I don't know about you, but I have a hard time putting my own needs before the needs of others. While intellectually I know that self-care is important, I have simultaneously bought into secretly toxic ideas about self-care that aren't true. Sound familiar? A lot of people think self-care is not only selfish, but requires a lot of time and a lot of $$$. If you think self-care isn't accessible to you, and you're tired of self-care being touted by every celebrity with unlimited resources, you're not alone.
For years I found every excuse possible for why I couldn't meditate, treat myself to much-needed alone time, or say no to someone. These small things I constantly denied myself are actually examples of self-care. When you live your whole life meeting other people's expectations, your own needs fall through the cracks. And, when this happens, the universe might eventually send you a message in the form of an illness, or other road block, that forces you to slow down and take care of yourself.
One of the best examples of putting yourself first that I've seen is recent memory is Lady Gaga canceling her tour to take care of her health. It's an important message that you can say no and put yourself first — because at a certain point, you'll have to. On her fan app Little Monsters, Gaga wrote, "I am putting myself first in a way I haven't before. It is very difficult and scary, but I know it will make me healthier."
If you too have bought into the toxic ideas that self-care is out of your reach, it's time to free yourself and put you first by abandoning these toxic self-care myths.
1. Self-Care Is Too Expensive
Self-care doesn't have to cost a thing, but many of us have bought into the idea that in order to practice self-care we need to book a day at a swanky spa. It's simply not true. Self-care can be as easy as taking an hour to watch your favorite show, taking a bath, or even a nap. "Sometimes [self-care] is just having your friends feed you some good food," Loba, a California-based queer Andina artist and self-care facilitator, told Frances Solá Santiago for PEOPLE magazine.
2. Self-Care Is Selfish
OK, I will admit that I often cringe when I hear the phrase "self love." But, I also secretly wonder why it's so hard for people to embrace loving themselves. On Psychology Today, Barbara Markway Ph.D. explained that people are conditioned to doubt their self worth, which makes them less likely to put themselves first.
"The messages we receive from our culture, others, and ourselves become deeply ingrained, in part due to sheer repetition," Markway wrote. "Because these negative messages bombard us, and because we never stop to question whether they're true, we internalize the feeling that we are, indeed, defective." If no one has told you today, you matter. And, taking care of yourself is not selfish, it's mandatory.
3. Self-Care Is A Luxury, Not A Necessity
While you might think self-care always has to be a treat, sometimes it's simply something that will make your life easier or less stressful. For me this is cleaning my house or clearing my inbox, because a messy house and overflowing email sends my anxiety into high gear. In its most basic form, self-care is about making your life better for you, instead of for other people, and this looks different for everyone.
"It is often doing the ugliest thing that you have to do, like [...] tell a toxic friend you don’t want to see them anymore or get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time and then needing to take deliberate, mandated breaks from living to do basic things like drop some oil into a bath and read Marie Claire and turn your phone off for the day," Brianna Wiest explained on Thought Catalog.
4. Self-Care Means You Have To Meditate
Not unlike Lorelai Gilmore, my brain is a nonstop reel of gibberish that I can never quite shut off, which is why I dismissed meditation for years. I simply cannot sit quietly with my thoughts, which made me feel like a meditation failure. Then I learned that there are different kinds of meditation. For example, you can go for a quiet walk in nature, practice deep breathing, mantra meditation, or yoga, lie down with your eyes closed, listen to music — the list is pretty much endless.
"The best meditation is the meditation that works for you, at this stage in you life," blogger Giovanni wrote on the website Live and Dare. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to meditating, so you can officially stop feeling bad if you're incapable of sitting still with your thoughts for 20 minutes. I'm right there with you.
5. Self-Care Requires A Lot Of Time
There was a time in my life where I was going to school full time, working full time, and planning an out of state wedding. Looking back, I don't know how I survived this time period without having a total meltdown. During this time I convinced myself that I had zero time for self-care, and I ended up getting really sick. I have since learned that the idea that self-care has to be time consuming is a total myth. On the Huffington Post, Psychotherapist and Spiritual Subconscious Mind Specialist Jenn Bovee explained that just 10 minutes a day is enough time to practice self-care.
"If you are wanting to develop the habit of self-care my recommendation is to take [three] minutes twice a day. During those [three] minutes: shut off your phone, walk away from your computer [...] and just breathe. Check in with your body and just notice where the stress is collecting. Breathe into that spot and notice the change." Basically, simply acknowledging your feelings and taking a deep breath is an act of self-care.
6. Self-Care Is Something You Don't Deserve
I'm quite familiar with the concept of not taking care of yourself because you think everyone else's needs are more important than yours. I also know from experience that this is a one-way road to major burnout. "Just as airplane passengers are told to put their own oxygen masks on first in an emergency, taking care of your own well-being first enables you to help yourself and others," the website Psych Alive reported.
What's more, denying yourself basic self-care reinforces the false idea that you're not worthy of it. "Self-care is central to living a life that’s productive, fulfilling, and that you feel good about," according to Psych Alive. So, if you feel like you don't deserve self-care, you are actually one of the people who needs it the most. And, you totally deserve it. Try doing one nice thing for yourself today. It can be as simple as treating yourself to a coffee at your favorite cafe, or turning down an invitation you accepted out of obligation.
7. Self-Care Is A Chore
While self-care is vital to being happy and healthy, it shouldn't feel like a chore or obligation — something you dread or have to check off a list. "You don’t take care of yourself because you have to, or because it's good for you — you take care of yourself because you are the only one on earth like you, you are precious and you deserve to be cared for," Unimed Living reported.
You may be rolling your eyes, and I totally get it. Barf, right? While self-care can sound new age-y AF, taking care of yourself is your basic human right. If you can't wrap your mind around the concept of self-care and self love, consider changing the way you think about it. Do one thing every day that you love or that makes you feel good, and call it whatever you want.