According to the Oxford Dictionary, self-care is defined as ‘the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health’. With growing popularity, I feel this definition has become skewed to society. From tweets to Instagrams, I see a wide variety of things being termed as self-care. I view Instagram stories of people shopping with #selfcareday or junk food with claims that that’s all someone has eaten today #selfcare. Do these encompass ‘preserving or improving one’s health’?
On more than one occasion, I have seen other people sacrificing someone else’s happiness for their own with wild claims that their actions were out of self-care. This is always followed by reassurances that self-care is not selfish, but as I am attempting to point out, it can be.
When it comes down to it, is putting your happiness or personal gains above another’s not selfish? To throw another definition at you, according to the Oxford Dictionary, selfish is defined as ‘lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure’.
Similarly, we as society are told it’s our duty to listen, always, regardless of our own needs. However, when someone is not in the right mental space to listen, that is considered to be selfish. In my opinion, it is kind to check and make sure someone is okay to listen before venting, and it is selfish to put your own needs above the needs of another person.
In a similar sense, would you not say it is in your best interest, if help is truly needed, to see a professional versus dumping everything on an unexperienced friend or practicing unhealthy coping mechanisms? I am not saying that talking/venting to friends or family is bad! Quite the opposite. It is very important to keep things open with family and friends, however when it comes down to something serious that someone else may not be able to handle, seeing a professional might be more beneficial to all parties.
Instead of just listing faults, I’m going to explain some pivotal differences between self-care and selfishness to help people gain more directive when calling certain things acts of self-care.
Self-care’s purpose is to maintain/improve your HEALTH. If an act of ‘self-care’ does not directly have implications to maintain or improve your mental and physical health in the short or long term, reconsider what action you are really taking.
Selfishness tends to exclude others. If it seems that you are putting yourself first, but in a way that completely excludes other people (unless that is necessary due to unhealthy/abusive circumstances), this may be a case of selfishness.
And on that note, here are some key ways to practice self-care:
Eat healthy food to fuel your body properly. By properly, I mean getting key nutrients that your body needs to function.
Make an effort to be active. This doesn’t necessarily mean exercise, although this does release serotonin which is linked to your happiness. Other activities like taking a walk in a forest or going for an easy bike ride for fresh air help as well.
Take time for yourself. Whatever that means for you, a bath, face mask, binge watching Netflix, so be it. Taking time for yourself, to relax and do nothing to calm the mind is just as important.
This is not a piece written about fact, but rather one opinionated voice attempting to understand society’s point of view on the popularized idea of self-care.
Written by: Maja Menegotto