I know in the past I have discussed the dangers I see with this recent trend of self-care, and while I don't wish to be belabor the point, I find myself continually coming back to it. Social media feeds are filled with the topic, and typically revolve around splurging, overspending, and feeding an insecurity by fulfilling its wishes. I see these things, and I feel so unsettled by the definition of self-care that our society has found true.
Intrinsically, self-care is not negative (obviously). Our bodies make non-negotiable physical demands, our minds need time to process and rest, and our emotions really need our attention. The chaos of work and paying bills and dealing with our feelings is a part of life that all of us are trying to find balance within. We are all learning how to give space to these aspects of life, and to do so in a healthy way. However, most of what I see practiced when people use terms like "self-love" or "self-care," has more to do with consumerism and less to do with connection and communion with self.
Binge eating a box of donuts during emotional turmoil is not self-care, it's impulse happiness. It's an aversion to the deeper issue. A manicure or spa day, expensive new wardrobe can all really feel like we're treating ourselves, when actually, we are running. There are times when it's appropriate to make space for ourselves, where we can be alone or someplace beautiful, or even buy ourselves a latte, but if most of our "self-care" is based on treating ourselves to consumer goods more than it is feeling and processing our emotions and assessing our failures or re-strategizing, than I hate to say it, but we're doing it wrong.
I have personally found that self-care is often the exact opposite of excessive indulgence. It's about restraint and denial and self-control. It's usually doing the hard, ugly, unbeautiful, everyday things that push me closer to peace and security. Ways like: reconfiguring a budget or a plan to get out of debt or increase savings, creating a healthy meal plan, or just making time to sit with my emotions until I can find resolve. Consumer self-care is a form of escapism, and will only make us more selfish. Nobody becomes a whole person by running.
I have a history of running. Of changing scenery. Of busyness. It has taken years of practice for me to be able to confront the conflicted and wounded feelings within myself, and really am still very much learning to navigate through such things, rather than hiding behind a book, a podcast, or another commitment. Self-care is quite ofte, me, sitting humbly (and embarrassingly) before all of my unsavory feelings and tendencies, and asking myself hard questions that will get me to the why.
Before we engineer another deed committed in the name of "self-care," I pose that we ask ourselves if this is something that will benefit our health and overall long-term wellness. If self-care is the preservation of one's self, than we have to be able to ask which part of ourselves we'd like to preserve.