Sometimes self-care really is salt baths and massages

There has been a sentiment on social media that has alarmed me for a while now. It goes like this, “Self care isn’t always hot baths and mani pedis. Sometimes it’s making hard decisions and self work.” Here’s why this concerns me: our society is all “go” and no stop. We hyper value hard work, rushing and busyness. And something comes around to genuinely care for ourselves, and even that gets turned into “hard work.” Can’t we just let self-care be self-care?

Really…no, really, it’s nice.

I’m for self-work and “hard decisions.” Actually, I think emotional work is far more important than any other medical or behavior-based solution. Our culture leaves just about everyone with some amount of toxic shame or anxiety as they enter adulthood. Lifting all that is important. I am a big fan that we make good decisions from a state of homeostasis. In other words, when we are calm. And when we do find ourselves in difficult situations, we still want to get back to homeostasis. Life is rocky and turbulent, but there should be a stable center in there somewhere, guiding us and instructing us on what is best for us. When a novice captain of a ship first steps on a ship, they need to know what stable feels like before they start taking risks. I’ve made lots of hard decisions in my life. I yanked the ship hard left instead of right, even though right seemed like my main goal for years. I’ve sat through painful emotions. I’ve wondered what the future would look like. But I’d call all this something other than “self-care.” I’d call it navigating emotions and understanding the various transformations we go through as humans.

I guess my main concern is that we are pitting one thing against another. Self care ISN’T just mani pedis. It’s ALSO making hard decisions. You fool. Like, these things don’t need to be pitted against the other. And, in the process, the only real result is legit self-care–yes, the mani pedis–again gets demoted. Our society really likes to do this. When there is something comforting we might need, which would require support, e.g., we would need someone to watch the kids while we go out to get a massage, instead we like to turn it all around on the person struggling, by telling them actually what they need is to be willing to make more hard decisions. We hand out advice to meditate, mind your diet, and think of the positive like no other. We aren’t as quick to watch the kids for a while, so the other can get a rest. We keep the focus, constantly, on the individual to do something and not on the outer community to provide community support.

These things can be decoupled. Hard decisions can be hard decisions, and, yes, I hope they work out for you in the long run. But can we please just let self-care be self-care? And, by the way, there is someone you know who probably needs the mani pedi.

Amber documents the age-related stages children go through and indulges the occasional salt bath. Send the overworked, overtired parents in your life to The Observant Mom.

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