The millennials had their obsession with avocados and the minimal prospects of ever being able to afford to buy their own house. Now Gen Z’s legacy is quickly emerging as the internet’s newest buzzword: self-care.
We’ve all heard it, and probably given it as a reason for overspending on ASOS or as an excuse for an extra gla…bottle of wine after a hard day. But do we really know what it means to practice self-care?
The NHS website defines it, perhaps very obviously, as “the actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness.” And that seems simple enough.
To many, self-care looks like a face mask and Lush bath bomb. To others, it’s a walk in the fresh air and putting away their phone.
Anything that gives us peace of mind when we need it most can, technically, be classed as self-care, but by doing that we often fail to grasp the nuanced and important ideas behind it.
True self-care goes deeper than looking after yourself, than knowing you’ve had a rough time so taking it easy for a while. It is, of course, physical, but also psychological, emotional and spiritual, the latter often being ignored in the practice of it.
It’s about listening to what your body and mind need and acting on it in a sustainable way. If we’re struggling, yes, we can light a candle to relax, but we should also be getting to the crux of the problem, identifying any behaviours or situations that are counter-productive to our happiness, and assessing how we can rectify them. Usually, this rectification looks like a bit more than a pamper night.
That is not to say that you’re doing self-care wrong, though.
When I asked my group chat how they self-care, they shared with me their practices, but not without adding how “basic” they were. I don’t at all want to encourage shaming towards certain methods. A lot of self-care practices are performative, and I’m not here to mock that at all. Self-care already has a tendency to be marketed and viewed as something selfish, usually by the same cohort that describes young people as “snowflakes” un-ironically.
Self-care is selfish, because that’s literally the point. Behind it all, it’s about valuing yourself and your health (both mental and physical) enough to make a marked effort to improve or maintain it. If carving out small moments of sanctuary in our corporate and capitalist machine of existence is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right. We should be loving ourselves out loud.
However, it’s all about making sure that the performative elements don’t overshadow or replace the real, sometimes hard, aspects of self-care. Sitting down and evaluating yourself and your happiness isn’t an easy thing at all, but it’s important to start somewhere to cultivate that mindset – you are good enough for reward one.
Some of the best advice I have ever received was: trust that when you ride yourself hard it is for a reason, and trust that the world will not fall apart if you pull back a bit, and trust that you sometimes have to go beyond your edge to find out where it is.
To me, that completely embodies what self-care truly means. Trusting and valuing yourself enough to manifest that in action.
And it’s never been more important. Knowing when to stop – when enough is enough – is something I struggle with immensely. In a culture where “boss bitch” is the ultimate compliment a modern woman can strive for, I’ve often found myself overworking (and being proud of it) under the guise of being a #girlboss. Staying up to write until 3AM and going to work on less than four hours sleep has been something I’ve bragged about on numerous occasions as if this sacrifice was somehow glamorous.
I wasn’t listening to my body. I was ignoring every fibre inside me that was screaming that I needed to rest, needed to press pause. I didn’t want to because I was scared of taking time for myself. Unlearning this narrative of pushing until I can’t push any more has been the ultimate lesson in self-care.
Now repeat after me: we are more – we deserve to know it and treat ourselves accordingly.
Follow Amy on Twitter