Why You Should Redefine "Self-Care"

I went home for my birthday a few weekends ago, and I broke down in front of my mom. I bawled my eyes out while I admitted, “This isn’t how I pictured myself when I was 20. Look at me. I’m a mess.” Then I found Kaelen’s article about hormonal acne, something in my head finally clicked: I haven’t been taking care of myself at all. My stress has kept me from eating any more than a few bites of food at a time, has crushed my self-confidence, has prevented me from lifting or doing cardio at the gym, has wreaked havoc on my hormones and led to weight gain and muscle loss, has caused insomnia and horrible breakouts… you get the picture. I knew I had to change something.

I scoured the internet for ways a young woman in her 20s should take care of herself—from her skin to her hair to her body. What I found was interesting, and hear me out when I say it.

Think before you practice “self-care.”

Yes, I said it. Don’t tune me out yet (because I am also guilty of doing this)! There is a fine line between genuinely caring about yourself and caring for yourself.

I get it; few things beat perusing Target’s $1 section and finding gems on clearance. It’s hard to get a more relaxing scenario than wearing an activated charcoal cleansing mask while you sip wine or sparkling water while you soak in bath-bomb-infused water—don’t forget that $3 candle you have on the edge of the tub! That’s caring for yourself.

If you aren’t careful, though, self-care isn’t really caring at all. Sure, the practices may temporarily relax you, but what we as college women need to do is find the root cause of our stress and change it as much as possible (I realize you can’t just drop out and live a care-free nomadic life with a sugar daddy). That is self-care. That is caring about yourself and believing in your worth as a human no matter your GPA, no matter if you have a thigh gap, no matter if guys aren’t falling all over you, etc.

For example, I love the short-term pleasure of that aforementioned bubble bath and facial, but it actually stresses me more to do that. Crazy, right? I hate spending money on that, even if it amounts to a meager $10 total. I hate taking the time to do that when I have other things to do. Finally, when I get out of the tub, I’m back to my state of panic over things I should’ve been doing while I was soaking in a tub.

What I need to do is address the root cause of my stress, as hard as that is. I need to find a lasting routine, not a temporary one. For me, that’s going to the gym even if I only walk on the treadmill. It’s cooking a small healthy meal to enjoy even if I can only have a few bites. It’s making sure I get adequate sleep and manage my time well enough in the day to be able to do those things. Maybe it’s revamping my makeup and hair routine (the latter is very difficult since I have extremely curly hair). Most importantly, it’s not comparing myself to every single girl I see in person or on social media. Period.

Caring about yourself is recognizing your worth. Find what works for you. I’m not shaming you for that lovely bubble bath; if that works for you, enjoy it!! It doesn’t help me, though. For some ideas on how to make caring about yourself a lifestyle rather than a phase, check out one of the articles at The Everygirl I found in my perusing.

I hope this helps you even if only in the tiniest way.

About The Author

I am a Computer Engineering sophomore at Auburn University. You'll see that I have a penchant for using puns, writing lists, giving advice, and talking about my personal college experiences (especially as a woman in STEM and former NASA intern!). I'm a huge fan of Crossfit and weight lifting, am a self-proclaimed coffee addict, and am a major outer space nerd.