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.
IT IS NOT : PUTTING OTHERS BEFORE YOURSELF
A very animal side in us teaches us when we are young, that we have to do all we can to survive.
This subtext of course is unconscious and includes the information, and rightly so, that we have to maintain relationships in order to be safe and content. Millions of years of conditioning and wisdom ensure that we heed our social and emotional connections the way we do.
Problems occur when we are not able to tell where to draw the line and put our own needs before others’ needs and opinions.
While it is true that there will be circumstances where putting others first will seem natural and necessary, self-care is knowing when to say no, when to listen to your instincts and when to peel yourself away from toxicity.
IT IS NOT : SPLURGING ON THE BEST OF MATERIAL THINGS
Retail therapy is a known concept by now, around the world. However, in the strictest sense of the term, it might not really fit into the category of self-care.
For one, splurging does not address any real issues or challenges that you may be facing in life. And while not denying that a one-off spree can lift your spirits, splurging on material happiness often comes with a host of other problems.
Unhindered ambition around wealth and hoarding in the long run can actually go in the opposite direction from self-care, causing stress and bad health.
IT IS : RESPECTING YOUR OWN BOUNDARIES
If you’ve gone even a bit into the nuances of boundaries, you’ll know how important they are – to know when your feelings need more acknowledgment, to know when to withdraw from a situation, to accept that you can’t achieve all your goals at the same time, all of it where you bring yourself to pause and really assess what will work for you, all of it is self-care.
It could be about changing a toxic workplace for another that values you, declining social interactions when you’re tired or even opting not to enter a romantic relationship until you’re ready.
IT IS : ACKNOWLEDGING YOUR FEELINGS WHATEVER THEY ARE
In a way, this is really the anti-thesis of pop psychology. To fit into a world that’s competitive and success-oriented, we often pick up cues that we align given any circumstance.