If it were speaking right now, it would announce, “I’m kind of a big deal.” And it is! People have pretty recently started to recognize the importance of self-care and acknowledge that they aren’t super great at helping others, (or life in general) if they don’t know how to take good care of themselves. I think people got tired of having the velocious pace of life constantly prodding them along, and at last declared “Enough is enough!” Finally, folks have begun to slow down and smell the roses in a society that has no time for such “useless” practices.
For many, there is now designated time in their day for an activity, or non activity, that will properly fuel and restore them in order to be at full capacity again. Many choose to make time for a run, have a phone call with an old friend, end the day with a bath and a glass of wine, read a chapter of a book before rushing off to work, buy themselves something new, attend a weekend yoga class, watch a movie, spend time in meditation or prayer, get their hair done, etc. The possibilities are endless! And sometimes, so are people’s lists of ways they must “self-care” every day. In a world that now praises taking time out of our busy lives to have time for ourselves, a new temptation emerges to the self-care practicers, and that is the following: Using self-care as a coping mechanism to avoid the tasks we must complete and/or be selfish with our time.
I said it. Don’t stone me just yet. Let me explain.
I fully believe in the importance of self-care. I think knowing yourself and recognizing your limits, the things that exhaust you, the things that energize you, these are all vital disciplines we must learn in order to be effective in this world. Better to take some time out of your day for yourself then to burnout and be no good to anyone, right? However, one must ask, how much self-care is TOO much self-care? When do you need to work a little bit outside capacity in order to help someone in need? When do you need to not go get your nails done because you really can’t afford it that month? When do you and your partner need to turn off the Netflix and talk about the relational problems you have been avoiding? When do you need to give a little bit of time to your family or friends rather than spend it with yourself? When do you need to put down the glass of wine and actually deal with your anxiety rather than “self-caring” and not ever getting to the root problem? These are just questions to consider. I don’t believe there is any set formula or limit to how many self-care practices should be “allowed” in each day, nor do I think there could be one formula to fit all.
I DO, however, believe that in our striving to make time for self-care, a form of self-discipline, we must also force ourselves to honestly examine our lives, also a form of self discipline.
Let me share a personal example. I am a TOTAL introvert. I love people, but to recharge I really have to be alone. I’m pretty good at knowing how much time I need alone each day to function at full capacity, and that can vary depending on the activities I do that day, the people I’m around, if I hang out with people that day one-on-one or in a group setting, etc. There’s a lot that goes into that little science! Haha! Anyway, being the way I am, I could be happy as a clam spending the whole day by myself, lost in books and writings and thoughts and reflections. All of these things are forms of self-care for me as well. Being such, it’s an easy temptation for me to ignore all texts I receive for the entire day because I want to disconnect. It can be easy to choose reading a book rather than reaching out to a new girl on campus I know is struggling to make friends. I’d rather write endless pages of poetry rather than go have a confrontational conversation I know I need to have. It’s often much more appealing to me to spend hours in the gym rather then to go out for someone’s birthday party. You get the picture! Anyhow, I could literally use “I need a self-care day” as excuses for my behavior in ALL of these situations. And you know what? Half the time I genuinely know I HAVE to do that in order to keep going strong and avoid burnout. But other times, I might not need it so desperately, I just WANT it. And that is where the danger lies. I’m not saying you must constantly deny your WANTS, however, if you only ever do what you WANT to do in the name of self-care, look how many people could suffer as a result. In my situation, if I only ever satisfied my WANTS, I would end up being lonely/unhealthy because all my relationships would eventually fall apart, I would never grow as a person, I would never expand my perspectives by hanging out with different people, I would never deal with my actual issues but instead just slap a self-care band-aid on all my problems, I would never share the life lessons I’ve learned with someone who may need them simply because I don’t feel like talking to them, I would never build lasting memories and relationships with others. I could totally miss out on all the things that would make me a healthy, well-rounded, responsible individual because I chose to make excuses for myself in the name of self-care.
Do you see the problem with that? Now, I don’t think this means you should go around judging the way other people take care of themselves and how much time you think they should be devoting to this or that, because you cannot truly understand their heart, nor would judging help even if you could. I DO think it means you need to be honest with yourself and value self-discipline as highly as you value self-care. I DO think it means you need to push yourself sometimes and not worry about always making sure you remain at ideal comfort. I DO think it means you need to be responsible and giving with your time. I DO think it means you should remember that self-care should be about helping yourself SO you can help others. Imagine a glass of water that didn’t pour into others, instead it remained under the faucet, constantly taking and never giving. What a sad picture–and certainly not how it was designed to function. And the same goes for us! What a sad place this world would be if we only viewed life in this light, if we only ever took and never gave, if we cared not about filling the thirsty but instead continually filled ourselves with our excess.
Self-care is important, and I’m glad people are finally rebelling against the constantly DOING, never RESTING self-destroying nature of the fast paced American life. I’m glad people are getting to know themselves a little better and learn to rest and be content rather than restlessly moving. I’m glad people are realizing they are much better to everyone around them when they learn what they themselves need in order to stay effective.
I do hope, however, that in your self discovery and practice of self-care, you always remember why you are doing it, and furthermore how you were designed to function.
Much love to you all 💕