Self-Care: It’s Not What You Think It Is

It’s not your imagination. Everybody’s talking about self-care these days.

You can hardly find a lifestyle blog, women’s magazine or academic journal that doesn’t have an article on the topic. And a quick Google search of the term will quickly send you quickly down a digital rabbit hole that’s typical of the internet.

But despite it’s recent surge in “blogability”, the concept of self-care isn’t new.  After all, old school lessons on the importance of exercise, a balanced diet and getting your beauty sleep are all lessons in self-care. But there’s so much more to it.

What vs. Why

First, what is self-care? Well, it’s not any one thing in particular, but here are some examples of what it might look like:


  • Getting a massage.
  • Doing aromatherapy with essential oils.
  • Taking a leisurely walk through your favorite park.
  • Getting an annual wellness exam.
  • Enjoying a good book.
  • Going to the gym.
  • Writing in your journal.
  • Getting a pedicure.
  • Having sex.
  • Making your bed.
  • Washing your hair.
  • Lighting a scented candle.
  • Losing weight.
  • Taking a bubble bath.
  • Drinking a glass of wine.
  • Drinking a green smoothie.
  • Getting your wisdom teeth pulled.
On the surface, these things might not seem to have much in common. That’s because self-care isn’t just about what you’re doing. The why matters just as much. It’s not all about having fun, or pampering yourself because you deserve it. It’s about acting with an awareness of self, improving your relationship with yourself, and doing something to enhance your well-being. 

To You vs. For You

Anything can be self-care, but only when you do it for yourself, on purpose, because it’s good for you.  The flipside of this coin is that a typical self-care activity done without healthy consideration of yourself won’t feel like self-care.  Doing something to yourself isn’t the same as doing something for yourself, so going through the motions isn’t enough.

An exercise regimen isn’t self-care if it’s a tool you use to berate and belittle yourself.  Accepting an invitation to go out with your friends out of obligation when you’d rather stay home and rest isn’t self-care.  Getting lost in a good book because you’re trying to escape the reality of a life that you hate isn’t self-care.

Self-care must come from a place of loving intention from you and for you.  That’s why something as un-fun as getting dental surgery or a mammogram can be self-care. Deciding to trade short-term discomfort for long-term health gains is an act of love.  It’s also why having a drink (or three) might not be self-care—feeling better and numbing your feelings are not the same thing.

So go ahead and lose those five extra pounds.  Put on those skinny jeans with the built-in tummy control panel. Have a Wednesday night wine-down with your favorite Chardonnay.  Treat yourself to that mani-pedi. Netflix and chill with your boo.

Do it for you, not for your haters. #selfcare Click To Tweet

But do it because you want to.  Do it because you like how it makes you feel.  Do it because you like who you are when you have these habits.  Do it because you’re running toward something amazing, not because you’re running away from something awful.  Do it for you, not for your haters. 

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