Zoie Denton is an English sophomore and the views expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
The narrative surrounding self-care today is one of consumption: go buy a face mask and a bottle of wine or treat yourself to that gift you’ve been saving up for.
There is not a lot of room for introspection when you are constantly attempting to fill an emotional void with whatever trinket brings you momentary joy. The question is— are you really caring for yourself or are you caring for capitalism?
The first and most crucial form of self-care is knowing who you are caring for. How are you supposed to care for yourself without knowing yourself?
People have all kinds of different needs and I know for a fact that what makes me feel loved and cared for is not applicable to everyone. It took a lot of trial and error for me to figure out the practice that evolved into my form of self-care. It took a whole lot of questioning too.
Why is self-care not viewed as a 24-hour activity? Why does the self-care narrative in society mainly cater toward women? Why do I feel like it isn’t working?
The truth is that it is hard; developing your intuition and listening to your inner voice is no easy task. When faced with all these questions it is important to dig toward the very root of them.
For instance, the question that implies men are removed from the self-care movement can be picked apart. One of the many reasons this is so is because society hasn’t figured out how to adequately profit from men’s self-care. Men are told to shut their minds off through video games or heavy drinking, women are encouraged to reflect on their emotions and everyone else is left out entirely.
Self-care should not be gendered and the more we put restrictions on what it should or shouldn’t be, the more we are missing the point. I’ve struggled with this enough to have developed my own loose guidelines for truly beneficial self-care, and while it definitely varies from person to person, I hope these can get you on the right track (or keep you going).
Don’t consume, create
Face masks, tv shows and chocolate, while fun, don’t really do anything except distract you from yourself. Instead, put some effort into a hobby. This could be cooking, building, writing or anything else that comes from you. It does not have to turn out amazing and it does not have to be “creative” in the traditional sense.
It’s about you, not your aesthetic
It is easy to get wrapped up in the aesthetic of self-care that often includes loads of cleanliness, serene music and smiles. However, my version of self-care rarely looks anything like what I see reflected in the media.
It can be painful, growing often is
We often see self-care as a joy-inducing activity. In reality, many of the times where I have taken a night to focus on myself haven’t been all that pretty. Caring for yourself includes letting yourself feel all of your emotions, especially the ones that you tend to avoid feeling most of the time.
Establish some goals early on
Self-care can mean a lot of different things, and it can get overwhelming really quickly, so ask yourself what your goals are. Do you need to relax more? Express your emotions? Get out some pent-up energy? Be by yourself for even just an hour? Once you determine what you need, it is a whole lot easier to feel more fulfilled in your daily life.
Go to therapy— how many times do you have to hear it?
You need it. Seriously. I do not need to know anything about you to know that therapy will likely impact your life in a positive way (if you make sure to find a therapist that fits with your personality and needs). I know what you’re thinking, but your friends do not count and it is not fair to put the burden of being your therapist on them. Finding a therapist may seem daunting at first, but it has made my life better in ways I did not even realize needed improving.