Self-care is a trendy concept. You’ll find articles and videos all over the internet about the reasons for self-care, self-care ideas, and self-care routines. But what puzzles me is that somehow talk about self-care seems almost inevitably to end up in a description of self-indulgence.
I don’t think pampering is synonymous with self-care. In fact, it is amazing how much of the concept this definition seems to leave out. Pampering is about tending to the physical pleasures of the body, and although this can often positively affect the mind, it still neglects so many aspects of ourselves.
Truly caring for ourselves begins with showing ourselves the respect we deserve as human persons.
To me, this means taking care of our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Luxuriating in a scented bath is very nice, but if we don’t feed our bodies on a healthy diet, that scented bath is not really going to do us lasting good. Listening to relaxing music by candlelight may be peaceful, but if we don’t make getting the right amount of sleep a priority, the music and candles will benefit us only partially and briefly.
Our bodies deserve food, sleep, and exercise. Our minds deserve active nourishment and rest. Our souls deserve thriving relationships with others and with God. If we give ourselves these things, we are genuinely caring for ourselves.
And the beauty of this definition is twofold: 1) it takes into account the whole person; and 2) it changes self-care from an event into a lifestyle.
Living a life in which these things are ever present is living a life of self-care. What would this look like? It would have to begin with knowing ourselves. We would need to know the requirements and capabilities of our bodies, the powers and limitations of our minds, our temperaments and strengths and faults, and the desires of our hearts. And in accord with this knowledge we would live and act.
We would eat the foods that make us fit and avoid (in general) those that don’t. We would find out how much sleep we need and make getting that a priority. We would learn our requirements and tastes for exercise and work out a program that is effective and supportable.
We would find out our interests and pursue them. We would read good books, listen to good music, and watch good movies and television shows. If we liked study, we would engage in it.
We would seek out and cultivate genuine friendships. We would keep our schedules healthily balanced, even if this meant saying no once in a while. We would strive to overcome the defects in our characters. We would pray.
All these things go toward properly looking after ourselves and seeing that we are the healthiest and happiest we can be. They get to the core of things rather than merely touching the surface. Self-indulgent pampering may be pleasant, but we won’t cause ourselves to thrive with bubble baths and manicures.