Rethinking Self-Care: 5 Myths about this Practice and How to Make It Work for You

Picture the scene: It’s 6:30 PM on a weeknight. You just stumbled through the door after a rush hour commute from the office. You’re tired of focusing on a computer screen all day, and you’re stressed from transitioning back to a cubicle after months of working remotely. You pull off that face mask, slide out of your shoes and traipse into the kitchen with one goal in mind—pour some cabernet, then soak in the bathtub for the remainder of this evening. It’s called self-care, and you deserve it.

And sure, that is one example of self-care, but it’s not the only form this practice can take. Nor will the scenario I just described sound appealing to everyone across the board. What if baths make you feel claustrophobic, or you would rather drink herbal tea than a glass of wine? Does that mean self-care is out of reach for you? Of course not! All too often, this society misconstrues the whole purpose behind self-care. It’s not a means to numb out or escape. It’s not a trend, buzzword or marketing ploy either. It doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming, and it’s definitely not one-size-fits-all. 

A self-care ritual can be whatever you choose. It’s personal and customizable—just as unique as you are. (There’s a reason “self” is part of the equation, right?) This is not another responsibility to cross off the agenda. It’s an invitation to relax, decompress and breathe, to feel rooted in the moment and come back to yourself. So before you disregard this practice as a frivolous waste of time or an extravagance for “wellness elites,” here are five ways to rethink the importance of self-care in your own life.

Myth 1: Self-Care Is a Luxury You Can’t Afford.

If you can drop over $100 on a Swedish massage, then excellent! Be sure to tell me how it felt, so I can vicariously pretend I was there too. But if an hour on the massage table isn’t exactly in line with your budget, join the club—there are tons of ways to prioritize self-care on a dime. Begin each day with a quick, gentle and restorative online yoga sequence (here are two of my favorites to start you off: Arianna Elizabeth, Yoga with Adriene). Turn off that phone and immerse yourself in nature. Find an inexpensive hobby or artistic pursuit. You can watch those spending habits and still invest in yourself.   

Myth 2: Self-Care Demands a Time Commitment.        

Second only to being labeled unaffordable, self-care also has a reputation of monopolizing too much time. And that’s a valid concern—your schedule is jam-packed enough, so you don’t need one more task to cram into it. Fortunately though, if you have a few unstructured minutes to spare, then you have time for a self-care ritual. Take a series of deep, controlled, intentional breaths as you wait for the morning coffee to brew. Listen to a brief meditation during your lunch break (this mobile app has thousands to choose from). Or write a couple sentences in a gratitude journal before you drift off to sleep.        

Myth 3: Self-Care Is an Indication of Laziness.  

Is your definition of self-care zoning out with a Netflix marathon and a sleeve of Oreos? Do you recoil from this mental image because even the sheer thought of it sounds lazy? While there is no real inherent problem with Netflix and Oreos, self-care is not just mindless soothing—quite the opposite, in fact. The idea is to feel present within yourself, to strive for inner connection and embodiment. That’s about as un-lazy as a human can be, am I right? To practice self-care is to nourish and revitalize the mind, body and spirit. So once again, let me repeat: this is not laziness. It’s a basic pillar of health.  

Myth 4: Self-Care Means that You Are “Selfish.”

When you search for the hashtag #SelfCareIsntSelfish on Instagram, more than 260,000 results appear. Social media is onto something that I hope becomes normalized in this culture—permission to refill your own tank before tending to anyone else. If you sacrifice your personal needs in service to others, this will deplete both your mental and emotional well-being. Society has confused self-care with its distant relative self-indulgence, but don’t allow that to shame you into burnout. The more refreshed and energized you feel, the more substantial of an impact you will have to offer this world.   

Myth 5: Self-Care Is a Reward You Have to Earn. 

Here’s another bizarre attitude in this culture: productivity is so glorified that self-care only becomes acceptable once you reach certain goals or work yourself to exhaustion. This creates a reward system in which you start to believe that relaxation and enjoyment should be earned or competed for. But if you withhold self-care until you’ve hustled enough to justify it, then you will never be satisfied with your own performance and achievements. You’ll continue this relentless, unsustainable pace with no downtime to catch your breath. As a human being, you deserve rest—no strings attached.        

What are some misconceptions about self-care that you’ve been holding onto? How has your view of self-care changed this year? What does your self-care practice currently entail? Share your thoughts and feedback in the comment section below!

About Author

Mary-Elizabeth Meagher is a freelance writer, social media marketer, travel enthusiast, musical theatre nerd and self-described bohemian. She lives and seeks adventure in the Arizona desert, and she also blogs over at Health Be a Hippie—her personal contribution to making the internet a more authentic, vulnerable and empowering place.


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