Meditate. Yoga. Take a walk. Have a nap. Read. Light some candles. Drink some tea.
These are just a few of the hundreds, maybe thousands of things someone can do as “self care” exercises. Self care is defined simply as doing something you enjoy for no other reason but to show appreciation to yourself.
It’s a great thing, and extremely necessary because people don’t do enough for themselves.
However, self care exercises can easily become another spoke on the wheel of anxiety and judgement.
This happens when people feel the expectation that they SHOULD be doing self care, or the feeling of failure they experience because they are not performing regular self care.
Sometimes, maybe people do self care but they still feel inadequate because they don’t feel they did it well enough – extremely common when starting out in practices such as meditation and yoga.
How might you feel if you can’t stretch as well as everyone else, or you walk into a room and everyone is wearing yoga pants and you are wearing PJ bottoms? You may feel embarrassment or shame. You may feel like a failure. You feel foolish when you are struggling to put your limbs where everyone else is putting theirs.
Then you sit down to meditate, and you can’t seem to shut your mind off. You start to wonder why you can’t control your mind. You aren’t confident you have the correct hand in the correct palm. You feel inferior because everyone around you seems to know exactly what to do. Maybe you should have read a book beforehand?
Then at the end of the night, you finally have time to run a bath, light some candles and drink some tea. Are you lighting tea lights you found in a discount bin at the hardware store, or did you order some special aromatherapy candles? Did you search Pinterest for an idea of how to set your bathroom to get just the right ambiance? You sit down, and think about how your bathroom is dated. You really need to clean the stain marks off the tub (or maybe you already spent the day cleaning the stain marks off the tub).
What I am trying to say (from experience obviously), is that self care is not effective if you are trying to make the experience perfect, or if you are beating yourself up because you don’t feel it is perfect.
Self care is not the same as self CARING.
Self Caring is the act of being kind and compassionate towards yourself. It is being positive about your life and experiences. It is taking the negatives of life in stride, experiencing them but not dwelling on them. Self caring is not an exercise, it’s an experience.
If you judge other people, you need to know that are also judging yourself just as fiercely.
Recognize when you are being hard on yourself or others. Notice those judgments, but don’t be upset with yourself for having those thoughts. They are now a habit, and habits are hard to break. Be forgiving of yourself if you are judgmental.
We have all been through a lot. Trauma, stress, abuse, bullying, overworked, underpaid; there is a lot of suffering going on in the world. We are constantly told we need to be more, do more, own more. We are all trying to do what we feel is best, but no one is perfect.
We all deserve to be treated with kindness, but it starts with treating ourselves with kindness. When you feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, insufficient or insecure, you just need to realize that those emotions are the result of you being critical of yourself.
Engaging in self care activities because you think you’re supposed to or because everyone is doing it will only create more negativity in your life.
Instead, engage in self CARING, because it IS the right thing to do and it will only create more positivity in your life.
There is a great book – “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach – that can help understand the concept of self caring in more depth.