Look, we all love to talk self-care. Even preach it, in some spaces. The value of a bath bomb, an early night in, “rosé and slay”, and there’s nothing wrong with that! In fact, there’s a hell of a lot right about it. But it’s a much more complicated, nuanced conversation than we usually get into.
The sound bytes are great, and they have the right idea…to start with. Taking time for self care at the end of a long day is something everyone should prioritize, and even schedule in, if you’re a scheduling junkie like me. This post is not about bashing face masks or Lush bath bombs, or any of your favorite tools for a little relaxing time after a full, exhausting day. You need that. I need that. We all need that, and we’ve been denying it to ourselves for too long. Thank god it’s a movement right now. People say it’s a trend. Fuck that. It's not a moment, it's a movement (thanks Hamilton)! And if it is a trend? Thank god. Keep on trending. I pray it lasts as long as skinny jeans and Ben Affleck has (the latter really needs to go...).
But…unfortunately…it’s not as easy as that. And as much as I love those things, and I’ll include some of my favorite easier, relaxing self care resources and recipes at the end of this post, to lighten the mood a little after shit gets heavy…shit does have to get heavy. Self care isn’t all about the fun, relaxing shit. Self care is a lot harder than that. Just like self love is a lot harder than that.
Let’s start here: self care is based in self love. The idea is that you should take care of yourself because you love yourself and you are worthy of love and respect. This is where it gets a little tricky. A lot of us can throw in a bath bomb or have a glass of wine or a cup of tea after a long day even if we don’t really have a lot of self love or self compassion, or any at all. Why? Because it’s fun. Because it’s soothing. Because it’s immediate gratification and relief. Which, again, we do need. We’re living incredibly stressful lives, that are way too demanding, constantly being asked to do about eight hundred times the amount of shit we should be asked to do. So again, this stuff has value. That’s not what I’m saying. And if you’re in a healthy place, it’s great. But if you’re not…it’s just a temporary fix. To a permanent problem. And you'll probably experience guilt as you attempt it, which really won't help things in the long run. I'll talk more about this in my upcoming series about self-love, self-care, self-respect and the ways in which they're intertwined.
But in short, the problem for a lot of people is that you ultimately don’t love yourself. Some of you may challenge this. A lot of you know I’m right. I’m not gonna argue about it in this post. For now, I’m relying on that little feeling a bunch of you are feeling inside your hearts when you’re reading this that knows I’m right. Because you do. You know that part of you loves yourself, sometimes, but a lot of you doesn’t. And maybe it’s a really deep thing. Maybe it’s body image. Maybe it’s trauma. Maybe it’s abuse. Or maybe it’s just that society has taught us that if a woman likes herself too much, she’s full of herself and that’s not okay. Or maybe it’s simply some mixture of things, like everybody has. Everybody has their shit. Nobodies is 100% the same. And all of us are working through stuff in our own way in our own time. Which is fine, and just, you know, how life is. But bath bombs? Aren’t gonna fix those things.
You know what will? Therapy. Yoga. Support groups. Reading books like Tiny Beautiful Things (I know it sounds crazy, but it probably did more than three years of therapy did before I found a decent therapist). Things that actually heal your soul. Those are acts of self-care. Danielle LaPorte, who I have referenced repeatedly and who I will continue to, because she’s a total genius, suggests using the term self-compassion instead of self-love, because self love seems like a really unachievable thing to a lot of us. I know it does to me at some moments. But compassion for myself- even on my toughest days, I can try to muster that.
Self-care isn’t just about the easy stuff. The easy stuff is great, and it’s fun, and it can be really helpful in keeping us in balance on a day to day basis when we’re overwhelmed. But do you know what helps keep us from getting overwhelmed in the first place? And helps actually heal our soul, and really take care of us in the way that self-care kind of sells itself as doing? Self-compassion and self-healing. The difficult kind of self care. So how do you start? This part’s going to be rough, but try to be brave. Take a deep breath, and stick with me:
- Make a list of all the things that are hard for you in your life, heart and soul right now. Really hard. The things that make you feel like you can’t breathe because you’re so overwhelmed, or scared, or angry, or sad. It could be your father’s death. Or an assault. For some, it’ll be looking in the mirror, if it’s a body image thing. There will almost certainly be many. If you can stomach it, prioritize them. If you drink, it’s fine to have a glass of wine while you do this. But do not text your ex or a problematic family member or friend while you do (I will not be held responsible for any drunk dials). Take all the time you need doing this. If this takes ten minutes, fine. If it takes five nights, fine. But try to make it pretty complete. Get it all out of your system, purged.
- For each thing, write out all of your options for dealing with it. Even those you don’t want to consider. In debt and don’t want to ask for help? Write it down anyway. Being abused and don’t want to leave? Write it down anyway. It’s not about what you will actually do, it’s about seeing the options clearly and without the cloudiness of your emotions in your mind. But write down every option for every issue. If you have a very trusted friend, you can ask for help with this part. But this is a really intimate thing, so I recommend it be either someone very close, a professional like a therapist or a coach, or going it alone.
- Take a break for a few days. Get some air. Promise yourself you will not think about those things. Of course, you will anyway. But every time any of them comes to mind, breathe, acknowledge the thought, and release it. As you would in meditation. If your list is small and fairly light, this could be three days. I’d recommend a maximum of seven days, or avoidance could easily set in. And be firm on the end date. But you know yourself best, I’m just a virtual confidante.
- Revisit the list. Do this with a clear mind. This time, no wine, no advisors of any kind, no matter how close they are. The exception would be if you’re seeing a professional and they want to be involved in the process, in which case, obviously take their advice instead, because I’m not a therapist. But I recommend doing this part alone, because you should be empowered over your own ultimate choices. Look at all of the options you laid out. Consider the pros and cons of each. Remember, your emotions are valid factors, but other factors are equally valid. You are entitled to feel any emotion you feel. Your emotions are always valid. However, emotions can often trick us in the short term and get in the way of what we really want in the long term. Be sure to check in with yourself during this process about your short term and long term wishes and what you think will help you the most. Try not to let the narratives you’ve built up in your head over time make these decisions, but base it in the clarity you’ve built up over the space you’ve given yourself and the balanced emotional place you’re coming from right now. This is a therapeutic concept called "wise mind", which I'll delve into further in future posts.
- Enact your decisions. Come up with immediate actionable steps and follow through. If you decide to seek therapy, plan to call a therapist the next day. If you decide to join an online support group, find one that night and make an account. If you want to find a life coach, put it in your calendar for tomorrow, or better yet, make a list of a few qualifications that are important to you tonight so you have something started for that search. It is so easy to put things off and get back into the cycle of avoidance. But consider this like medicine. This kind of self-care should be non-negotiable for your life.
- Once you’ve started acting on your choices, you will likely encounter bumps. It’s harder than taking a bath or drinking wine. I’m going to go into some anecdotes below, but in terms of general advice? Stick it out. Three months at least, for any new thing. I know it sounds long. It’s not, in terms of the general span of your life, and changing it for the better. You have to be willing to fight for yourself, or no one else will. It will be painful at times. It will hurt. Those nights are the nights for bath bombs, face masks, and rosé, and what we currently refer to as self-care. Care for yourself in those moments, knowing that you’re caring for yourself in the greater sense. Believe it or not, that is what will start to create self love.
So this pain that I’m talking about…it’s hard. It’s really fucking hard, I can’t lie to you and I won’t. It has involved doing a lot of shit I did not want to do and forcing myself to do it. You wouldn’t think that the words force and self care should be used in the same sentence. Here, I’m going to tell you that unfortunately, they really need to be sometimes. The moments that I’ve had to push through and keep going and heal and fight to care for myself are the moments that I’ve needed it most, that have made the damndest difference.
Hard self-care looks like a million different things at a million different times. For me, it’s taking an Uber to a place that’s a ten-minute walk away because catcalls are triggering for me with my PTSD and on that route, I always get catcalled. For the second month after an assault (the first I was in a weird state of shock), it was literally curling up in bed at whatever hour of the day I felt like curling up in bed. For two years, it was going to therapy every week even when I fucking hated it, didn’t have time for it, didn’t feel like I was making progress, and eventually broke down in her office sobbing and saying I couldn’t do it, because the trauma had repressed itself so much. And eventually, it was finding a better therapist, and living my life, and accepting where I am now, while simultaneously understanding it's in my control to live the type of life I want to live.
Also, here are a few fun kind of surface-level self-care things I’ve discovered lately that I love and have been implementing. I highly recommend them as a supplement to proper, deeper self-care. The first are rosés based in Provence. You probably already know this, but they’re completely amazing. Trust. Second are bath cocktails from Lush. I did not know this was a thing, but mixing their various bath products makes your bath even more fucking amazing than it already was with just a bath bomb or a bubble bar. I’ve been mixing my favorite bubble bar, Rose Jam, with both the Tisty Tosty bath bomb (new discovery and I’m obsessed, it’s so cool finding rosebuds in your hair) and Sex Bomb (the ultimate classic fave). If you don’t have Lush near you, it’s worth the order. In terms of face masks, I love the Fresh face masks, both the Rose (hydrating) and Umbrian Clay (purifying). I will definitely be buying ASAP in spite of the hefty price tag.
My offerings are related to this work because it's what I most strongly believe in and consider foundational to having a successful, meaningful, fulfilling life. And most of my content will center around these topics going forward for the same reason. Self-love is always work, but some of the most worthy work you can do. I truly hope that I can help some of you get to the place I've reached myself.