Self-Compassion is a Pre-Req for Self-Care
We all know that self-care is this magical activity that if engaged with we’ll stave off depression, anxiety, burnout, etc. For me, self-care was the deniability of care, an enforced self-responsibility that allowed for blame and shame if I didn’t perform it. When I was assigned self-care as homework, alongside actual papers and essays, I knew the self-care wouldn’t be graded so I just plain didn’t do it. It was either that or skip out on the grade-based assignments. I just didn’t see any purpose in self-care, it was something I could give up to get more time doing work that really mattered.
This is an excellent way to reach burnout, and burn out fast. My self-care were those mindless activities that I followed out of habit, because when I’m exhausted the only thing I know are those some old patterns of behavior that merely stuck around from tenacity, not from any actual benefit they provide me. It turns out that zoning-out isn’t the same as mindfulness, but that’s a story for another time.
Self-care works, but only if you actually care about yourself. No amount of yoga, kale, exercise, eating right, sleeping right, drinking enough water will lead to you caring for yourself without any reflection or meaning behind it. You need to have that self-compassion first, before you know what self-care to perform. Self-compassion is the state of mind, and self-care is the action that follows.
If you struggle at performing self-care, is it because when you grasp for a reason why, all you know is that, “someone told you to?” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been very good with authority, and if someone told me to do something I only reacted with skepticism. “It’s good for you, that’s why,” was never reason enough. So I’m here to tell you the why, and then let you find your own self-care that’s the best fit.
Self-Compassion (as researched by Dr. Kristin Neff) has three simple components that leave you with the desire to do self-care. It’s treating yourself like you’d treat a good friend, it’s knowing that you’re not alone in your experience, and it’s having a sense of mindfulness, not straying too far into the past or future, neither dwelling or avoiding your experience and feelings. Any one of these might sound like the hardest challenge in the world, don’t worry, that’a normal. If you can sit with yourself, as you feel now, knowing you’re not alone in your feelings, and just be kind without worrying about the future or feeling shame about the past, you’ll start to see the reason why self-care might be right for you.
It’s up to you to take responsibility for your life and how you treat yourself, but without a roadmap that you create, one from caring about and understanding yourself, you might find yourself more lost than when you started. Let a self-compassion practice help you chart your way.