Self-care is supposed to be a good thing. We are supposed to be able to take care of ourselves and feel good about doing so. “It’s not selfish it’s self-care” we are told. From our supervisors, our therapists, our friends and so on. I have said it so many times to my clients, my supervisees, my friends and of course to myself. But what about when the concept of self-care just seems like a burden. Like one more thing you have to add to your plate and if you don’t then you’re doing being a person wrong?
I’ve recently been reading a book called Burnout, written by twin sisters Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski who suggest that the task of taking care of yourself has become “yet another goal everyone should strive for”. Which takes self-care out of the realm of, well, self-care and into the realm of work. Hard work actually for a lot of people.
The phrase self-care should conjure time to rest and recuperate, time to do whatever it is that you want to do without feeling limited or stressed or guilty. But it has become so overused that it can induce even more stress. The very opposite of what it is supposed to do. Which can leave people thinking “ugh, why bother”.
Caring and nurturing the self is critical to being able to continue to perform daily tasks, to engage in reciprocity in relationships, to work, to parent, to friend, and to mitigate the potential for burn out. So, how do we turn self-care into something good again?
I have been thinking about this a lot. Instead of self-care, why don’t we refer to it as allowing kindness? When we allow kindness we don’t have to actively engage in anything that seems like too much work, in order to help us manage the stress from too much work. Instead, you can allow that kindness to come to you. How? Well, start by using “allow kindness” instead of “self-care”. When someone offers to grab a coffee for you, and you say yes, you’ve allowed kindness. When you laid on the couch watching reruns of 90’s sitcoms after a tough day at work, you allowed kindness. When you worked on your home computer with your cat sitting on you, you allowed kindness.
I firmly believe that having massages and going to yoga retreats, and going out for dinner and getting out into nature are all great examples of allowing kindness as well. It’s just that sometimes organising all of those things exacerbates stress. If you’ve ever raced into your massage appointment frantic because you’ve run late because of all the other things you had to do that morning in order to allow you to give yourself just one hour to get away from the life stuff that makes things tricky sometimes, then that’s not really taking care of yourself, it’s squashing something in so you can tick the self-care box.
So as you go about all of the things you have to do in your day, your week, your life, breathe in and breathe out. Become nourished and nurtured and taken care of by allowing kindness.