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Self Care Series: For You, Not for Anyone Else

Your doctor tells you that you'd better start exercising.

Your mother tells you you're gaining weight.

Online, your friends' yoga selfies have made you start wondering if you're doing enough.

The old drum beats in your mind, "Not enough. Not enough."

And then you read about how you should be engaging in self-care. Underneath this somewhere there can be a hidden message, "And if you're not caring for yourself enough, your suffering is your fault." It seems the old drumbeat is right after all.

So you start eating your kale, asking, "Is this enough?" You start going to the gym, asking, "Is this enough?" You start posting yoga selfies, asking, "Is this enough?" And if you're still suffering, you might ask yourself, "Haven't I done enough?" And the old drum beats still, "Not enough. Not enough."

The idea of self-care is really important, but it's also a little bit complicated. There are some risks involved. Caring for oneself - being good to our bodies - prioritizing our needs - this is important, this is essential. But to know if this practice will be part of your healing, make sure your motivations match what you actually care about. Is this really for you, or is it for someone else? Is this really for you, or are you only doing this because someone told you that you should?

There's an idea that comes from a therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy - the idea of "wise mind." Wise mind is an inner knowing that we all possess, a part of ourselves that combines the rational and emotional. It's a small, steady inner voice, and in the right frame of mind, we can all access it.

So when you are feeling pressed to do something else, ostensibly for "self-care," ask yourself, "Who am I doing this for? What does my wise mind say?" The answer should feel like it comes from somewhere deep and resonant. Perhaps, your wise mind thinks yoga selfies are a great way to connect with friends and keep yourself motivated on your healing path. Perhaps, your wise mind lets you know that your doctor is right about exercise, but reminds you that the exercise should feel good and not like a punishment. Or, perhaps your wise mind suggests that you might just spend your nights watching Netflix on the couch this week, because you're worn out and haven't been giving yourself the breaks you need.

The thing about self-care is that only you know what will feel healing to you. But one thing's for sure - if your "self-care" is really for someone else, it's not really self care anymore.


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