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What It Really Means to Take Care of Yourself


Apr. 23, 2021 Psychology Today

Real self-care probably isn’t what you think it is. It isn’t all about escaping and relaxing. Although it pays off for your well-being in the long run, in the present, self-care can be a hard thing to do.

Taking care of yourself might look like making a plan to pay off your debt, sticking to a hard morning routine, or cooking healthy meals. It’s facing your problems and unresolved issues head-on, instead of avoiding them and then trying to distract or soothe yourself later.

Self-care means doing what makes you anxious now, like setting boundaries with tough people, saying no when you don’t want to do something, getting through a tough workout, or telling someone something they don’t want to hear. Taking care of yourself means compassionately accepting yourself for who you are instead of burning yourself out trying to be everything to everyone all the time. It’s living your life in a way that doesn’t leave you needing to check out or take a break just so you can have a bath, read a book, or sip tea.

Currently, consumer-based self-care is a very popular topic; however, a world we need to escape from in the name of self-care is a world that needs a perspective change. Self-care isn’t something we should be doing just because we’re so burnt out that we need time away from our internal and external pressures. 

Real self-care isn’t massages and green juices; it’s choosing to create a life that you don’t feel the need to regularly check out of.  

Self-care means doing things you initially don’t want to do and making the choice to do what’s uncomfortable. It means accepting your personal failures and disappointing relationships, then deciding to re-strategize them. It’s not about giving in to your immediate urges when that means giving up on a long-term goal. It’s about forgiving, letting go, and accepting what you can’t change. It’s about being willing to let people down and even saying goodbye to some of them. Self-care can sometimes be about putting your life aside to care for someone in need, and other times about putting yourself first above those who drain you. Ultimately, it’s about living a life you choose, not one that you sleepwalk through.

Self-care is allowing yourself to be normal and average, instead of always pushing yourself to be perfect or exceptional. It means letting your house stay messy when you’re tired of cleaning up or deciding you don’t need the perfect body after all. It’s knowing yourself and understanding how you operate, so you can decide what changes are the right ones to make in your life. 

If you constantly feel like you need a break, it may be because you’re disconnected from living a life that includes you in it. Real self-care isn’t so much about treating yourself as it is about taking actions for your personal growth and development, aiming to choose what’s better for your wellness in the long run.

Self-care is not about believing that being super busy is a badge of honor and making yourself so exhausted that you self-sabotage in ways that aren’t actually good for you. It’s about taking time to take care of yourself because you truly know that you aren’t broken and don’t need fixing. Once you start doing the real self-care, you start realizing that loving yourself and compassionately being there for you might just solve many of your problems.

When you take care of yourself, you become the author, not the victim, of your life. You create a life you truly enjoy, instead of one you might need recovery, or even therapy, from. It’s not creating a life that looks good on paper, but one that fits well with who you are. It’s letting go of some of your goals so that you can truly live a more balanced life. It’s choosing to no longer make decisions based on what will ease your anxiety, but instead based on what will be good for you tomorrow or the next day. It’s not looking to others to meet your needs; it’s meeting your own needs. 

Self-care is living a life that’s meaningful and being true to yourself. It’s knowing that massages and green juices are great ways to enjoy life, not escape from it. 

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