Last year while on a hike in the woods, a friend asked me what I thought about self-care and self-love. I had never questioned it before. I asked her what she meant by that, and she explained that she had noticed how social media seemed to make self-care a commodity - something you can accomplish if you buy enough bubble-bath, dry brushes, or herb-scented candles. I thought that was so interesting, and definitely agreed that self-care was portrayed as a very specific set of actions that may not apply to most people. Most troubling to me, though, was reflecting on how self-care was used as a substitute for genuine mindset of self-love.
That being said, I do love self-care practices. I love reading about other people's routines and forming my own. I love the idea of doing simple actions to give ourselves time and space in a culture that pushes us too fast and too hard. Self-care practices are a way to bring gentleness and softness into our lives. They hand us just a little more power in our day. I'm going to share my favourite self-care practices below, but please read until the very end of the article, because that's where the good, healing, magical nugget of this post is waiting for you.
My Self-Care Practices
Tea RoutineI LOVE me some tulsi, licorice, and chamomile. My tea routine allows me to wake up, de-stress, or relax depending on the tea I choose. Noticing my mood and physical reactions allows me to mindfully choose a tea that will help me. Giving myself that time in the morning, afternoon, and evening to feel more like myself has done wonders for my mental health.
Natural Body SpraysI am obsessed with my Om Organics sprays - I have "Flower Child" (grounding) and "Dusk" (euphoric) which I use when I simply want to feel nice and pretty.
Essential OilsI put doterra's "On Guard" on the soles of my feet before I sleep, which is supposed to help you avoid catching a cold during the winter months. I haven't gotten sick - so maybe it works! And even if it doesn't, having this as part of my night routine reminds my body that its time to unwind. I also love Kate's Magik "Moon Goddess" jasmine blend - I feel sexy and beautiful when I wear this on my wrists! It's crazy.
Epsom Salt BathsAs much as a bath is peaceful for the the mind, it's so so so nice for my muscles after a ski day or yoga sesh, too! I add lavender into a hot bath with the epsom salts, and I drift off to a little mini heaven for about 30 minutes. I emerge feeling like a soft lil' ocean fairy, smelling like a lavender field.
Asking for a dang minute!I promise it's okay! People will understand. If you're overwhelmed, tired, hungry, moody, sad, or anything else that makes you want to just take a breather, do it. Ask for a dang minute. You'll be able to get back to feeling yourself so much faster, and honestly, there won't be any of the consequences you might be using as excuses not to. So...Take. A. Dang. Minute.
Now, that's all well and good. But really, I'm not here to just talk about self-care. I wanted to share my journey with self-LOVE. Yes, they are different. Absolutely, self-care can be used as a tool to practice self-love. But no, self-care cannot be a substitute for self-love.
I used to stare at the mirror and list everything I hated about my face and my body. I started and ended every day that way for years. I'm now in a place where I love my body. I know, I'm not supposed to say this! I'm not even supposed to think this! But I do - I LOVE MY BODY. I don't love my body because its perfect. I don't have a flat stomach, I don't have a perfectly toned bum, I definitely have super hairy legs, and don't have a thigh gap. Yet, none of these things matter to me anymore, because I've gotten into the habit of seeing myself as a whole human being - not a compilation of body parts with vague assembly instructions that always leave me feeling like something is missing. I love the softness of my body. I love what me body can do for me - it takes me to the tops of mountains and lets me race down ski slopes. I love to take care of this vessel.
My Self-LOVE Practices
Start small & specificGratitude is everything. One day I decided it was impossible to be grateful for my abs (or lack thereof) if I was still holding resentment - so I started appreciating the small, unique things about my body that I actually liked. For example, I have this small streak of natural blond hair even though most of my hair is brunette, and I have the cutest freckle ever right above my belly button. It's so cute. I see that little freckle and I can't help but thing "I am looking so cute today." Find your equivalent. Don't tell me there's nothing, because there is always something. Be honest. It doesn't have to be something society thinks is cute. It could be the bump in your nose, or the baby hairs at the nape of your neck. It could be your graceful-looking ankles, or your hip-dips. Pick something, and love it hard. Eventually it will be easier to see more and more aspects of yourself that you can start to appreciate.
Create your own guidelinesYou will never EVER measure up to the standards of society. I'm not even sorry to say that, because it's true and everyone needs to realize that. What I've found to be helpful is to create my own guideline for success. I value authenticity, kindness, and the ability to laugh at oneself more than I value looking pretty, saying the "right" things, or wearing the "cool" clothes. Reflect on what success looks like to you. What does the best version of yourself look like? Realize you are already that person, you just need to forget the distractions and different directions you're being pulled in and step into your authentic self. You will find it so much easier to love yourself when you are measuring up to guidelines that actually matter instead of something that is impossible to achieve.
Be mindful of your patternsWhen I started noticing my reactions to advice, comments, compliments, and stress, it became easier to forgive myself and move on from mistakes or foul moods. Instead of saying to myself "wow, you are so emotional, dramatic, and bitchy" when I got upset over being left out or receiving a poor grade, I tell myself "ok, this is your time to feel like this. You know what it was triggered by, so you know what you need to go heal now." Instead of judging myself for being defensive when I get advice, I notice when I am defensive and use that as a clue, thinking "hmm, maybe I'm actually not making the right decision." This comes with time, but being mindful of my patterns and holding myself accountable for my thoughts has allowed me to forgive myself and move on so much quicker. I can bounce back to loving myself without wallowing for days (like I used too).
Detox your feedIf you have been feeling like your body/skin/hair isn't good enough, you don't need to detox your diet, you need to detox your social media feed! Stop following people who make you feel like shit about yourself. It's not worth it. Same goes for your real life! Stop being in toxic relationships. Surround yourself with people who love you, intake only media that radiates love, and you, too, will be able to give and receive love.
Wear Reminders of what you love about yourselfDress in a way that you feel comfortable, happy, authentic, and beautiful. Wear clothes that fit you properly! Dress in a way that makes you feel like yourself. Accessorize with reminders of your personality and emphasis what you love about yourself. Pins are a great (and cheap) way to do this! Especially these one's made by my friend Jen. Her art reminds me to accept myself, to love myself where I'm at, and to feel comfortable in my female form. I love everything she does, and she inspires me endlessly. Check out her amazing art (she does pins, sketches, tattoo commissions, creates music...and probably more tbh) at @hoigle !
I have a very long way to go. I do not love myself all the time. In social situations, I find myself questioning every single thing I say and I usually go home believing that nobody likes me and that I'm not worthy of people's time. That's actually, probably, my biggest secret. I'm embarrassed to say it, but like I said before, I value authenticity and I love that I am able to create space for others by living that value. Writing this will help me follow my own advice. Eventually, I want to love my whole self as much as I love my body, my friends, and the Earth. None of those things are separate anyways.
We are all in this journey. We are all together. Know that you are loved - and you can love yourself, too.