A few weeks back I talked about how accepting our bodies is associated with failure, as well as the belief that body acceptance is just an excuse to not care of yourself. Because we believe that if we stop the insanity of trying to shrink ourselves, we’re ultimately giving up, letting go, and won’t be taking care of ourselves.
But let me ask you, what does it look like to take care of yourself? When I bring this up in consults, I hear things like,
“I need to be working out more…” Or,
“I should be doing more meal prepping…” Or,
“I know I have to start eating more vegetables…”
And, yes, the essence of these things is self-care (to the extent you want these things for yourself), but they are far from the self-care I’m talking about.
We have a skewed perspective of what taking care of ourselves really means
And here’s the thing… it’s subjective! Self-care is not an obligation and if it feels forced, then that’s a good sign that it’s not the type of care you need. What each of us needs is very different and what might feel good to one person, might feel dreadful to someone else.
Self-care is about making choices with your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being in mind. Does that mean that act of self-care is going to check every box? Nope. It also means that taking care of yourself in one area, may neglect something else, but we choose to sacrifice based on our needs in the moment.
For example, I might say no to an evening out with friends if I’m exhausted, because it’s more important to me to give my body rest. I may miss out on the socialization that I love, but it’s more important to me that evening to rest.
“So, does this mean that I shouldn’t be disciplined about working out?”
No, but it doesn’t mean forcing yourself to run on the treadmill when you’d rather go for a walk. Forcing is only going to lead to burnout, heaps of guilt when you don’t go, and you likely not working out at all. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m a hell of a lot more motivated when I can meet myself where I am each day and make choices based on that.
You have to value whatever it is you’re doing.
If we stick with our exercise example, you have to value movement and exercise, rather than just do it because you should. If what you’re doing feels like a chore, then you need to give yourself permission to try something different and less intense. That way, you’ll be able to experience what it feels like to move your body in ways that feel good, energize you, and decrease stress, which is ultimately what keeps you motivated.
A lot of the women I work with drag themselves through exercise they hate because, “anything less doesn’t count.” However, they’re miserable and despise working out, but the thought of going for a walk or shortening their workout means they’re giving up or aren’t disciplined enough. And this is a lie.
Do I always want to exercise every day? No, do I? No. But many times I go because I love the way it makes me feel and it’s important to me to take care of my body- but I do it on my terms. And when I allow for the ebb and flow of each day, doing for my body what it wants and is able to do, it makes me want to move that much more.
Defining self-care on your terms
With this in mind, it’s important to note that self-care will likely change on a daily basis, and it’s a matter of meeting yourself where you are and tending to your needs as they see fit. And most important to understand is that self-care is not just about eating your veggies, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep and exercise, sometimes it’s….
- Spending extra time on the couch after a busy few days watching your favorite Netflix series
- Taking a day off from working out
- Going on three walks in one day because all you want to do is move
- Staying up till 2AM in order to spend time with family who’s visiting from out of town
- Eating a salad because that’s exactly what you want, not because you should
- Getting pizza with friends
- Saying yes to someone you love when you want to say no, simply because you know how happy it will make them
- Saying no to a favor that’s asked of you
- Taking a break from social media
- Eating food that doesn’t taste great but because it’s your only option and you need to eat
- Having a glass of wine
- Saying no to a Yoga class because you just don’t like Yoga!
Point is, there is no right way. What’s best for you in the moment might not always feel the best physically, be the “best” for your health (according to which source you pull from), or align with what others think you should do, and that’s okay. You need to define it for yourself and allow yourself permission to do what works for you, even if it goes against the status quo.
So, say no to the should, musts, and have to’s and watch what happens when you give yourself the chance to create your own beliefs.