Self-Care Is An Inside Job

Self-Care Is An Inside Job

By Catherine Miele

Nowadays, “self-care” is as ubiquitous as gym selfies and Instagram-worthy slices of avocado toast.

That is to say, self-care is everywhere.

As the wife of a licensed professional counselor and as somebody who lives with my own mental health issues, I believe that practicing self-care is a critical component to living a well-balanced life.

But are we taking the concept of self-care too far? Are we misunderstanding what it means to care for ourselves deeply and compassionately?

When I became a mother, and particularly when I returned to work at 12 weeks postpartum, I jumped swiftly onto the self-care express train.

I needed to because I was struggling emotionally with pumping milk thrice-daily for an underweight baby (who, mind you, was – and is – as healthy as he can be!) and navigating the turbulent waters of (what I realize only in hindsight was) undiagnosed postpartum depression and anxiety.

Although I was blessed to have 12 weeks of partially paid maternity leave and a husband who naturally fell into his role of protective and supportive daddy, I, like most American women, needed more.

I couldn’t afford routine mani-pedis or day trips to the spa, but I found my own way to practice (what I thought was) self-care.

I carved out time for blogging.

I went to the gym regularly.

I sipped nightly glasses of wine.

And after my husband left home in the mornings to drop off our son at daycare before work, I took the time to curl my hair, fix my makeup, and relish the quiet of my #boringselfcare routine because it allowed me to feel put together on the outside.

And, yet, I struggled.

Deep within me, the anxiety of being a first-time mother was eating at my soul.

The self-loathing, the daily questioning of my decisions, the guilt from taking time for myself – it was all becoming unbearable.

Gratefully, my husband suggested I seek help, and I began taking an antidepressant. Months later, I began seeing my therapist – and something changed.

With medication and talk therapy, the flux of “everything I do is wrong” and “I am worthless” began to calm.

Simple things like changing my fussy son’s diaper and unsuccessful mealtimes didn’t cause me to panic or burst into tears.

I was no longer consumed with the compulsion to Google every genetic condition under the sun that (hypothetically) caused my son to gain weight more slowly than other babies his age.

I fell into a groove, and I slowly began to take pride in the small achievements I made as a mother. But even more, I realized that I had been going about self-care all wrong.

Self-care wasn’t an activity I could check off in my over-filled planner.

And it wasn’t an image I could post to Instagram with the obligatory 20+ hashtags.

Self-care was a state of being.

Even though I’d been setting aside time for the activities I knew would make me feel better physically, I was missing that essential element.

I was following a trend rather than satisfying my personal, emotional needs.

Therapy and taking daily medication have taught me that everything begins with my state of mind.

Yes, I will have doubts. I will have bad days. But it’s what I do with those feelings that matters.

To practice self-care, I must understand what it means to love myself. To realize that I am worthy, imperfections and all.

I must judge myself by the same metric – one of forgiveness, compassion, and patience – by which I judge others in my life.

And I must allow myself grace. The grace to fail, to stammer and struggle, to accept help from medication and from my support system.

Now I realize that no amount of exercise, pampering, or coffee dates can lead me to love and care for myself.

That all comes from within.

From the moments of silent meditation I take on a busy day to breathe and regroup.

From the positive affirmations I repeat whenever the stress begins to build.

And from the understanding that I will never be perfect, but by simply being me, I am enough.

Is self-care important? Absolutely, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription.

It’s deeper than the latest blog post or magazine listicle, and it’s an ongoing effort.


Catherine is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via unsplash}

6 thoughts on “Self-Care Is An Inside Job

  1. Jess Christine says:

    This is great! I too as a new mom started my #boringselfcare by getting my nails done and doing my hair and makeup everyday and treating myself to Starbucks way too often. While those things are great and can make you feel really good, like you said, its the stuff on the inside that you have to work on. Learning to love myself for the person I truly am was huge! And meditation has helped tremendously! Hang in there girl! Self-care is a constant thing!

    Like

  2. Leigh Erin says:

    This is wonderfully written, I particularly like the line “To practice self-care, I must understand what it means to love myself. To realize that I am worthy, imperfections and all.”

    I think self care is a learning curve, because we’re never really told how to take care of ourselves. We’re programmed to critique ourselves and each other, but that doesn’t lead to happiness, it just causes a negative cycle of self-loathing.

    Like

  3. Karina Rodriguez says:

    Love what you have to say here. I’m doing a 30 day self-care challenge on my blog but I’ve already thought, “What will it look like after this challenge is over?” Definitely something to think about more deeply.

    Like

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