Self-care: An Internal Process Or An External Idea?

In a time where mental health issues are getting more and more frequent and the world outside of ourselves seems to be getting worse, self-care is the physical manifestation of looking at ourselves and saying, “you can do it”. Rolling out of bed, having a cup of coffee for breakfast and having your last thought be “I look a mess” before leaving the house is not the way to prepare for a particularly stressful day.

Think of it this way: you open the blinds one summer morning to the sun beaming down on the street, a very visible heatwave. You throw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and actively choose not to put on sun cream, despite the glaring sun. Not a good idea, right? What if feeling good about yourself was your SPF, that protective layer over your body that no matter how strong the sun is, you’re not going to get burned? Self-care is our mind’s sun cream. Looking after yourself forms the barrier in your mind that stops negativity.

However, recently it begs the question: has self-care become too commercialised? Have we become so engrossed in the idea of “looking after yourself” that it has become counter-productive? I believe that self-care is important, but it is essential that the process starts from within, not from external marketing strategies.

Physical self-care is one of the main elements of this process. Putting effort into your physical health helps your overall mood. Going back to basics is essential, I think, but I am not here to tell you what is and is not good for your body. Advertisements on the TV and the Internet like to tell you how to live, from your favourite influencer on Instagram promoting the newest diet tea to the App Store recommending that you download step trackers and calorie counters.

Don’t get me wrong, eating well and getting exercise can be huge contributors to how you feel about yourself, but it has to be coming from within you. Only you know your own body and it will tell you whether something does not work. That is why it is so important to listen to your body. Eat the foods you like, and eat enough. If you’d like to exercise more, pick an activity that you can handle and that perhaps does not feel like exercise. You’d be surprised how, once you start listening to your body and keeping your best interest at heart, regardless of the ideas being hurled at you, your confidence will start to improve.

Let’s not forget about how these ideas can affect your opinion of yourself. Gyms and health food companies promising ‘happiness’ once you buy their product. They promote this whole idea of becoming your ideal self and achieving true satisfaction if you buy it. I feel that Ireland is becoming a lot more self-aware – especially this year with the exposure of social media influencers – but it will be a long while before these marketing ploys undo the ideas we already have in our heads.

If we don’t look like what we see on Instagram or Facebook, we immediately think that we are not good enough, which directly affects our body image and can bring us down. We need to stop comparing ourselves to these people and using these products in order to achieve happiness. We need to look deep inside ourselves and figure out who it is that we are, the things that truly make us happy and what goals we would like to achieve during our lives. At the end of the day, no article or advertisement on the TV knows what you want in the future, so it has to come from within.

That, I think, is the true definition of self-care.

Still here? Check this out: The Trial of the Yellow Rose