The term “self care” has become increasingly prevalent on feminist sites and in feminist discourse. We can tell it sounds nice, but what is it, exactly? And why has it been dubbed “radical” by some?
What is self-care?
Self-care is the term used by psychologists, feminists, and others to refer to someone actively choosing to treat themselves well, and to take steps to achieve this personal goal. It is doing things solely for the purpose of caring for yourself, loving yourself and your body, and being kind to yourself.
It involves doing activities that make you feel good and setting aside time to do so. It is a movement to reinforce that mental health is as important as physical health. It means taking half an hour to put off our seeming eternal to-do lists to check in with our own wellbeing and state of mind. It’s about being healthy in a way that isn’t focused on weight or thinness. It’s about learning to love your awesome self.
Why is self-care radical?
We live in a society that tells people–especially women–that they should be unhappy with themselves and their natural instincts, and that they should work to change themselves.
You should lose weight, you should put on weight, you should wear more makeup, you should wear less makeup, you should be constantly put-together, show more skin, show less skin, and on and on.
In addition, we live in a society that oppresses people based on their identities that they cannot change (race/gender/sexuality/etc.), which increases pressure to conform and heightens social policing and punishing when one doesn’t do so.
Self-care and self-love combat and subvert these ideas. It is a huge and growing part of the modern feminist movement, especially with its emphasis on survivors of sexual or intimate partner violence–for whom healing can be a process which encourages self-care ideas.
Self-care is radical because it puts equal emphasis on mental and physical health–something that our society currently does not do. Mental health is imperative for staying healthy and safe, and mental health issues are highly undertreated and underdiagnosed, especially in poor communities and communities of color. Mental health issues often come with a stigma that makes them hard to treat and hard even to acknowledge. Self-care dictates the stigma around mental illness be eliminated to lead to better treatment and better living.
Mental health is often seen as a secondary issue. To take a mental health day off from school or work is often seen as unnecessary or excessive, when it really is important to lower your stress levels and take time for self-care. Self-care ideology puts mental health on a level plane with physical health.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde
Ideas for self-care:
My favorites include:
- Taking a bath
- Going outside
- Positive self-talk about my mind and body
- Being with friends
- Watching a lighthearted movie
- Painting my nails
- Being with pets
- Calling your loved ones
- Sitting at a coffee shop
- Having a glass of wine
- Taking a walk
- Eating some yummy food (whether that be fresh fruit or a Hershey bar)
For more on self-care, you can check out these other resources: