#selfcare is a scam

I really hate when I see a social media post with #selfcare in the caption. Please no. Just no. #selfcare is such a scam.

Okay, maybe it’s a not scam in the sense that no one is pretending to be a Nigerian Prince while really trying to steal all your money. But the hashtag-able movement filled with social posts falls so far short of really conveying what self care is that it feels like scam to me. The act of taking care of yourself, however, is not.

Part of the problem with all this social posting about self care is that it feels harder to nail down what it means to actually care for yourself because everyone and their Aunt Sally is posting about #selfcare

*picture of massage table with crisp white sheets, an oil diffuser and ambient lighting* #selfcare

*picture of a weight room and a girl in perfectly grungy-cute work out clothes with just the right amount of sweat on her brown to convey she’s working out – but also looking cute enough for a selfie* #selfcare

*picture of a girl at the beach or a pool with a cute water bottle, perfect sunglasses and the latest YA novel – or better yet, the latest trending self help book* #selfcare

*picture of a masterfully completed adult coloring book page with a super inspiring quote in the caption* #selfcare

*picture of a girls toes peaking out of a mountain of bubbles in the bath tub, complete with lighted candles and a sprig of eucalyptus hanging from the faucet* #selfcare

My frustration with these type of posts is that they imply that the pictured activity is self care and that’s just not the whole picture (is that a pun? just poor word choice? either way, I’m sorry) when it comes to self care.

Those ^^ activities are not always self care, but sometimes they are. Hang with me. Let’s say, for example, I decide to get a two-hour massage. Sometimes, that’s me, caring for me. But sometimes, it’s more of way to pamper or treat myself. Sometimes, calling it self care is a creative way for me to justify indulgence. And sometimes? It can be straight up avoidance or even neglect.

Here’s my point: like most things in life, self care is totally relative. It’s individual and it’s subjective. Getting a massage or prioritizing workouts are not universal exercises in self care because the activity itself is just that – an activity. It’s neutral. A massage is not inherently self-caring. It’s the intention behind, motivation for, and result of an activity that determines whether or not something is self care.

So – how can you determine whether something is going to be an effective way to take care of yourself?

First, try asking yourself these questions when choosing a self care activity:

  • If my overall sense of well-being could be measured by a fuel gauge, how full is my “tank” feeling these days?
    • If your answer is full – ask:
      • What things are contributing to my sense of being full?
      • Keep doing more of those things
    • If your answer is “half” or “quarter” or “running on fumes” or “the fumes ran out three days ago” – ask:Where am I feeling depleted, heavy, worn-down, or worn-out in my life?
      • What is contributing to my sense of depletion/heaviness/exhaustion?
      • What would counter my sense of depletion?

Once you’ve got a potential thing in mind, examine it further through the following questions:

  • How will this care for me?
  • What part of myself is this taking care of? (Is this caring for myself emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, relationally, spiritually etc.)
  • What need does this meet?
  • Where did I get the idea that this was self care?

Sometimes, we care for ourselves by doing things that feel good to do like getting massages or planning a vacation. Sometimes, we also care for ourselves by doing hard things like getting our butts out of the bed in the morning to go to the gym, or making time in our schedule for therapy, or sticking to a budget to finally get out of credit card debt.

Sometimes, there’s even deeper levels of self care like working through the internal obstacles that keep us from speaking up for ourselves, asking for that raise or promotion, being honest about how we feel with our partner, sharing hurt feelings, ending a relationship, starting a relationship….you get the idea.

In the end, the best self care activities are things that either move us towards where we want to be or, when we’re happy with where are, help us stay there.