The phrase self-care is used so much these days that it’s hard to tell what it really means. It has been used in marketing luxury items and experiences, and becomes something else on your to-do list that you never get around to. At its worst, it’s a promise that if you just do more, you will finally be able to do it all and feel great at the same time. If you are struggling, it must be because you’re not taking care of yourself enough. It’s your fault, your inadequacy. The voices keep whispering:
“Not enough! Do more! Buy more! Be more!”
If certain aspects of self-care are working for you, great! I’m not judging the things that help you feel like yourself and bring you joy, I hope you are able to partake in those things as much as you need. But if self-care feels like a burden, you are not alone. Our society has built up unrealistic expectations for new moms (and all parents), while at the same time removing many of the support structures parents have relied on for most of human history. We were never meant to parent in isolation, and yet so many of us feel alone on this journey. Rather than piling on to your to-do list, I invite you to consider embracing self-love.
What is the difference between self-care and self-love? To me it is an attitude of acceptance and appreciation of where we are in the moment, rather than feeling guilty and inadequate for not being something else. It is an acknowledgement that things aren’t always easy, and we are doing the best we can in a difficult situation. Committing to self-love means being gentle with ourselves when we are having a tough time and knowing that these experiences are normal, human, and temporary. It is choosing to not give up on ourselves and to keeping coming back to this place of compassion over and over. When you catch yourself thinking negatively, you can chose to think about how you can be more loving to yourself in your thoughts and attitudes. We all deserve that care and consideration, even if we aren’t receiving it from others right now.