In This Episode:
- Why self-care is an important feminist act
- The ugly truth about self-care
- What self-care really is
Listen to the podcast here:
The Ugly Truth About Self-Care
Self-care is a buzzy word. It’s smothered in lotions and trips to the salon and fancy chocolate bars. Self-care is messy and it can be hard.
It is an important feminist act because buzzy self-care is another form of advertising trying to sell you a beautiful, Instagram-able, socially-acceptable way to take care of yourself. We’re going to dive into the ugly truth about self-care. Ready? Let’s get started.
Hello, self-care. You cannot turn around in the online business world without bumping into somebody telling you that you need to prioritize self-care. To be clear, I could not agree more that women need to prioritize their own care.
Self-care always gets wrapped up in this pretty neat little package of bubble baths, non-negotiable manicures and fancy European chocolate bars followed by the #TreatYourself.
Taking care of yourself and putting yourself first as a woman is in and of itself a radical feminist act because the patriarchy has been telling us since we were born to put everyone else first. Your parents, your partner, your kids, your friends.
If you’re socialized as a woman, you are socialized to think of others before you think of yourself, period. This is a very normal thing about being socialized as a woman in today’s society. For instance, I was watching some pro athlete. I don’t remember what sport. I’m a college sports fan.
I was watching him give this interview. At one point, someone asked him about his mom, who I’m assuming is a very important person in his life. He went on for over five minutes about everything that she gave up for her kids when he was younger.
How she was always there for them. She worked multiple jobs and she did everything for them and that she always put the kids first. These stories are not unique. You often hear from people in power, people who are famous or whatever, about how much their moms specifically. It’s rarely parents.
You don’t usually hear about a parental unit. You don’t hear as much about single dads, but you hear this constantly about moms and you hear this even if there is a parental unit. Even if there are two parents in the home, the entire life of the child until they grow up and they’re telling this story.
You always hear it about the mom is the one who is sacrificing. If the dad is making sacrifices, it’s that he’s working all the time. He’s never home. That’s usually the sacrifice that the dad is making.
When you hear these stories about mothers, you hear it from a perspective of she basically never does anything for herself because she’s always putting her kids first. It blows my mind because it always seems that that is the most laudable thing we can remember about our mother.
They put themselves last at every opportunity. This is what it means to be socialized as a woman in the world today. You’re putting everything ahead of yourself, including your social obligations, your job even, as well as your family and friends, which means that you putting yourself last.
You’re giving away pieces of yourself over and over again until it feels so normal that putting yourself first also known as self-care is the thing that feels weird, which is wild.
You’re taught from birth over and over again that putting yourself first is weird and you shouldn’t do it until you get to a place where putting yourself first feels strange.
It makes you feel guilty. It makes you feel uncomfortable. What if we can remember our mothers as whole beings outside of motherhood? If we allowed mothers or even women in general to be people with interests and opinions.
What if we taught women from birth that it’s okay to do what you want, even if it makes someone else uncomfortable or it disappoints someone, this is a big one for me, or it means that something doesn’t get finished. This is also a big one for me.
This is something particularly that I struggled with because I didn’t want to upset anyone. I felt guilty saying no to things because my mom, even to this day, she feels guilty saying no to things. She will say yes to things she doesn’t want to do.
She’ll exist inside her own head in a resent spiral. She’ll go into a resentment spiral and she’ll feel bad about it inside, but she won’t look at you and tell you she can’t do something if she thinks that it will help you. That’s how ingrained it is in her mind.
What if we didn’t have to wait until we were in our 30s and our 40s to figure out that it was okay to show up in a way that is unapologetically unique to us? That’s even such a radical concept to think about learning from childhood what most of us don’t learn until we’re older?
You see those things. I’ve seen a couple of articles about how in your 20s, you’re trying to like figure your shit out and you care what other people think of you.
In your 30s, you’re trying to conform a little bit, but also you’re like, “Maybe I can do whatever I want.” As you get older, you tend to be like less of a people pleaser and less caring about what other people think. You’re more true to yourself.
When I hit 30, I decided to learn how to stop giving a fuck. It is something you have to learn. It’s not something you figure out like, “I’m going to stop giving a fuck what people think about me.” That’s not how it works.
When I hit 30, I decided to learn how to stop giving a fuck about what other people thought of me. This has not been an easy process. I’ve talked in a couple of other episodes about how letting go of other people’s expectations and being a people-pleaser is something I’m still working on.
It is something that I want to master because I think it’s important in how I show up in the world. If I show up in the world in a way that makes me feel good, then I know that I’ve done everything that I need to do.
It doesn’t matter how I make other people feel necessarily because how other people feel is not something that’s necessarily up to me. I want to make sure that I’m doing something in a way that is authentic to myself.
If I’m doing that, then I’m showing up exactly how I want to show up in the world. I can’t say that I’ve figured it out yet. I’m still learning. My older friends in their 40s do report that it gets better with age. That gives me help. I’m at least moving in the right direction.
I wonder sometimes, what if we didn’t have to wait to figure that out? What if we didn’t have to go through the messiness of our twenties or even teenagerhood where we cared what everyone thought about us? We acted in middle and high school in a way that was all about other people.If we lived in a world where women know that it’s okay to put themselves first, we wouldn’t even need to talk about self-care at all. Click To Tweet
What if we always knew that we were worthy exactly as we are? We knew that it was okay to say no, and it’s okay to put yourself first. It’s okay to do what you want because your opinion is the one that matters.
If we lived in a world like that, would we even need to talk about self-care at all? Wouldn’t self-care be the default and not the reward of the thing that we need to remind ourselves to do? We wouldn’t need to schedule in self-care. We would all do it by default.
If you haven’t figured out by now, self-care isn’t just bubble baths and chocolate bars. It’s about putting yourself first even when it’s hard and messy and uncomfortable.
When you are raised to put everyone else’s needs before your own and suddenly you’re like, “Maybe I should go get a manicure.” That means leaving my kids alone for an hour. That could be a difficult thing to say yes to, even if it is getting a manicure and not doing something else.
I’m not going to tell you not to eat the chocolate or get the manicure. I love a good manicure, but sometimes, I promise you, self-care isn’t sexy. Sometimes self-care is putting on clean clothes because you can’t remember the last time you showered. #InternationalPandemic.
First, it’s probably showering and then putting on clean clothes. I know some of my work from home friends feel this hard, especially right now. Sometimes self-care is saying no, without feeling like you have to explain yourself. This is a huge one.
Somebody told me a couple of years ago that it was possible for me to say no and not have to explain why. No is a complete answer. It blew my mind but it’s true. Sometimes self-care is saying no without explaining why because you don’t want to do something. That’s okay. That’s an acceptable answer.
It’s about setting boundaries around your time and your relationships. It’s about taking 30 minutes to indulge in a good book or brushing your teeth or washing your face or putting on deodorant when you’re struggling through a bout of depression.
Sometimes it’s disappointing someone so that you can do the thing you want to do instead. I have a friend who invited me over to her house for a socially-distanced cocktail hour outside, masks optional. I’m not comfortable being around people that I don’t know super well.
I ultimately said no, but I feel bad about it. I know that she was hoping that I would say yes and I didn’t want to make her feel upset. Ultimately, I said no, even though I knew it would probably disappoint her a little bit.
Sometimes it’s taking ten minutes and having a good cry when everything seems overwhelming. My mindset coach is always encouraging me.
She was like, “If you need to freak out about something, schedule that shit in your calendar and then sit down and spend ten minutes freaking out about it. Get out all of your emotions, cry, scream, throw things, do whatever it is you need to do, but don’t bottle it up and let it sit in there.”
Sometimes self-care is turning on your favorite sad movie and having a good cry. Sometimes it’s doing nothing because you feel like you should be doing something every minute of every day. There is a European country. They have this thing called hygge.
This is basically where you sit and do nothing. It’s the most amazing concept. It’s something that is not foreign to them because they were taught this growing up that it’s okay to sit there and do nothing. It’s so okay to sit there and do nothing. It’s a word that has zero negative connotations to it.
Whereas words around here where we sit and do nothing, you’re like, “I’m a couch potato,” or ‘You’re lazy,” or something like that. We don’t have words that are like, “Sit there and do nothing.”
That alone, sitting there because you feel like you should be doing something, but it’s okay to sit there and stare at the wall and do nothing. I do that sometimes as I lay in my bed and stare at the ceiling. It’s actually quite delightful. It’s dancing around the room to your favorite song.
Dancing is self-care. Any Grey’s Anatomy fans in the house will know that 30-second dance parties are obviously self-care. I’m taking a break to watch a movie in the middle of the workday.
Pre-pandemic, I used to love on a random Tuesday or Wednesday in the middle of the day, going to a movie. It’s the best thing ever. I loved it so much. It’s taking a mental health day without feeling guilty.
I have not yet reached a point where I can message my team and be like, “I’m taking a mental health day,” without justifying it in some way. I’m getting there.
I have now actually started using the phrase mental health day rather than like making up some fake physical illness because everybody’s like, “You have a migraine. Of course, you shouldn’t come to work today.”
I have at least been able to start using the mental health day language, but I still feel like I have to justify it like, “It was a hard day.” I’m working on getting to the point where I don’t feel guilty and I don’t feel like I need to justify it.
Self-care is whatever you need it to be to give your mind, your body and your soul a breather. If you don’t a ton of time, it doesn’t have to be a one-hour massage.
If you have kids and you don’t have anybody to watch them, maybe it’s like locking yourself in the bathroom with the mini Snickers for five minutes. That’s self-care. That’s fine. It can be scheduled. It can be spontaneous.
It can be hard like making yourself journal when you don’t want to confront that limiting belief that keeps popping up. It can be easy like taking a nap without setting an alarm.
I love to take naps without setting an alarm. I want to take a deep nap, like a good, deep nap. My friend takes them. She calls them comas where she literally is like out for two-plus hours. I envy her. I’m not a great napper, but when I do want to try to take a good nap, I actually will not nap on the couch.
I won’t nap in the recliner. I will go and be in my bed. I will close the room, darkening curtains. I will turn on the fan so it’s nice and cool in there. I will lay on top of the covers with a little blanket and I will take a nap in my bed so that I’m super comfy.
That is a very self-indulgent thing for me to be able to do. Self-care can be manicures, chocolate bars, bubble baths and spa days. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s the way you like to treat yourself.Sometimes self-care is saying no, without feeling like you have to explain yourself. Click To Tweet
I love to get manicures. I like to do my own nails. I like to go to the salon when going to the salon is an okay thing for me to do. I like to go to the spa and get facials. I like doing that stuff.
I like doing the other hard things too because then I feel like I’m doing something for myself that moves the needle in some meaningful way. I’m not checking off a box of socially acceptable self-care items or even doing something that I may be potentially don’t enjoy like pedicures.
I like having my toenails painted. I don’t enjoy getting a pedicure at a salon. Self-care is whatever works for you in the moment in whatever season of life you’re in. All that I want to make sure that you remember to do is to feed your soul whatever it needs, even if what it needs is the hard shit.
I don’t want you to default to the easy shit because it’s easy or expected. I want you to know that it’s okay to do the hard shit too. It’s probably necessary even for you to do the hard shit. Remember that putting yourself first is a radical feminist act and you are a badass for doing that. That’s it for me. Bye.