This morning I saw this image, which concisely sums up something I’ve been thinking about for a while, now: self care isn’t just about self-indulgence.
I’m as aware as anyone that capitalist America isn’t nice to its residents, and that a lot of us, myself very much included, need a reminder that it is absolutely ok to comfort yourself however you need comforting. But I think there’s something that gets lost in most discussions of self care.
Self-care includes maintaining my body and mind so that I can keep healthy and keep on pursuing the things that make my life worth living. Sometimes, that means giving my tired muscles a nice couch to sit on and my overloaded brain a Bones marathon to binge on, but a lot of the time it’s tougher than that.
I, like most people, function best when I’m eating a nutritious diet, getting exercise, sleeping regularly and making other decisions that will mean future me goes on feeling ok enough to exist. Something I remind myself of frequently is that kindness and responsibility are not opposites, and that care includes routine maintenance.
There are days when I get home and I stare at my mostly-empty fridge and I bemoan my existence and order a pizza. And that’s self care. There are some days where I come home and stare at my half empty fridge and bemoan my existence and then I cut up a bunch of vegetables I don’t want to eat, cook them, go for a quick walk and then have a dinner that isn’t devoid of any nutritional value. And that’s self-care too.
This post is not an ode to Puritanism. I order takeout, take mental health days, “forget” to shower, let my cats eat directly from the cat food bag and screen calls from my doctor and bill collectors just like everyone else. But I don’t do it all the time. Sometimes, I remember that I’ll feel better in the morning if I turn my computer off and go to bed. Or turn my phone off for a few minutes and go outside. And those moments should be celebrated and supported just as hard as the moments where I have beer and doritoes for dinner.
Loving yourself is like loving anyone else you’re responsible for–sometimes you have to dish out some tough love, and that is not mutually exclusive with caring for yourself.