Most of us grew up learning to compromise our needs and surrender to those of others, ultimately succumbing to neglect self-care.
Lavish holidays. Fine perfumes. Bubble baths. Luxuriant chocolates.
Even though it took me aback later as I thought about it, the first mention of “self-care” had riddled my mind with all kinds of images.
I still don’t know what it was that got me confused between “self-care” and “self-indulgence”.I like to believe that there is a collective impression that the two are one and the same. And it’s also not difficult to understand where that thinking pattern might stem from.
Most of us in most cultures grew up believing in “good”and “bad”, “sin” and “philanthropy” etc. and a lot of our early learning can easily get biased towards maintaining relationships and over-extending ourselves. Which if you look at the deeper cause, is survival in nature.
Nevertheless, self-care and self-indulgence are different.
While the latter can often fall under the category of “privilege“, the former belongs under “necessary”.
As many definitions intend to define, “self-care” is a way to put our well-being and health at the forefront of things and how do you do it?
Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.
– Christopher Germer
The very first thing is to become acutely aware of what itself Self-Care Isn’t And What It Is.
IT IS NOT : TAKING YOURSELF FOR GRANTED
Just the other day, I went on a call with an old friend, and the whole call came to be about how many things they need to finish in the coming week and how they are awfully tired to think about it all, but how they’ll anyway manage to do it.
Five minutes into the conversation my alarm bells began ringing, because I know this state of constant doing – I’ve been there.
Let me tell you right away that this is as far from self-care as you can imagine. To think “I’ll do it anyway” is another way of saying “I’m going to take myself for granted, not heeding my mind, body and soul”. In my experience, multiple cycles of “doing” mode would invariably flatten me out and push me into “being“, as some health issue or other would descend on me.
IT IS NOT : POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY AT THE COST OF REAL FEELINGS
It would be fair to say that this pointer that I’m discussing right now has landed me into more conversation scrapes than I can remember.
To be honest, we do live at a time of greater mental awareness and perhaps greater spiritual seeking, but to imbibe a spirit where you just speak good and feel good, seems to be far-fetched.
Think how you feel as you engage with your inner and outer worlds every single day, moving through challenges and living life the way it comes to you. Do you see how you can look at everything positively? You get hurt by a careless remark by a friend, but you smile on.
You feel insanely pressured at work, but you carry on and don’t express it in any way. in reality, the first instance makes you “sad” and the latter “overwhelmed”.
And when you don’t heed that, it’s certainly not self-care.
IT IS NOT : PUTTING UP A “HAPPY MASK” NO MATTER WHAT
When I first met JH a decade ago, I was taken in by their constant charm and ability to make the whole room seem warm and friendly. Five years down the line, JH was gone, having succumbed to a massive heart attack. When I later met one of their cousins, that person had only one thing to say, “J’s mask got him.”
It was a powerful remark because what he was really trying to say is that embodying mental, emotional, physical and spiritual upbeat state, without necessarily feeling any of it, can be a hell of a stress.
I’m inclined to believe that a “happy mask” need not always come with positive psychology attached to it. It reminds me of a friend’s friend who once had coolly declared how they choose to show a brave face even if they know they are falling apart inside.