The Most Important Self-Care Is Ugly

The Most Important Self-Care Is Ugly

Self-care isn't always Instagram-worthy. Truly improving your present and future life requires real, consistent, unphotogenic action.

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Another Instagram influencer posts another photo of another facemask, labeling it "#selfcare," adding it to a growing collection of nearly identical photos. "Are you taking care of yourself?" she questions, though she might as well be asking if you've taken the appropriate number of bubble baths, splurged on enough luxury skincare products, and called in sick to work in the name of "self-care."

If Instagram's doctrine of self-care was right, a massage or a bottle of wine or a fancy dessert would fix everything. "Self-care" and "indulgence" would mean the same thing.

But self-care doesn't always feel good and it's not always Instagram-worthy. As an adult, truly taking care of yourself sometimes means doing things that you don't want to do. Some self-care -even the most important self-care- is ugly.

The concept of self-care, at its core, embodies things that we do an in effort to improve our lives now and in the future. For example, you regularly exercise in order to clear your present mind and maintain your long-term health. In a Medium article on real self-care, Carly Mae listed straightforward, frill-less ways she takes care of herself and optimizes each day, including packing a lunch for the next day, reading before bed, taking vitamins, and going for walks during the workday.

Packing a lunch might not look as pretty as treating yourself to a café. Going for a walk during work might not be as appealing as skipping work altogether. But when you do these things, you're taking care of your health, your wallet, and your career rather than letting your brain's urge for pleasure drive you. You're setting yourself up for long-term success and satisfaction rather than temporary enjoyment.

Instagram's self-care doctrine completely rejects the idea of delayed gratification, and, when truly taking care of yourself, you may sometimes need to make choices which feel unpleasant now but will pay off later. "Our cultural norms encourage us to seek Band-Aid solutions and temporary comforts—basically, whatever it takes to ease our discomfort now," wrote psychotherapist Ilene Strauss Cohen for Psychology Today. "We often make our life choices according to how we can avoid pain in the moment and, in doing so, fail to see that the path of delayed gratification is sometimes where the real solutions to our problems lie."

True fulfillment and satisfaction take time and consistency. Surface-level self-care is a temporary fix. It feels good in the moment, and it looks nice in photos, but ignoring real, practical solutions will only lead to future failure. Overindulgence in pleasant things like food and shopping will drain the joy from your life, accomplishing the opposite of self-care's objective. You can put a pretty Band-Aid over your problems, but they will demand ugly solutions.

What actions can you take to care for yourself today? Can you clean up your room? Schedule a dentist appointment? Start the project you've been putting off? There is time to do the pretty things -the facemasks and the bubble baths- but don't forget to do the ugly things, too.

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PSA: Keep Your Body-Negative Opinions Away From Little Girls This Summer

But our own baggage shouldn't be shoved on to those we surround ourselves with.

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It's officially swimsuit season, y'all.

The temperature is rising, the sun is bright and shining, and a trip to the beach couldn't look more appealing than it does right now. This is the time of year that many of us have been rather impatiently waiting for. It's also the time of year that a lot of us feel our most self-conscious.

I could take the time to remind you that every body is a bikini body. I could type out how everyone is stunning in their own unique way and that no one should feel the need to conform to a certain standard of beauty to feel beautiful, male or female. I could sit here and tell you that the measurement of your waistline is not a reflection of your worth. I completely believe every single one of these things.

Hell, I've shared these exact thoughts more times than I can count. This time around, however, I'm not going to say all these things. Instead, I'm begging you to push your insecurities to the side and fake some confidence in yourself when you're in front of others.

Why?

Because our negative self-image is toxic and contagious and we're spreading this negative thinking on to others.

We're all guilty of this, we're with family or a friend and we make a nasty comment about some aspect of our appearance, not even giving a single thought to the impact our words have on the person with us. You might think that it shouldn't bother them- after all, we're not saying anything bad about them! We're just expressing our feelings about something we dislike about ourselves. While I agree that having conversations about our insecurities and feelings are important for our mental and emotional health, there is a proper and improper way of doing it. An open conversation can leave room for growth, acceptance, understanding, and healing. Making a rude or disheartening remark about yourself is destructive not only to yourself, but it will make the person you are saying these things around question their own self worth or body image by comparing themselves to you.

My little sister thinks she's "fat." She doesn't like how she looks. To use her own words, she thinks she's "too chubby" and that she "looks bad in everything."

She's 12 years old.

Do you want to know why she has this mindset? As her older sister, I failed in leading her by example. There were plenty of times when I was slightly younger, less sure of myself, and far more self-conscious than I am now, that I would look in the mirror and say that I looked too chubby, that my body didn't look good enough, that I wished I could change the size of my legs or stomach.

My little sister had to see the older sibling she looks up to, the big sis she thinks always looks beautiful, say awful and untrue things about herself because her own sense of body image was warped by media, puberty, and comparing herself to others.

My negativity rubbed off onto her and shaped how she looks at herself. I can just imagine her watching me fret over how I look thinking, "If she thinks she's too big, what does that make me?"

It makes me feel sick.

All of us are dealing with our own insecurities. It takes some of us longer than others to view ourselves in a positive, loving light. We're all working on ourselves every day, whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally. But our own baggage shouldn't be shoved on to those we surround ourselves with, our struggles and insecurities should not form into their own burdens.

Work on yourself in private. Speak kindly of yourself in front of others. Let your positivity, real or not, spread to others instead of the bad feelings we have a bad habit of letting loose.

The little girls of the world don't need your or my negative self-image this summer. Another kid doesn't need to feel worthless because we couldn't be a little more loving to ourselves and a lot more conscious of what we say out loud.

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Stand In The Mirror

An exercise in self-love.

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If you're reading this, then I want you to stop what you're doing right now, get up from wherever you're sitting, and go stand in the mirror.

Yes, that's right. Close your laptops, put down your phones, and walk to the closest bathroom, or vanity, or wherever else you can see your reflection the most clearly. Pretend like you're the only person in the world for a little while.

Are you there? Good.

Now I want you to look at yourself, very closely.

Start with your eyes. How beautiful they look underneath the light; you can see all their colors, just like a painting! Something that unique belongs in an art museum, don't you think?

Those eyes of yours have seen so many wonderful things. Think of all the sunsets they've allowed you to witness, all the times your best friends have grinned from ear-to-ear and all the books you've read.

Now, look at your lips. Think of all the lovely people they may have kissed, all the Thanksgiving dinners they've touched and all the funny faces they've helped you express.

Think all of the times they've opened to exude laughter and joy, to express awe and other associated feelings words cannot express.

Now it's time to examine your arms. Shrug your shoulders and admire the way they fall so gently at your sides, like water flowing from the mouth of a river. Think of all the wonderful things they've helped you to reach, of all the trees they've helped you climb and monkey bars they've helped you swing through. Think of all the people they've hugged, and all the dogs they've helped you pet.

Finally, move to your legs. Think of all the races they've helped you win, all the hurdles they've helped you jump through and all the lengths they've helped you swim.

Think of all the pristine places they've carried you to, and reflect upon all the places you'll soon be heading to.

Can't you see now that you're a masterpiece, dripping with color and beauty, emotion and experience, from every fiber of your being?

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