I have built a foundation under my coaching practice by helping clients create sustainable, meaningful, and supportive self-care practices. If you have ever worked with me, chances are very high that we have had more than one conversation about self-care. That said, the idea of self-care is showing up more and more as a bypass-fueled distraction BECAUSE self-care is not a cure for everything.
I used to have to beg women to engage in self-care beyond a haircut every six weeks. However, now, I am hearing more women more often offer self-care as what they are doing when forward momentum is desperately needed.
“My boss is still regularly sexually harassing me. It has been going on for more than a year. Right now, though, I am just concentrating on myself. I am getting plenty of rest and eating whole foods. I started meditation last month.”
“I know my rights as a woman are all on the chopping block. I know my daughter will have fewer rights than I did. But I am just so exhausted with it all. I am devoting my time to really being as good as I can to myself.”
“My self-esteem hasn’t been this low since I was a freshman in college. All the weight I gained during my pregnancy and the pandemic is just clinging to my body. I feel heavy and gross. I am ashamed. My husband thinks I am depressed and should talk to someone. I am just focusing on getting to the gym and working out hard at least five days a week. I am eating super-clean so I can get back into the body I had before. I am rocking my self-care, right??”
- You cannot do enough self-care to thrive in abuse.
- You cannot do enough self-care to love yourself when all your “self-care” is devoted to being a newer, improved, prettier, thinner version of you.
- You cannot do enough self-care to feel whole when your rights are stripped or your safety and freedoms are at stake.
When the self-care industrial complex starts preaching the self-care gospel that a mani-pedi or a new outfit will fix everything, they are lying – and that lie is the message they make their money on, so they tell it a lot.
The seductive promise that self-care alone will cure what is ailing you is often equivalent to lulling you into a deep sleep while the boat is sinking to the bottom in deep dark water. The rest feels good, it might even feel euphoric, but you’ll have to wake up and swim at some point.
Restorative, intentional, sacred self-care will provide you with the energy and resources to move forward in your life.
It is hard to:
leave an abusive marriage
find a more fulfilling job
do profound and transformative inner-work or
dismantle oppressive systems like the patriarchy and racism
if you do not have the energy to get through your day without falling flat on your face with exhaustion by the end of it.
When you’re depleted of energy and resources, you will absolutely, without exception, stay stuck, mired in the goo of being too tired to give an actionable shit. Consistent self-care fuels you, it might even heal you, but it is not a substitute for taking the action required to make changes in your life and in the world. Self-care alone might be enough to dramatically change your day but not enough to substantially change your future.
Without self-care, you will probably be in exactly the same place five years from now, fighting exactly the same battles as you are now.
Fondling self-care the way the self-care commercial complex wants you to can leave you too distracted and, frankly, comfortable to know you NEED to engage, dare I say, fight for the life you want to create.
Capitalism wants us numb enough not to notice the dumpster fire burning around us. White privilege keeps us sufficiently soft, so we think a massage and a nap will fix our lives and the world.
I know this might sound harsh, but it is imperative that you take the very best care of yourself AND take decisive, strategic action in our lives and communities. An addiction to literally anything that feels better right now in the name of self-care, when it might be time to take some tentative, even shaky steps out of your comfort zone, is precisely where the patriarchy and the Gods of capitalism want you.
Decide who you want to be in your life and then care for yourself accordingly with more deeply intentional self-care than you think you need. Fuel your identity shift with self and soul-care as if your future depends on it because it does.
Then think about the life you want to live and the world you want to live in and get moving accordingly. Take the energy you have stored in reserve and do something with it.
If you don’t want to be a well-pampered, but mostly the same, just older, version of yourself in the future, you need to do some things that are different from what you are doing now – change is the catalyst for your evolution, self-care if the fuel.