Self-care and self-love are both ‘hot topics’ right now as people are becoming more open about their mental health (and general health) needs. They are practices I have become more adept at in recent years; however, I have had to teach myself and I’ve had stand and fight for myself when I have been accused of being selfish. I often find myself repeating the same advice, which indicates to me it’s something people need to hear more of. So here we are:
As children we were taught that selfishness was an ugly quality. We were told to be kind, to share and to take care of others. We still teach this and it is still true but that is just the basic starting point. Somewhere in my own growth I missed the bit where I was taught the boundaries of this. I was taught to take care of myself of course, but this to me felt more physical: keep myself safe, don’t put myself in dangerous situations, drink water, wear sun-cream, eat well, etc (Self-care) I wasn’t taught to speak to myself kindly, to be proud of my ‘otherness’ or even my intelligence. This wasn’t the role of my parent (who did try to teach me these things but also suffered the same environment) it was that of society and it just wasn’t there in the 90’s.
Selfishness, vanity, decadence, pleasure and sexuality were all ugly words. It took me a long time to re-frame these ideas and also to learn that I am worthy of all these things. I can enjoy my body without being a slut. I can be happy in my skin without being vain. I can put my own needs before the needs of others because it is important. I am important! Say it! Scream it!
When I treat myself like I am not important, I invite others to do the same and round and around it goes until we all feel equally shit and worthless, lost in the need to put on a brave face or lie. For the love of the gods we lied about everything, body hair, birth marks, interests, who we loved, it breaks my heart to think the people I love ever didn’t the same; so why did I?
The basic level of Self-care is as I described before, the basics. However, if we take a more active role in taking care of ourselves it becomes something entirely more wholesome.
Take care of yourself the way you would a loved one- With love and sensitivity. Easier said than done I know. For example resting:
in this world we push ourselves to succeed, to slay, to be our best selves and that’s great! What it doesn’t mean is pushing yourself to the point of breaking repeatedly. What would you say to a friend who was doing this, take a break? Recharge? You can pick it up after? I hope so. I doubt you would be there shouting at a person you care about to ‘man up’, ‘get a grip’ or ‘fake it to make it’ so don’t do it to yourself.
When a friend puts effort in to be honest with you about their downfalls; you don’t berate them or further point out their failings.
When a friend tells you their mental health is suffering I hope you tell them their feelings are valid and it’s going to be OK, because you care about them. I hope you help them realise what is important and where their energy is required at that point. (clue:It sure as fuck isn’t faking it to make it)
That’s self-care: treating yourself with the same care and sensitivity as you do with people you care about. Self. Care. Simple.
This bit is slightly more tricky to explain. Again, as children (perhaps teenagers) we were taught this was a bad thing. A person who loved themselves was seen as arrogant and full-of-themselves (That phrase alone says a lot, I am full of myself it’s only me in here!). It has become habit to put ourselves down for the way we look, the things we love, to be less, smaller.
If we re-frame it as before but this time not just a friend but someone you love, through and through.
You would tell them when they are being awesome. You quiet their self doubts. You pre-empt what you think they will need/enjoy and you gift it to them. You celebrate their success and show them silver linings when they need to be shown. This is what we need to be doing to love ourselves.
I’ll give an example…Smear tests. They are an uncomfortable yet necessary part of Self-care (please ladies get yourself checked) they are daunting and awkward. We don’t want to do it but we do.
I used to go in my lunch break, (or similar small amount of free time) get it over with, then back to work no fuss. Everyone has to do it. Then I thought about what I would do for a friend or loved one to make them feel better about it.
Now when I have a smear test, I clear the afternoon and take myself to lunch or reward myself with a pint (usually both actually) because I deserve it. Ok, I just laid there while a lady shone a torch up my vagina and made awkward small talk (up my vagina) before jabbing me in the cervix with an evil spiky q-tip of death. I didn’t have to do much but I love myself, so I get myself the adult equivalent of a sticker and lolly.
self-love can be gifting yourself time and experiences you would to someone you loved. Gonna have a bath? Make it decadant. It can also be standing up for yourself in the way you do your loved ones. My GFF likes shitty pop music. It’s not a ‘guilty pleasure’. They have nothing to feel guilty about. They like Taylor Swift and I love them so yeah. We’re gonna listen to Taylor Swift. Don’t like it. Fuck off. Gift yourself that too.
If we can all learn to value and love ourselves as much as we do each other there would be a lot less healing left to do. It would just be normal to put yourself first and no one would feel guilty because we could all do it.
One final point on selfishness and it is one thing I do still struggle with and that is BOUNDARIES. As a self-caring, Self-loving badass I do still find myself giving too much of my time and energy away. I prioritise the needs of others before myself. In the interest of Self-care I acknowledge that it is part of who I am as a person and I don’t beat myself up over it; I just keep practicing. what I have learnt is this- one cannot pour from an empty cup. I pour from the overfill. Which sometimes means cancelling plans or telling someone I just don’t have the emotional space at the time. This comes across as selfish…because it is. It is also necessary. I am allowed to be it. I am allowed to have it. So are we all.
I hope if you’re reading this, you can recognise yourself and others in it. Please, spread the message and the love. The more we talk and share the more we normalise the behavior.
Much love. Peace out witches ✌️