I once opened up Facebook to a whole feed of “Treat Yourself Day” images from my friends, who were celebrating the holiday inaugurated by the sitcom Parks and Recreation.
My friends, many of them Christians, were having so much fun, and I was more than a little jealous of their pretty pedicures, new out ts, post-yoga glows, and clean houses because they had hired their cleaners for an extra day. #TreatYourself.
Now, friend, I will be the first to look you in the eye and tell you that I have well-planned wish lists for fancy little treats and luxuries from all my favorite places.
I am here for back rubs, chocolate croissants, and Netflix binges.
I can self-care with the best of them. All day. Every day.
But maybe that’s the problem.
Maybe we have so saturated the market with a message of “self-care” that’s so self-centered or so reliant on us having expendable money or time in order to “treat ourselves”, that we forget the purpose of rest and self-care is to be refreshed to do good in our families, communities, and the world.
I worry that we’re in danger of having a self-centered view of self care— it’s all about treating myself, for my pleasure, because I’m worth it that we forget one: to looks for simple ways of self-care and two: provide opportunities for self-care for those on the margins.
In an article by NPR on millennials and self-care called “Millennials Obsession with Self-Care,” it’s reported that self-care is a 10 billion dollar industry.
Partly because more people are making it a value, but also because we equate self-care with self-indulgence: pedicures we normally wouldn’t get became a staple of our self-care, what if we took that $35 and put it towards childcare for a working mom so she can go to the gym, take a walk, or sit in a coffee shop in peace?
I think when we indulge to the point we have no room or desire to care for others, we’re not living wholeheartedly in a very brokenhearted world.
In a fascinating article in the Atlantic called “How ‘Treat Yourself’ Became a Capitalist Command,” Esther Bloom notes this about the ways we treat ourselves:
American culture, with its typical anything-worth-doing-is-worth-overdoing attitude, has reduced self-care to buying stuff and, even more counter-intuitively, to trying to become a more productive employee. In other words, active self-care was originally considered necessary to be a philosopher, typically for elite white men who had the luxury to sit and think. Now, America has democratized it by making it seemingly available to all—at least, for a price.
This September is Self-Care Awareness month and my Instagram feed is filling up with beautiful ideas for self-care.
I want to do them all, go to the farmer’s market and get the ingredients for homemade jam, hike to a waterfall and enjoy a picnic on the rocks, send the kiddos off the school and enjoy a glorious Netflix binge.
I want to do it all, but at the same time I want to remember that the day after I make jam, maybe I should take a jar over to a new mama, offer to make the kiddos toast and put them down for a nap so she can get out of the house.
Maybe after my hike and picnic, I could come back home, put together a nature inspired care package for my friend going through a divorce and take it over to her.
Maybe, I can gift a month of Netflix to my friend who just graduated with her Masters but is in that awkward “in between” season of working a job she hates while she builds her resume in her field.
I think the keys to holistically practicing self-care are:
- One: Rest, but keep it in perspective— we rest so that we can create rest for others.
- Two: Reject the allure of our culture for more, shiny, and expensive as the standard of a “good life” or in this instance, a “good” habit of self-care.
- Three: Remind ourselves that simple joys like a walk in the park or an afternoon nap are valid forms of rest.
When counselors and other experts tell us to practice self-care, I know that they have good intentions, but I don’t think self-care alone is a message that serves us well as Shalom Sistas— women who want to be peacemakers in our everyday lives.
I think we need to view self-care the same way we view food- it is intended to energize us to live holistically in order to seek our lives purposes.
And as much as I’m loving the canary yellow polish I chose, the most perfect pedicure is surely not my life’s purpose.
I want to love God, my family, my community, and the world to the best of my ability— so I rest and care for myself so that I can be whole. We are made whole to help make the world whole.