Let me kick this radical self-care rant off with an admission: I’m a totally Type-A, overthinking, overworking, overplanning person by nature, and it’s taken me a loooooong time to break myself of some really bad habits.
The early days
I straight-edged my way through high school entirely on the power of my ability to nerd out and get good grades, coming in number two in my class and giving a totally kick-ass (if I do say so myself) salutatorian speech at graduation, but never going out or partying or doing anything remotely “cool.” (I’ll bet you can imagine how popular that made me.)
Then after serving six years on active duty military service, instead of taking a break and getting some much-needed “me-time” in, I immediately jumped into a lucrative, highly upwardly mobile government contracting job, which basically involved working my tooshie off, hustling for new clients all the time, and doing the whole corporate rat-race thing.
But let’s go a little further back in time for a minute. When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a whole lot of money. My mom loved us kids and did what she could, and we never went without the “basic-basics,” you know. But we also moved around a lot, lived with my grandmother for a while because we didn’t have anywhere else to go, and school field-trips and fundraisers were stressful times in our house, because the school’s general expectation was for parents to fork over money at these times — money we didn’t have. I mean, I used to hear about schoolmates going on their “annual family vacations” and that concept was so foreign to me that I couldn’t even conceive of what it must be like to have that much money.
Which is to say, growing up, I never learned to prioritize self-care. I mean, as far as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs goes, when I was a child, my family was still struggling to get all the basic-basic needs taken care of, never mind the higher-level psychological and self-actualization ones. And even as an adult, my natural inclination, with my whole Type-A, INFJ, 2w3 personality mix, was to push through the tough times, suck it up when things were stressful, and take care of everyone else’s feelings and needs before my own. So I wasn’t naturally inclined to prioritize self-care.
Learning to care for self
It wasn’t until sometime in my 30s, around the time when I first started questioning the role that alcohol was playing in my life (and realizing that, despite what advertisers and sitcom writers might have us believe, wine was, in fact, NOT self-care), that I really started taking self-care seriously.
This is when I consciously started making time for regular, healthy PLAY activities (like rock-climbing and taking totally awesome-sauce Argentine tango classes) and for healing and rejuvenation-oriented activities (like Bikram yoga, long-form Yang-style Tai Chi, massage, acupuncture, juice cleanses, etc).
I kinda started out doing “self-care light,” but eventually, I learned how to dive into radical self-care with a vengeance when I needed it. You guys, there were weeks when I would literally get a massage and/or an acupuncture treatment every day for 5 or 6 days in a row (P.S. community acupuncture and massage school prices totally rock for doing this on the cheap), because I could just feel my body, mind, and spirit crying out for nurturing and love, and I was committed to being kinder to myself than I had been in the “push through and suck it up” days.
But here’s the kicker: I never told anyone when I went on these week-long self-care binges, not family, not friends. No one. Why? Honestly, it was because I felt like people would look at me strangely or question what I was doing, like it was somehow possible to overdo it on self-care, and I was on some level afraid that someone would call me out and try to stage a radical self-care intervention. You know, like, be all, “Stop! Back away from the massage therapist! You don’t know what you’re doing! Can’t you see how this is hurting us?”
Is self-care really that radical?
Why is self-care such a radical concept these days, anyway? I mean, I know we can’t all have week-long self-care binges all the time. Well, my lifestyle certainly doesn’t allow for it, anyway, LOL. (If yours does, I totally envy you! And also are you looking for a sugar baby? J/K. Sorta.) Seriously though, why is having the audacity to suggest that taking a break and recuperating from the stress of your day-to-day every now and then such a hard thing for most people to swallow?
Why are we so quick to say, “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t have the money”?
There are lots of self-care activities that don’t require much money (like relaxing in a long hot bath or spending an hour stretched out in the sun reading a good book), and lots that don’t require much time (like doing just a minute or two of meditation or even just pausing to take a few deep breaths).
In flight, we all know that in the event of a sudden change in cabin pressure, we need to put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others. Yet we often don’t follow that advice when it comes to “real life.” Don’t we want to be at our best, to be our best selves, when dealing with those we love? When going into life-changing business meetings or even just when heading to a coffee shop (where, who knows, we just might meet one of the future loves of our life)?
Nobody wants to be a hot mess
Here’s what I’ve learned is true, at least for myself: Radical self-care is not selfish. It is also not an indulgence (unless you choose to let it be… although you have to first have the resources to get all indulgent and opulent with your self-care). It’s a necessity. For fucking realzies, you guys, I turn into a hot mess if I don’t take care of myself, and I don’t like being a hot mess. So I do the damn thing.
I feel like if more people treated self-care as a necessity, there would be a lot less pain and suffering in the world. Because people who aren’t taking care of themselves properly just don’t do as well as they could at spreading love and joy in the world. I mean, just look at that guy in traffic behind you leaning on his horn. Need I say more?
Well, regardless of whether I need to say more or not (I actually do have lots more to say on this subject), I think that’s a good start for now. Keep an eye on the blog for more radical self-care articles in the near future!