I Suck at Self-Care

February 11, 2019
Green face mask in an orange background
Art by Kirsten Hemrich

I completely suck at self-care. And not in a cutesy, humblebrag way or in a self-deprecating way. We just do not get along. It’s to the point where I hear someone exhort the importance of self-care along with suggestions of meditations or face masks, and I roll my eyes to the back of my skull so hard they may pop out from their sockets. My mom is probably forwarding a Tiny Buddha email to me right now, and I’m already moving it to my trash folder without reading it. When it feels like other people force certain aspects of self-care upon me, whether intentional or not, I only run further away from their ideas.

Meditation? Talk to any of my therapists who have tried to get me to meditate, the teacher of the class I specifically took on learning to meditate, or anyone who has given me suggestions of different apps to use and different techniques to try. Nope, I still feel like I fail at it. Doing yoga only reminds me that I’m not flexible and reaffirms my desire to lie in my bed and watch Netflix. Taking a workout class is the equivalent of placing a magnifying glass to all my biggest insecurities and anxieties. Baths scare me for some reason (I think it has to do with the drain and a fear of bugs). I love wine, but tipsy me doesn’t really care about sober me. I hate spending money, so a relaxing skincare routine is slightly out of the question. I’m an English major and have to read way too much already, so I can’t sit down with a book as self-care unless it’s summer and I’m sitting out in the sun.

I think the issue is, we are so inundated with images of self-care on Instagram and website articles, so stuffed with patronizing advice, that we forgot self-care doesn’t have to be perfect. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for feeling cared for. It also doesn’t have to consciously qualify as “self-care.” At the end of the day, self-care should be things that you invest in yourself to make yourself feel better, free, relaxed, joyful, all of the above. I really hate the idea that you have to do something or be something other than yourself just to live a fulfilled life. Self-care has evolved into an industry giant that makes us think that we have to perform self-care rather than just doing the things we want to do for ourselves. And yes, self-care in all its media glory is a nice distraction to the stressors and hard realities of the world and climate we live in today. But ultimately that distraction is a capitalist Band-Aid over real issues that deserve our attention.

You don’t have to add anything or buy anything or change your interests or instincts to be taking care of yourself. The things I have done since I was a child to make myself feel better and feel whole are the same ones that I find the most success with now. I think that practicing self-care comes naturally to most of us, and whatever that looks like for any person, I think they should lean into what they have going. If you strip away the consumer and competitive cultures of self-care, there are basic tenets there that can take any form that works best for you. I suck at the media image of self-care, but I do take care of myself in some of the following ways.

  • Mediating the way you want to. Don’t let anyone else make you feel lesser for doing things differently. (I’ve found that body scans before bed and breathing exercises work for me.)
  • Getting dressed up for no reason or occasion other than having fun.
  • Singing and dancing alone.
  • Leaving my phone face down and charging, far away from me. Unplugging from the world is always great, and I especially like to this while I’m completing school work, because a clear to-do list is some great self-care.
  • Knowing when you need to be alone, and when you need to be with friends. And doing whatever is needed, because putting your needs before other people’s expectations is so important.
  • Imagining outlandish scenarios in your head.
  • Saying yes to things, spontaneously. Sometimes self-care for me does mean trying new things and new forms of happiness.

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