We see a lot of advocacy for self-care these days. From celebrities to influencers to our good friends, self-care is preached as a necessity in life. When I first researched self-care, I was bitter about it. I found it annoying. I saw it as an excuse for people to post pictures in face masks, a marketing ploy for companies to sell you stuff that won't make you feel any better, and a way for people to pretend they are putting themselves first when really they are avoiding bigger issues in their lives.
Something that also annoyed me about it was deeper within my values. I was on an immersive Jewish studies trip to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where I witnessed an inspirational speech by a woman of a Chabad house on a different campus. Since then, it really changed how I look at life. She shared that in the Jewish language, the word love is ahava. The root word in ahava is ahav which means to give. In my life, that is how I try to define love and relationships with everyone I encounter. Happiness and love to me aren't about taking or "me, me, me," it is rather to sacrifice, to give, and to spread that generosity and care. We've all experienced relationships with people where the case is an imbalance of taking and giving. Often times these relationships are tense, not uplifting, and don't last.
From a young age, before community service hours were required in school and without my parents even telling me to do it, I volunteered at my synagogue in kindergarten classes and homeless shelters. This fulfilled me so much more than, for example, getting presents as a kid that I'd lose interest in within no time. The giving feeling lasted inside me and I actually changed something for someone else.
Over this year, I have gained so much experience in many aspects of life. I've seen the good and the bad and have tried my best to improve myself because there is definitely room for that. Thus, my initial perspective on self-care has changed while keeping my core values consistent.
I've learned you can engage in self-care culture and put yourself first while still being a giving person.
Sometimes in the past, when I've been unhappy but managed to do something nice for a friend or stranger, I'd blow off my somewhat negative or bothersome feelings and only value the happiness I caused someone else. It is a great thing to give and to help others, I myself would argue it is necessary to be happy and virtuous, but you also have to do the same for yourself. Maybe I was the one avoiding bigger issues!
Do I still think self-care is blown out of proportion in the media? Definitely. But so was the toilet paper shortage a couple of weeks ago and just about everything else. We live in a time of sensationalism and are definitely in need of more balance in the way we share and spread ideas. It is important to understand a good thing when we see it and be critical in how much we let things influence us. But, attention to ourselves in order to improve is important for a healthy life, and you can still do that while giving to others.