“Self-care is not love and light; it is raw and real”
~ Olakemi (@melanatedmomma)
I had a red-pill last year and came to the realization that I was in a bad state because of self-neglect. Now for those who don’t know what a red-pill is allow me to explain.
In The Matrix, the main character, Neo, is given the choice by the rebel leader, Morpheus, between a red-pill and a blue-pill. The blue-pill represents a sort of blissful ignorance and the red-pill symbolizes a sort of consciousness to reality. (It is an amazing film! You should watch it.)
So to say I had a red-pill I mean I became conscious of something I was not aware of. It was nothing short of painful and sad. I looked at myself and realized I had ignored myself for practically my entire existence while giving the best of me to others. I felt like an abandoned building. I was falling apart physically, emotionally, and mentally. I sat with myself and felt apologetic for sleeping on myself. Days of depression ensued.
One day during my pity-party, I had an epiphany. Why don’t I channel the same energy I expend on others to myself? All of me awoke and went to work. I began with the easy part which was the physical. (Please don’t look for me expecting to see remarkable change, I am getting there). As the energy began flowing within I began exploring myself and finding out what else I had neglected and with time I ended the pity-party and began focusing on myself. In the middle of the radical energy shift, I came across the word self-care.
- The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
This definition is as per the dictionary. I have come across dozens of meanings of the same word. Some have defined it as getting your nails done, having a bubble bath, shaving your legs, buying yourself expensive things to uplift your mood, etc. It is none of those things, trust me. People confuse it with self-pampering and general grooming, these things are important but they are not even half of what actual self-care is. Actual self-care in my view is getting real with yourself and not doing things that will put you in harm’s way in any aspect, be it physically, emotionally, or mentally. For example, you know one more Netflix episode will ruin your sleep schedule and you will wake up tomorrow and regret the sleep you had to forgo to watch that episode. Another example nearly all of us have struggled with (or is it just me?). You know in your heart of hearts that drunk-texting your ex is a BAD idea but you do it anyway. Now the sober you has to contend with whatever emotions there are after that. See a strong sense of self-care will tell you to just sleep and continue the series tomorrow or tell you to put your phone down and enjoy your drunk.
Now that we have a sense of what self-care is, let us explore ways in which we can care for ourselves better.
Inabidi ujijue na ujitambue. Self-care begins when you get to know yourself. Who are you really? What are your values? Sit with yourself and get to know your behaviors, strengths, weaknesses, and traits among other things. Self-awareness is vital in helping you assess your life and give you insight into whether you are aligned with your goals and aspirations. Once you are aware of yourself you will be able to tell if what you give your energy to is truly serving you or if it is leading you to ruin. It also helps if you ask people who you trust to be blunt with you and tell you your shortfalls in an objective way. The same way you tell someone’s son/daughter, “I want to know you better” tell yourself the same and mean it. Once you garner all the honest facts from your reflections and people you trust you can begin to make changes accordingly and set yourself on course with the facts as a north star.
2. SETTING BOUNDARIES
I can’t stress the importance of boundaries. Boundaries are essential in caring for the self. Boundaries can be set once you know what your values are. For example, if you value respect, all forms of disrespect will be an instant turn-off, and when you set the boundary not to entertain disrespect your quality of life will improve. Setting boundaries empowers you to see and call out bullshit from people in your life. If people do not respect your boundaries you have the power to disassociate yourself with them for the sake of yourself. It is healthy and necessary. A lack of well-defined boundaries will give people the lee-way to walk all over you and trust that they will trample on you mercilessly. So, define and communicate your boundaries and watch your self-esteem and peace of mind improve.
3. HOLISTIC WELLNESS
Holistic wellness entails taking an active role in your overall wellbeing; physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and socially. Do things that will benefit you now and in the future. This is an interesting aspect of self-care because deep down we know what is right but because it is uncomfortable we do things that are less uncomfortable but feel-good at that moment. For example, eating a tub of ice-cream when you are feeling sad, at that moment it seems like a brilliant thing to do. The sweet and creamy tastes will soothe your bad mood but when it is over, does the bad mood evaporate? Does the problem go away? How about the next time before you reach for comfort food you try to take deep breaths or a walk in nature, they are simple solutions that will keep your mind and waistline in check. So chose the right option for a long-term positive effect as opposed to an option that will be pleasant at that moment but does not serve you in the long-run. Take charge of your wellbeing by considering the following activities; eating healthy meals, picking up creative hobbies, journaling, taking up exercise, meditating, going to therapy, finding a community of uplifting people, and whatever other avenues that will do you and your future self much justice.
I can say self-care is not as rosy as social media puts it. It is real work that will break you some days. On such days I encourage you to keep going, keep choosing yourself, keep setting and enforcing your boundaries, keep caring for your well-being, and keep getting to know yourself. It may take time but your future self will be forever grateful.
We would love to hear about your self-care journey.