/ Body/ Myth-busting: What Does Self-Care Actually Look Like?
It might all look like bath bombs and chardonnay online, but real self-care takes a bit more work.
You’ve seen the articles and memes promoting self-care: take a bath, have a drink, get your nails done. Ultimately, much of the mythos surrounding the concept seems to point to one central thesis: treating yourself is equivalent to caring for yourself. Unfortunately, this limited look at taking care of number one can end up being more of an exercise in consumerism than in self-compassion.
Audra Potter is a social worker and therapist on the Inkblot platform who works primarily through CBT, DBT, and resolution therapy. Related to her work teaching people about boundaries, she considers self-care to be a much more active, daily practice than what Instagram might suggest.
“Self-care is about filling our cup,” says Audra.
Sorry to those looking to do right by themselves with something as easy as a bubble bath, but Audra has learned that self-care requires a bit more work than that. “It starts with the consistent choices we make on a daily basis that support a sense of mental well-being,” she says.
That kind of feeling is not about a string of soothing moments that get you from day to day, but about a pattern of deep and honest care for your needs—this is about you consistently showing up for yourself, even when it’s hard. “Self-care is not about the things we do occasionally when we’re feeling low,” says Audra.
Sometimes, that means engaging in an act of self-care – like holding a hard boundary with a loved one – that might not even feel good at all. It’s about the end result, though—your own sense of inner peace and mental health. “It’s not just about getting a massage, having a glass of wine, or holidays,” says Audra.
Much as the name suggests, self-care is all about you, and thus it requires a level of self-awareness in order to be most effective. Here are some steps you can take to start your own authentic self-care practice that truly gets to the root of your needs.
“The pandemic has stripped a lot of us of the regular things we would do to fill our cups,” says Audra. Time with friends, travel, live music—none of this has been possible in the past year or more. “The only thing you can do is get creative about reestablishing some activities within your means.”
Being creative about living your values and taking time for yourself can be an affirming act—it’s an investment in yourself, which will only help to bolster your new routine of self-care.
Maybe, for you, that does mean a bath, and that’s OK—so long as you also work to serve your needs in other ways, even when it’s a little less luxurious. “Real, good quality self-care is built up of the choices we make on a regular basis—the good habits, and those things we can do in the moment,” says Audra.
“We need both.”
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