January 19, 2016
The Myth of Bubble Baths
Self-care isn’t all bubble baths and bon-bons. It’s not tropical vacations or daily massages or any other form of indulgence. I mean, it can be those things. But really, it’s the real, sometimes gritty, always heartfelt act of caring for yourself and being your own best advocate.
I’m a self-care advocate and I don’t take bubble baths. I take the occasional epsom salt soak, but I’d much rather read a non-fiction book or play with my cats. Why? Because I believe in personal (and non-crappy-feeling) self-care – and those are the things that feel good to me.
My self-care looks like hiking and doing some yoga and playing with my tarot cards and going to bed at a reasonable hour — give or take.
I hear the myth repeated often that self-care is all about bubble baths (or similar indulgence). For some reason, that’s the first thing people think of when they think of self-care. So self-care is cast as this flaky thing we’re “supposed” to do that secretly kind of sucks.
So, I’d like to nip this myth in the bud so that we can get back to self-care that feels rad.
If your self-care feels bad or it belongs to someone else, it’s not self-care.
Self-care doesn’t work if you don’t do it. So, if you’re thinking that self-care needs to take a particular form (bubble baths, for instance), and that form doesn’t work for you, you won’t do it. Which leaves you with no self-care at all.
This isn’t about someone else’s self-care, and it’s not about moving heaven and earth. If something doesn’t sound good, then it’s not your self-care. If you roll your eyes, it’s not your self-care.
Self-care has to fit your particular needs and longings for it to belong to you, and be something that nurtures you. The other side of the coin is: It has to serve and fit into your actual life — the one you already have. Get off of Pinterest and look around.
Where could you use a little nurturing in your life right now?
How could you make yourself feel cared-for?
Maybe it’s cleaning off your desk. That’s sure as hell not sexy, but for me, a clean desk feels awesome. It feels like a home where I can get my ideas out into the world (which in turn feels super awesome).
Maybe it’s dancing, in your house, with your headphones on to your favorite song. Sure, you look like a dork (no judgment), but if that brings you joy — makes you feel more whole and alive — do it.
Maybe it’s just closing your eyes and taking five deep breaths to re-center and recalibrate your nervous system.
Self-care not straight-up indulgence, either.
Self-care doesn’t work if you’re numbing out. The key is to stay present with yourself and do the best you can. It’s not alway fun.
Self-care isn’t just an endless amount of Netflix and chocolate ice cream and lazing around the house. It’s not sitting in a bath drinking champagne until you’re all pruney. That’s self-indulgence.
Sometimes, it means getting scrappy and making care happen. Maybe for you, it feels like wrestling demons in meditation. Maybe it means getting up an hour earlier to get out into nature. Maybe it means doing yoga when you’re grumpy instead of serene already. Maybe it means trade-offs.
Sometimes, taking care of yourself means doing the hard thing.
Self-care might mean working super-hard, actually. So that you can build the body of work that you want. Or so you can quit your job. Or so that you can create systems that give you the flexibility that you want.
So that you can be proud of yourself.
That might sound hard. But in those trade-offs, you build trust with yourself. You become someone who shows up for yourself when you say you will. You build the habit of tending to your own inner world, even when you try to push yourself away. Even when you don’t feel like getting out the paint and putting your brush on the paper. Even when you don’t feel like getting on your meditation cushion.
Here’s the key: you feel better afterward. It might be hard in the moment, but it’s worth it. You keep going. You stay diligent and curious and present with yourself on your path.
Self-care isn’t about beating yourself up. Or being perfect in order to start.
Don’t just use self-care as another weapon against yourself. Be gentle. Maybe you forget or get busy or blow it off. Just keep coming back, with as much compassion for yourself as possible. Maybe your self-care today is just remembering to drink enough water, instead of berating yourself for not drinking enough water.
Again, think about your own very personal situation. How can you care for yourself in the midst of your present moment, with what you’ve already got?
You want to make art because it makes you happy and feeds your soul? Do it! Don’t wait to make art until you’re an amazing artist (not how that works) or until you’ve bought $200 worth of art supplies.
Don’t beat yourself up for not being an accomplished artist.
Just start making art because it’s fun and feels good.
You want to move your body? Great! Don’t wait to move your body until it already looks perfect (whatever the ‘eff that’s supposed to mean). Go for a walk with your dog. Go ice skating with your friend. Make it fun and let it come from a place of love (instead of body hatred).
Start with small acts of self-care, applied with great joy.
Nurture yourself because you’re worthy of nurturing exactly as you are. You don’t have to get somewhere or be someone different before you’re worthy of that.
What I do here is mentor people to create self-care practices that feel personal — self-care that’s custom, intuitive and feasible. Does a bubble bath not really sound like your cup of tea? Is it something that isn’t possible in the context of your life?