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Healing Girl Fall: What it Means to Focus on Yourself

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

A common piece of advice I hear thrown around often in the midst of chaos is “focus on yourself.” While at first glance this common phrase is helpful to hear, there are several underlying meanings to it. In my own experience, this phrase typically has good intentions behind it. The tricky part is deciphering it in a way that best fits your situation. Before you even begin applying the concept of focusing on yourself, there are a few hard truths that you will have to accept before starting.

Similar to misconceptions of what self-care truly means, the idea of what it means to focus on yourself can become clouded very quickly. It is comparable to the misconception of self-care consisting of only face masks and peppermint tea. Especially for more extroverted people, it’s unnecessary to cut off all ties and become a complete hermit in order to truly focus on yourself.

“Focusing on yourself” means to be selfish in the most genuine way. Not selfish in the way of turning a blind eye to someone in need; selfish in a way that prioritizes your needs over the needs of others, while balancing being an empathetic human being. It does not necessarily mean putting yourself on a pedestal. Putting anyone on a pedestal can be toxic in its own way. We as humans are not perfect and should not hold ourselves or anyone else to such impossible standards.

At its core, focusing on yourself means consistently making yourself a priority. Especially for my fellow people pleasers, putting yourself before others can be a major challenge. While there’s no need for the added pressure of perfectionism in the journey of self-care, selfishness can be positive. For example, it’s arguably selfish to put on your oxygen mask before helping others during a plane crash. Yet, it’s necessary to ensure the highest possibility of survival for all passengers. It’s necessary to look out for yourself before looking out for anyone else. How else can you build up another person if you’re still finding a way to climb yourself?

On the journey of self-improvement in any aspect, there will be a bumpy road. This is one of the hard truths that have to be processed and accepted before diving into this journey. Don’t bother looking for perfection in anything that is innately human. This will lead to more failures than successes. Instead of seeing it as two steps back and three steps forward, see it as taking two steps back to regroup in order to move three steps forward. For example, if you never bumped into someone and spilled your coffee that means you would have never met them. In this case, if you never fail you won’t know how to proceed and succeed. Embrace the failures and rock bottoms of the process before proceeding.

It is okay to sit in silence for a moment. It is okay to be and do things alone. Being alone isn’t always lonely, it can be a chance to experience peacefulness. Focusing on yourself can be a chance to get to know who you really are, in-depth, before getting to know anyone else with the same intensity. Where do you like to go for fun or even just to clear your head? What makes you happy? What can you count on within yourself?

An obvious but mentionable component of the process is taking care of responsibilities. Prioritize cleaning, organizing and making where you live a space that you want to be in. Even the typical self-care that consists of hygiene and beauty rituals counts as putting yourself first. Prioritize the obvious adult responsibilities of taking care of bills, appointments, doctor’s office, mental health assistance, etc. If you’re in school like me you owe it to yourself to prioritize school work. Going to the gym in a way that makes your mind and body happy counts as self-care. Eating nutritious foods and drinking more water than coffee are vital. It does not have to be pretty, it just has to get done.

The idea of focusing on yourself can look like many things. The main goal is to know how and when to put yourself first. It’s okay to say no, even if you could say yes. It’s okay to opt-out. The road may be never-ending and treacherous but it’s better to move forward in any direction. Anything that’s really worth it is worth the challenge, and that’s the least you owe to yourself.

Salma is a junior at VCU majoring in digital journalism and minoring in psychology. She loves iced coffee, going out with her girls, and watching old movies.