in touch with what feels right and what doesn't.
Becoming more conscious can take form in simply getting more in tune with your body. We are ALL equipped with a wonderful internal detector system that helps us feel out situations, people and opportunities, however this radar can easily succumb to hibernation. It's time wake it right on up without pressing the snooze button. For example, you know that feeling when someone invites you to a party, proposes an idea or even asks you out on a date but immediately something inside feels "off"? What we often do and through societal conditioning we learn to disconnect from that intuitive feeling by convincing ourselves to be open, friendly and nice. Later down the road, we're banging our heads against the wall (hello, self-sabotage) wondering why the hell we took that job or wound up with those people but our intuition spoke up in the first place (of course there's lots of good to learn from mistakes and misjudgements). Opening up to receive this messaging might require a bit practice but once you get in the groove, you'll find it pretty powerful.
Self-care can often correlate with self-improvement - being better, stronger, thinner, healthier and wiser. Sometimes what we really need to do is ditch the need to make ourselves "better" and simply accept ourselves, release judgement for our feelings and ditch timelines. As Susan David (her wonderful TED Talk below) puts it "Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life." Sometimes the upmost form of respecting yourself is embracing those discomforts, loving yourself as you are and finding ways that feel right to you to show yourself love. Whether it takes place in a physical act, shadow work, surrender or a getaway vacation, it's up to you what method you decide to dive inside and check in to what you need.