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Three years ago, I made a vow to myself to get a massage every month.
Yes, my back and neck absolutely hated me, but I wanted to get massages mainly because I wanted to practice self-care. And I did. Every month, I called a different spa and treated myself to a massage.
Furthermore, I made sure to dedicate an hour, every single day, to reading, painting, walking, or watching a documentary. Self-love at its best—f*ck yeah!
But sometimes, my self-love practices were interrupted by crappy instances. For instance, I once hung out with my friends right after my massage session although I was dead tired and just wanted to go home. I remember falling into endless cycles of destructive thinking when reading a book. Then I’d end up closing the book and dedicating at least an hour to overthinking and staring into the ceiling.
Whenever I experienced these unwanted situations, I promised myself that on my next reading session, massage therapy, or walk, I’d make sure to maintain a stable attitude so my self-care wouldn’t be tainted by negativity.
Let me just begin by saying that no amount of books, massages, walks, documentaries, blue skies, rainbows, or oceans helped me get rid of what I didn’t want to do or feel.
It took me so many years and so many failed attempts at self-care practices to realize that taking care of myself goes beyond activities and physical pleasures. In fact, it might have nothing to do with them.
Looking within, I have realized that radical self-care has everything to do with my attitude, mindset, behaviors, and choices. If I can manage to work on them, then it doesn’t matter how I compliment the rest of my day—I could read a book once a month, I might never get massages again, and I might not feel like watching sunsets every day.
Then I’d do what I feel like doing, and not what I think I should be doing just because I want to build self-care habits. For me, building self-care habits felt inauthentic and pressuring. What’s the point of bubble baths and massages if, by the end of the day, we have no freaking idea how to tend to our emotional health, how to set boundaries, or how to treat others?
Don’t get me wrong, though. I had to try and build self-care practices in order to know what works and what doesn’t. So stick to your own experience and check if it’s really something you feel like doing or you’re doing it out of obligation just because you read on a magazine cover that cooking means loving yourself.
Yes, I just finished a book yesterday, I got a massage on my last trip to Turkey, and last week, I watched an out-of-this-world sunset. But I did all of these without expecting them to fix my self-confidence, trust issues, or manners. They just complemented my days, and they were in no way a replacement to the choices I needed to make.
Consequently, I figured that true self-care sometimes looks like this:
>> Allow myself to not be okay. Anger, sadness, disappointment, confusion, and regret are emotions that we are meant to feel. It’s okay to feel them as long as we don’t let them linger.
>> Put my phone on silent mode after 7:00 p.m. In fact, I turned off my Instagram and Facebook notifications and removed my Facebook Messenger. If you message me, I most probably won’t see your message unless I open the app. For me, that’s self-care.
>> Say “no” to plans I don’t feel like doing. My comfort and peace of mind come first.
>> See friends and people as I feel they really are—and not what they show me. It’s easy to get swayed by what people want us to see, so I’ve chosen to take off my rose-tinted glasses.
>> Give permission to myself to do nothing. Lately, there has been a lot of pressure on folks to keep themselves busy in order not to waste precious time on Earth. But sometimes, nothing is something, and I’m game.
>> Check in with my emotions before reacting, responding, or acting. Most of the time, our emotions run rampant and control almost every choice we make. There’s no harm in pausing, breathing, and counting to 10.
>> Try my best to always be kind. Sometimes, I fail—I’m only human. But let’s just say that 70 percent of the time, I try to not hurt another being, to listen, to care, to understand, and to reduce prejudice.
>> Take criticism and feedback into consideration and check with myself whether it’s something I really need to work on or not. We’re all flawed—we just need to recognize our flaws and improve ourselves to become better.
>> Be grateful—every single day. There’s no greater self-care practice than expressing gratitude.
>> I don’t have to let go of the past. Sometimes, I can’t. Other times, I don’t want to. What matters is to not allow it to burden me, stop me in my tracks, or blind my insight.
>> Let people be. I can help them or inspire them, but I can’t change them.
>> Forgive myself for what I thought I could do differently. Some things are meant to happen. It absolutely had nothing to do with us and a lot to do with destiny. I have to quote Paulo Coelho here:
“There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only…’Maktub,’ thought the boy.”