Self-care. This word has dominated recent discussions in millennial and generation Z circles, and it’s for good reason. A lot of the toxic things that we experience as individuals – arguments with others, poor body image, unhappiness in our jobs – comes from the fact that we just don’t spend enough time working ourselves out in order to see what we actually want. More importantly, we don’t spend enough time looking after number one.
This is likely to be rooted in a variety of things: capitalism’s reinforcement of the idea that we’re money-making machines who should feel incredibly guilty about having a self-care day (or two), our relationships that are based upon making other people happy without really establishing our own boundaries and voicing our needs and wants, and finally, the constant media and advertising circus telling us that we’re just not good enough.
It’s pretty tiring, huh? And let’s be honest here, there are many things that you’ll go through in life that make you think, Jesus, is this really all that there is? Another day listening to boring Ann from the HR team tell me about her hip replacement, and showing me pictures of her cats? (No offense, boring Ann). Self-care, however, has earned itself a pretty bad rep. Yoga and meditation – during which you’re probably just thinking about dinner – rarely give the desired self-love effects.
Lizzo – the self-care queen of a generation – discusses ‘radical’ ways of loving yourself. She says, ‘Self-care is more than just going to the spa, getting your nails done or drinking a mimosa “‘cause it’s Sunday.”’ And this is worth thinking about, if only because you have been totally unable to get behind this whole ‘self-care’ thing until now. But how do you ‘radically’ love and care for yourself, especially as somebody who hasn’t put aside time for these things before?
Enforce boundaries in all of your relationships
Radical self-care means thinking about what you want from your relationships – with family, friends and your partner – and setting your own boundaries based upon this. Boundaries aren’t ‘you have to do this’ or ‘you should never do X, Y and Z’. Instead, it probably looks more like this: ‘I would prefer it if you didn’t do this, because it makes me feel like X’. Aggression doesn’t have to be involved here, and it’s more about communicating how you feel.
This can be incredibly difficult, especially when you’re used to dealing with certain behaviors from family members in particular. You may think, well, my Mom has always been overly involved in my romantic relationships. However, radical self-care looks like setting your own boundaries, and calmly reacting when they are crossed in order to reinforce them. Saying things like ‘it makes me upset that you can’t respect my choices’ is totally normal and OK.
Take time out for you
One of the main things that stops us from feeling positively about ourselves is that we lose a sense of who we are. This can happen if you never spend any time alone, and you feel like you’re always trying to be there first and foremost for the people around you. Not only is this bad news for your self-care, but truthfully? It can be pretty exhausting. Sometimes, you just need to take that time out in order to get back to yourself.
You can do this in many ways, even if you spend half an hour each day doing something that you love, such as reading or gardening. Turn your phone to silent, focus on you, and spend a little bit of time trying to look inwards and be alone with yourself. This can be difficult, but in a world where we’re always running around in a daze trying to keep up with the rat race, these thirty minutes can act as a form of radical self-care and love.
Aim for financial independence
Something that can stand in the way of your self-care is your reliance upon others, which stops you from being honest about the things that you need and want. For example, you’re unlikely to tell your partner that it upsets you when they go out drinking every night if they’re the breadwinner of the house, and you’d be lost financially (and potentially without a home) if they weren’t there. Codependency, in all of its various forms, simply isn’t good for your mental health.
This is a hard one to deal with, but if you want to embrace radical self-care, then it is something that you need to consider. Without financial independence you can feel vulnerable, and you may lack control over certain elements of your life. Even a relatively small income that you keep in your personal bank account empowers you to make those decisions about what you want, so say no, thank you to shared accounts and somebody else controlling your finances.
Get back in touch with your body
Let’s get one thing straight here: your body is amazing. It allows you to live freely, to experience the world, to connect with others through the medium of touch, and sometimes, it even facilitates the creation of a child. A whole human being. That is awesome, right? And yet, we point out all of our flaws, pull at our ‘fat’ in the mirror, and wish that we didn’t have that one weird nipple. We rarely give our bodies the love that they deserve.
However you do this, try to put some care into the way that you deal with your body. Taking probiotics can support a healthy gut microbiome if you want to start from the inside out, and giving your body a healthy, balanced diet can really help you to feel better. Staying hydrated is also key, but there are many mental things that you can do, too. Shift the way you see your body, and remind yourself that it’s an amazing vehicle. Teach yourself to love those stretchmarks!
Face any underlying issues
If you just don’t feel happy with your life in general, and radical self-care is pretty terrifying because a) I don’t want to look inwards, thanks, and b) I’m quite scared right now, then you need to face any underlying issues (when you’re ready to, of course). Is there something that shapes the way that you think about things, such as an insecurity developed from childhood or a fear of abandonment that makes you worry about setting your own boundaries?
It’s totally OK to experience these issues. Everybody has moments in life – both major and minor – that affect the way that they view themselves and others. And healing is a long and difficult process, but it starts with acknowledgement. However you decide to face your demons, you will be glad that you did it sooner rather than later. Visit a therapist, or write your thoughts down, or just talk to somebody that you love about how you feel.
Build a healthy relationship with sex
OK, you saw this one coming, didn’t you? Sex is one of those things that can bring us closer to ourselves and each other, or it can take us further away, and we mean like, really far away. Let’s start with the basics here: there is no wrong way to have sex as long as both parties can, and are, consenting. You may want to have casual sex, or romantic relationship sex, or you may have just said to yourself, you know what, I’m just not that into sex at all. This is all fine.
You do, however, need to make sure that you’re having sex that makes you feel positively about yourself, and not the kind that makes you feel all flat and depressed afterwards. Be with somebody who respects your boundaries, and what you say before, during and after intimacy. This should be the bottom line in any relationship: do they respect me, and listen to me? Whether you’re into BDSM or you’re as vanilla as they come, think about what you want and need.
Ditch those negative feelings about yourself
Unfortunately, so many people are horribly negative about themselves. Perhaps you think that you’re not very clever, or you’ll never get that job that you really want, or that nobody could ever love you, or that your frizzy hair has knocked you out of the dating game for the rest of forever? We tell ourselves some pretty nasty things sometimes, so ask yourself: would I say this to one of my closest friends? If you wouldn’t, then correct that thought.
We know what you’re thinking. It’s not that easy to ‘correct’ your thoughts, is it? However, this is all (whether you believe it or not) about habit forming. When your brain starts running around in circles, and telling you that you’re a big fat ugly mess or whatever its preferred slurs are, stand in front of the mirror and say something positive to yourself, such as: I am beautiful, and my body is amazing because it is mine, and I am clever enough to do whatever I would like to. Repeat ad infinitum.
Enjoy the journey back to yourself, by embracing radical self-care.