True Self-Care: It’s Not All Wine and Chocolate
Written by Meriden Peters.
It’s official. Our society has screwed up self-care. Don’t believe me? Do a quick Pinterest search. You’ll be inundated with perfectly staged, beautifully filtered photos of organic hand-poured soy candles, impeccably decorated acai bowls, and robe clad women sipping bubbly at a lavish spa day. Of course, I want an eight-hour spa day followed by a glass of champagne. That sounds lovely. But let’s call a spade a spade. First of all, that’s often unrealistic due to resources – both time and money – and second of all, that’s not self-care. That’s a retreat. That’s a relaxing day. That’s an escape. Albeit nice, true self-care is not red wine and chocolate. True self-care is making the conscious choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. True self-care is establishing simple, habitual actions that create balance and health in your life. True-self care is making hard choices to establish boundaries. True self-care is recognizing your value and your worth, and knowing when to put yourself first. True self-care is recognizing that what might be relaxing momentarily isn’t always nurturing long-term. True self-care is accepting that brown bananas with almond butter might be as beautiful as your breakfast ever gets.
It is only when we are completely exhausted, or worn out, or burnt out, or frustrated, that we say enough and retreat to our bathtubs, our wine bars, and our cookie jars and call it self-care.
Want to bring self-care back from the capitalist, consumerism edge it’s teetering on? Start saying no. This is one of the simplest, yet downright hardest, ways to practice true self-care. To do this, $500 in spa gift cards is not necessary. Patience, determination, and self-love are absolutely necessary. As women, we are raised to be people pleasers. We can do it all, all the time, and we hate letting people down. But when we constantly say yes to everything, we’re creating a life without boundaries, without balance, and, quite simply, we aren’t taking care of ourselves. It is only when we are completely exhausted, or worn out, or burnt out, or frustrated, that we say enough and retreat to our bathtubs, our wine bars, and our cookie jars and call it self-care. While that might alleviate the symptoms, the root cause still exists. Only by starting to say no, by drawing a line in the sand, can we begin to put ourselves first, to truly care for ourselves.
As a recovering perfectionist and extreme extrovert, the word “no” doesn't come easily to me. I do want to be at every happy hour, and I do want to take on every new project, and I do want to help every friend who is having a bad day. But I’ve learned the hard way that saying yes to everything is extremely unhealthy.
True self-care is making the conscious choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.
I’ve also learned that saying yes and canceling later is worse than just saying no upfront. What I’m working on now is saying no without excuses and apologies. I was reading an article on this topic recently and came across a quote from Katharine Hepburn, who said, “Never complain. Never explain.” I believe true self-care is embodying this quote. In the one-hour break you have today between meetings, can you run downtown to greet attendees at this event last minute? No. No, I can’t. Can you squeeze in one more board committee meeting, one more carpool run, one more after-school activity, one more job, one more family event, one more social event, one more work event? No. No, you can’t. That’s it. No. No excuses. Because you’re practicing self-care.
Let’s bring self-care back to its roots. What can you take off your to-do list? What group, what commitment, what event can you politely turn down? How can you use the word “no” more often to protect your most valuable asset: yourself? How can you use “no” to create space in your life? To create space for healing and nothingness? To protect yourself from burning out, from being unwell?
As a recovering perfectionist and extreme extrovert, the word “no” doesn't come easily to me.
There are a number of other ways to practice true-self care, but this is the foundation. This is where we begin. Because, my friend, you are worth it. Your time is valuable. Your health is valuable. And next time you say no, without excuses, think of me, because I'm proud of you. I’m proud of you out there practicing true self-care.