As a social work student, self-care is one of those terms that’s just overused. If you don’t practice self-care, you’ll get a burnout is something that is often said by my professors. And that is absolutely true. But we often talk about self-care in the sense of (instant) gratification. We talk about that things that bring us pleasure, like eating a dessert or soaking in a bubble bath. Treat yo’self style.
And while this is absolutely a form of self-care, I feel like there is often an entire side of self-care forgotten. A side that isn’t as photogenic and won’t look cool on your Instagram.
I realized this myself when I went through a rough patch a while back. Feeling bad every day is exhausting, and it makes you want to indulge in these pleasurable activities like it’s a lifeline – and sometimes it is. And while these activities have their place in self-care, it didn’t help me to feel better in the long run. Instead, some of it made me feel even worse.
Self-care is often an ugly thing. It’s making a spreadsheet of all your bills and/or debt, enforcing a morning routine even though you don’t feel like it, going for a run in the pouring rain, cutting out a toxic friend, cooking yourself healthy meals when you feel like eating fries and above all: being honest with yourself.
Pleasurable activities have their place in self-care, but only after you practice making the conscious choice to tell yourself the truth, and to work on building a life that you are comfortable in – a life you don’t need to escape from. It’s being okay with not being everything all at once. Accepting your flaws as they are and knowing that your past mistakes don’t define you.
Because if you only spend time on the pleasurable activities, you’ll get the instant gratification, but not the long-term benefits. And in my opinion, those long-term benefits are what self-care is really all about.