Self-care is primarily not about massages and chocolate cake

A friend shared this post (“This is what ‘self-care’ really means – because it’s not all salt baths and chocolate cake” by Brianna West) recently, and I thought it contained many nuggets of wisdom.

Here are some excerpts and my thoughts on it:

A world in which self-care has to be such a trendy topic is a world that is sick.

Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure.

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.

It is not satiating your immediate desires.

It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t.

It is letting yourself be normal. Regular. Unexceptional.

In our society being unexceptional is almost looked upon as a crime (“What? Why wouldn’t anyone want to stretch themselves and fulfil their potential?”), or severe neglect in one’s parenting duties (call in Family Services already!).

But to me, ‘fulfilling one’s potential’ is sometimes just a guise for over-extending oneself and pushing oneself to the brink of anxiety just to achieve (or over-achieve), or just thinly veiled kiasuism.

Maybe it’s just me, but I fail (pun intended) to see what is so wrong with just being average, hovering around the median as the forces of nature (and statistical probability) requires most people to be in.

What is the point of driving oneself to distraction and suffering constant high-stress just to be head and shoulders above the Jones‘? In the process, more often than not, such people experience health crises, whether it is high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, or more often these days, mental crises (nervous breakdowns, depression, anorexia) that have a lasting impact and are severely difficult to treat and recover from.

If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.

In popular parlance, it’s about adulting.

I think there is so much wisdom in that quote. Life is all about choices. One of my bug-bears is hearing people who are obviously so privileged say they have “no choice”. More often than not, their decisions and choices are based on FOMO (fear of missing out).

We can choose not to be over-extended by living within our means. We can choose not to purchase that car and/or that condo just so that we can have the flexibility not to continue in a certain job if it suddenly demands “our soul, our life, our all”. We can choose not to require our kids to be in the top 5th (or 1st, choose your poison) percentile all their lives (academically, musically, socially) just so that we feel like heroes in the race of parenting.

We can choose not to take up that particular role or job (just so that we can sigh pathetically with the rest of Singapore about how busy we are), to have a more measured and sane pace of life. Sure, something’s gotta give. There will be less pay, less glamour, less to sigh about at the next dinner party, fewer fancy holidays (to ‘get away from all the stress’ – ironic not ironic), but we would have exercised responsible self-care, as responsible adults should.

It is no longer using your hectic and unreasonable life as justification for self-sabotage in the form of liquor and procrastination.

It means being the hero of your life, not the victim. It means rewiring what you have until your everyday life isn’t something you need therapy to recover from.

It is no longer choosing a life that looks good over a life that feels good. It is giving up on some goals so you can care about others. It is being honest even if that means you aren’t universally liked. It is meeting your own needs so you aren’t anxious and dependent on other people.

It is becoming the person you know you want and are meant to be. Someone who knows that salt baths and chocolate cake are ways to enjoy life – not escape from it.

Ultimately, it is about having a balanced worldview and recognising that we have no control about whether we will be here tomorrow, or taken away as the Lord wills.

It is making the best decisions for ourselves and our families, in eschewing consumerism and materialism, as prioritising familial relationships, mental and physical health, and all else that truly matters in the long run.

Merry Christmas, one and all!


  3 comments for “Self-care is primarily not about massages and chocolate cake

  1. December 7, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Oh Lyn I so love this post! Totally agree with what you wrote!

    ‘One of my bug-bears is hearing people who are obviously so privileged say they have “no choice”. ‘
    I get that a lot too! Life is about choices and we, especially most Singaporeans are lucky to have the privilege to choose many things in life. It is just sad if they can’t see it.

    • December 7, 2017 at 10:28 am

      Aww, thanks!
      Yup kinda annoying huh? Well, guess we all need to be more grateful for all that we have.
      And whether these people are conscious or not about how they have decided, we all reap what we sow…

  2. Sharon
    December 10, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    It’s a good perspective! It shows us what we need to do for ourselves in the world that exists not just for us. I speak for myself as a stay home mother who home educates my children. It’s a choice we have taken, not an average one nonetheless. The early days of non stop work is real. The mere “menial” or labour in an avergae home which could not afford every automation possible nor an extra help means that we have to guard our hearts , not just our energy raising the brood and inspiring the family. Hence I feel that self-care serves more like a reminder to “have time for ourselves” and to “take time to breathe” and it can be as simple as a walk in the park or snacking on chocolate cake, if it helps.

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