Up until a few months ago I had never even heard of self-care, but now I’m all but obsessed with the idea.

The World Health Organization defines self-care as “what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness.” This can pertain to hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle and more. The part referring to preventing and dealing with illness might seem a bit intense for the average person, so this is how I define self-care: care, by you and for you. I also like to call it the new self-esteem.

Self-care means looking after yourself and being the best you that you can be—emotionally, physically and spiritually. I think that is one of the most important things that individuals can do for themselves.

In the past, a lot of emphasis has been placed on using self-esteem to promote self-healing. The thought here is that having more confidence in yourself and your own abilities can help you feel better in general, but building up self-esteem is not an easy thing to do.

It’s especially hard if you don’t have your own little self-support system built up. This is just one of the reasons why self-care is incredible. The self-care approach pertains to nearly all aspects of your life and provides a much more balanced way of looking after yourself.

Rather than forcing feelings of positivity or instilling fake and temporary feelings of confidence (because let’s be honest, this is pretty much what happens when you try to boost your self-esteem), you can choose to be understanding of yourself and your limitations with self-care. Self-care actually stresses self-compassion. Sometimes giving yourself a break can be more helpful than anything else.

I’m not trying to hate on self-esteem. Building self-esteem is great because if successful, it can help you love yourself. But self-care takes loving yourself to a whole new level.

It is important to comfort yourself and give yourself a pat on the back once in a while. You deserve it. So if you believe it, say it and build-up your self-esteem, but then take it a step further with self-care.

Not only do you deserve to hear the great things you’re thinking about yourself, but you deserve to actually listen to the great things that others are saying about you. Write them down, tuck them away somewhere and don’t forget them.

Self-care is truly a wonderful journey to embark on, but it’s not always an easy thing. You are making a promise to take care of yourself, even when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes this can take the form of giving in and letting yourself go, because it allows you to be honest with yourself. This might look like having a bad day and acknowledging it, rewarding yourself with a quick nap or not going out if you aren’t feeling up to it.

More often than not the choices you make in self-care are meant to pick you up.

This might look like having a bad day and acknowledging that tomorrow will be better, rewarding yourself with a few moments of peace before you cross something else off on your to-do list, or taking some time to do something for yourself, by yourself, rather than meeting up with friends.

Self-care occurs in a variety of forms and it looks different for everyone. We aren’t robots, and it’s okay to struggle sometimes, as long as we make sure we’re picking ourselves up at the end of the day.

If anyone is ever struggling to find a little self-love, self-care or self-compassion, I recommend scrolling through the self-care tag on Tumblr. It’s filled with great tips, ideas, quotes, and of course some really cool pictures pertaining to self-care.

Personally, I like to scroll through Wentworth Miller’s Facebook page (you might recognize him from "Prison Break"). He has recently embarked on a very public self-care journey and he posts about what his self-care looks like for each day. He has personally struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts and has begun opening up about this to the public. It’s truly inspiring to get to witness his journey.

In any case, your self-care journey is what you make of it, so make it your own and take care.