When Self Care Isn’t Easy

“What’s your favorite way to practice self-care?”

We go around the room and answer the question. Some people talk about their routines of face masks, hot showers, and good music. Others mention cleaning or exercising as ways to practice self-care. We all nod in agreement at the notion of self-care as an act of external kindness to yourself—and it is! Caring for yourself by taking some time to be alone and do things that make you feel relaxed and happy is a wonderful thing and is 100% a form of self-care. Even so, there’s a lot more to self-care than I think a lot of people realize or are willing to admit, and it’s important that we do.

Self-care can be so much more than just practicing skin care or taking some much needed quiet time to gather your thoughts. I think that for our generation, especially for high school and college kids, the phrase “self-care” has almost been spun in a way to allow us to excuse ourselves of considering where we may need to grow. 

For example, the concept of cutting someone out of your life isn’t necessarily a new concept, but it seems that I see more and more people joking about it on Twitter, and more and more people are gathering the courage to leave toxic people behind. Don’t get me wrong—this is a really great thing! Toxic relationships of all kinds are draining and damaging and the sooner someone can leave one, the better. Situations of abuse are never excusable and abusers do not deserve sympathy.  My fear, however, is that this new readiness to cut people out without any warning or any discussion is harmful; it allows us to forget that other people are multifaceted individuals. Just because a friendship or relationship is unhealthy doesn’t mean that it’s completely irreparable or that it’s completely the other individual’s fault.

The summer before my junior year of high school, I had fallen hard for a guy, and we had hung out a little bit before things just kind of fell apart naturally. It sounds silly looking back at it now, but I was torn up over the situation for months afterward. Fast forward to the fall of that year, I was still hurting and a girl I considered to be one of my best friends asked him to homecoming (because the two were good friends). I was so hurt. I didn’t even try to talk to my friend about it. I just stopped talking to her because I didn’t know how to deal with how hurt I was. I automatically assumed that my friend was just being a bad friend and because of this, she obviously didn’t care about me and the friendship was obviously toxic. I never even took the time to explain why I wasn’t speaking to her.

In this situation, even though our friendship was far from perfect, my placement of the blame completely on my friend was in the wrong. I was the toxic friend in this situation. 

Sometimes, self-care means owning up to our own mistakes and forgiving ourselves for it. It’s recognizing where we ourselves may have been contributors to toxicity in our own lives and in the lives of others. Sometimes, self-care is taking responsibility for your mistakes but allowing yourself the time and space to process it and grow from the experience.

Last semester (the fall of my freshman year of college), I sent a text to the former friend I had cut off. I expressed my regret and extended the sincerest apology I could. She replied and we talked about how we had both had a lot of growing up to do at the time of the incident, but how now we were happy where we are and how glad we both are to know that the other is happy.

Sometimes, your problems can melt away with the right peel-off face mask. But sometimes our problems require deeper thought and self-examination. They require us to own up to our mistakes and recognize that, just like everyone we know, we’re only human and we make mistakes.

Self-care isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it.