Self care was a revolutionary concept for me.
It threw my world sideways to realise that not only was it good to spend time looking after myself, but necessary. That giving myself space to do things for myself was ok; was important even.
I first found out about self care on tumblr, and it truly changed the way I approached my life and my mental illness.
It also missed out a few things, a few vital things.
Self care is hard. It is hard work. Some days, you aren’t going to be able to practice self care completely, because self care is about doing things to improve your quality of life. It’s about doing the things you need to do, not just the things you want to.
Some days (most days) I want to stay in bed. Some days that’s ok. Some days letting myself do what I want is directly detrimental to my quality of life, directly detrimental to my health and my mood.
Self care is taking the bin out. It’s painting my nails. It’s taking a shower. It’s taking photos of myself and being vain as fuck. It’s making myself not stay in the same clothes for days on end. It’s not giving myself a hard time for doing ‘time wasting’ activities that make me feel happy. It’s being very aware of what and how I’m eating. It’s (attempting) to let people know how I’m feeling. It’s working on the boring but necessary things. It’s (attempting) to ask for the things I need from other people. It’s setting boundaries. It’s going to sleep earlier than three am.
It’s acknowledging that a lot of the above will not always get done, and that’s ok. So long as it does get done eventually and as often as possible.
Self care is knowing yourself and being honest with yourself. It’s about looking at the kind of life you want to have and person you want to be and working toward that, within whatever restrictions you have to navigate. It is not homogenous; many of the things I’ve listed above would be seriously detrimental to the quality of life of some people.
There are many things, also, that self care is not.
Self care is not doing whatever you want with no regard for the consequences.
It is not doing what I want, when I want, with no regard for other people. It is not letting abusive patterns develop in my relationships because I need/want things from people. It is not demanding attention, or time, or anything from others with no regards for their own space and boundaries.
Self care is important. But you need to be honest. You need to communicate, with others and yourself.
The over-simplification of self care can lead to abusive patterns. Enforcing your boundaries doesn’t just mean no-one crossing them; you have to let them know what those boundaries are first. Getting angry at people for not reading your mind and thus hurting you is not self care, it is an abusive behaviour. Using manipulation to get people to pay attention to you is an abusive action. Ask for attention, don’t force it out of people. Self care is knowing what you need from other people and communicating that, not attacking those who can’t provide what you didn’t ask for.
You’re not looking after yourself when you do this, you’re being an asshole.