Self Care: Re-focusing on self-improvement in an age of selfishness

 Most people have an easy time accepting green juice and facials and Pilates as a form of self care, but we have such a harder time accepting self control, responsibility, stewardship, self respect, and patience as acts of self care as well. 

As stewards of our hearts, minds and bodies it is up to us that we practice self care in more ways than just mani/pedis and meditative yoga. It is important that we also practice self care for our hearts and minds by saying no to things that do no serve us, or who do not build us, or that keep us astray from our goals of the kinds of people we want to be. 

I feel that the conversations surrounding self care have been disparagingly absent of introspection. Self care has come to embody tangible, physical practices like eating clean and working out, eliminating toxic people and elaborate spa rituals, and yet when do we focus on what is on the inside as much as what is on the outside? Mainstream visions of self car often emphasize external factors in need of change, and instead lack components of self-accountability. It is usually something outside of ourselves that needs to be changes, eliminated, disposed of, or altered in order to “improve” things, rather than heading to the root, ourselves.

Cleaning up our tangible environments can be therapeutic, practicing yoga can make us strong, using a facial cream can make us pretty, and cutting out negative people can make us feel better, but if we are not actively cleaning up ourselves on the inside we are going to continue to feel unfulfilled and yucky. 

And yet it is much much easier and frankly more comfortable to call a wine and Netflix night self care rather than doing the dirty work of cleaning up our souls. What if we focused on self improvement and the challenging task of humbling ourselves as self care? What is self care was recognizing ways that we are toxic, hurtful, selfish and unkind and then seeking ways to change that behavior? How would that change our perspective? How would that better our lives? How would that challenge us? 

Self care has become a romanticized, socially justifiable way of acting selfishly. We cancel plans, spend money we don’t have, and give ourselves permission to behave however feels good in the moment all in the name of self care. 

In many ways self care dangerously toes the line of “worship of the self,” as it prioritizes ones own needs above others, lacks humility, emphasizes innate goodness in ones self, and encourages whatever feels good regardless of long term consequences. And the biggest problem is that it is portrayed as virtuous and excusable. 

I want to challenge myself and other women to reflect on self care in a new light. What if instead of it being a self-centered process it became a selfless one? What if we focused on recognizing ways that we could change our own actions, attitudes and behaviors in favor of ones that reflect a spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control? 

Facials and shopping are great, don’t get me wrong, but they aren’t going to bring us any closer to joy, fulfillment, peace, introspection,  or truth in our own lives. 

So how can we change the focus of self care? What can we instead focus on? 
Here is a list of ways we can re- focus on self care:

1. Ask for forgiveness

The best way to relinquish yourself from resentment, bitterness and  anger in favor of more peace is by forgiving those who have hurt you.  Forgiveness is not for the people who have hurt you, it is not an act of them accepting blame or admitting fault, it is an act of you relinquishing yourself from anger and resentment. Forgiveness is for you and your own peace. 2. Practice gratitude   Practice giving thanks for the blessings in your life, whether by making a list or showing your thankfulness to people in your life. Thankfulness is a lifestyle and not just an attitude to adopt when things are going great. Thankfulness is a choice to find and relish the blessings in life no matter the circumstance. 

2. Admit to flaws and imperfections

We can’t get anywhere in self improvement journeys without first admitting that we have faults and failures. Sometimes this means admitting we aren’t perfect and sometimes it means not blaming others for the things that have gone wrong in your life. it is important to accept responsibility and to knowledge that we are all broken individuals in need of forgiveness. 4. Practice humility
Hand in hand with accepting fault is recognizing that we aren’t all “perfect just the way we are,” in fact we are broken people in a broken world. I don’t say this to be depressing and morbid to but to offer perspective as we go through life and interact with others. Humility means thinking of others instead of our selves. Humility doesn’t mean viewing yourself as inferior, rather it is rooted in serving others and viewing one’s self with modesty. CS Lewis said it best when he said “true humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

3. Practice acts of service and expect nothing in return 

Want to know how to feel really good about yourself? Focus on someone else! Practicing service, from just listening to a friend or serving at a local charity can grant us both perspective as well as personal fulfillment. Contrary to popular belief, it can actually be exhausting to think about yourself 24/7. Rather,  serving those around us without any expectation for reparations is a wonderful way to redirect our attention and re-align our purpose, values and goals in life. 

4. Practice self control 

Self control has gotten a bad rep in recent times, as we have culturally gravitated more into glorifying self acceptance and giving into ones’s urges. And yet self control is an age old virtue that asks us to practice discipline rather than just giving into whatever feels good in the moment or might satisfy our lusts. Self control releases us from the prison of continually seeking out novelty and pleasure and instead helps us to align with seeking out what is enriching, life giving, encouraging, and righteous. Self control helps us find empowerment via discipline. Self care isn’t all about just giving into what feels good in that moment, self care means taking steps today that help us to have a better tomorrow, even if it isn’t always what is the most fun or the most comfortable. 

There is a reason the monks are celibate and why fasting is a component of religious practices, it is because self control makes you stronger, more alert, more aware and more in control of your actions, attitudes and behaviors. Meanwhile constant pursuit of pleasure makes you weak, malleable and distracted from things that really matter. 

As women let’s especially practice true self care and empowerment by seeking out actions, attitudes and behaviors that help us grow. Pursuing what is truly “best” for us is often uncomfortable and challenging rather than always been fun, novel, or comfortable and yet it is those steps that are necessary to take to help us cultivate our best character traits. Yes we are all born as valuable humans, but that doesn’t not mean that the work stops there. In fact in order to cultivate more loving, peaceful, wholesome, faithful virtues it is important that we push ourselves each and every day to turn from what is not feeding those characteristics and helping us to grow into the best versions of yourselves. 

I love me a good facial and dropping some cash on Amazon, but it is so important that I recognize that if we really want to cultivate our best selves we need to start by cleaning up what is on the inside and adopting new patterns of actions, attitudes and behaviors.

Good luck,

Ellie xoxo

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