As awareness around the importance of mental health grows, self-care is a subject that has become more and more prominent, especially on social media. Even as I write this post, there are currently 11,022,873 hashtags for self-care on Instagram alone, and no doubt that number has risen even more in the time it’s taken me to finish writing and share this post.
That’s a lot of hits, but if you were to scroll through them all, you’ll probably notice that a lot of them are photos of beautiful nails, colourful bath bombs, gym selfies and a healthy plate of food. A lot of them are beautiful, Insta worthy shots. There’s no disputing the fact that these are all significant elements of self-care in their own way. Having an evening to relax and decompress, and looking after your physical health are certainly important. Physical and mental health are very much intertwined, and one will almost always have an impact on the other in some shape or form.
There is so much more to self-care than what social media would have you believe. It isn’t always fun, or a pamper session, and it isn’t always what social media would have you believe. It isn’t always attractive or pretty, but it is always important. To me, self-care is about knowing yourself, knowing your limits, your strengths and your weaknesses, and knowing when you need to step away from a situation or person and be selfish. Not because you are a selfish person, far from it, but because looking after yourself and your wellbeing is vital.
Self-care is about allowing yourself to be sad, to be angry, to cry and to feel your emotions. Far too often I just brush things off, pretend they don’t upset me and carry on. It’s what I’ve always done, and I’m pretty sure it’s not something I’m alone in. Whenever I was let down or hurt by someone I always shrugged it off, to the outside world I wasn’t bothered in the slightest, but inside, I knew it hurt, I just wouldn’t admit it even to myself. When I stopped talking to my father, I was initially very detached and cold about it, until it reached a point where it was too much to hold in and I broke down in tears at work. It’s the best thing I could have done, as I felt so much relief for just letting all the negative emotion flood out of me. It helped balance my emotional load, and cleared my mind.
There are so many elements to self-care, be it making sure you get enough sleep to fuel you, let go of relationships that drain you, or even just something as simple as giving yourself little things to look forward to, to get through the day. It’s about setting your expectations and your boundaries with others, and not be afraid to make sure these are stuck to, even if they may not like it.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”
— Brene Brown
So take those lovely shots of fresh nails, go to the gym, eat well, but don’t forget to think about the things that go on behind the scenes too, remember to love yourself inside and out. Sometimes self-care isn’t pretty, but it is always important.