Self-Care is More Than Skin Deep
*Photo by Mikayla Christiansen
Self-care is not exactly a new idea, but it has become quite the buzz word around the internet lately.
You can’t scroll your Instagram feed these days without landing upon at least five photos of a woman in a charcoal mask with the hashtag #self-care. While I love the idea of encouraging women to take time for themselves, I can’t help but think that in some ways, the movement is missing the mark of teaching women to truly take care of their inner self. If we don’t scratch the surface, the movement could even set women up for failure.
I believe there is much deeper work to be done within. According to Psychology Today, the essence of self-care is mindfully taking time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you. Taking care of you starts inside. That can mean having some hard conversations with yourself, pinpointing where you’re falling short for yourself, and taking ownership of the responsibility to fill your proverbial cup with plenty of self-love, kindness, and affirmation. What that self-love entails will look different for everyone. It will require you to peel back some layers and sit still with yourself; which may stir up uncomfortable feelings at first, but tending to your inner self can lift your spirit and help you better manage your feelings.
While I am not discounting the importance of outer self-care, if you do not address the inner work first, you may end up feeling frustrated by putting in the time and effort but seeing only superficial results. Self-care should never leave you with further feelings of emptiness, stress, unhappiness, or not being enough. This deeper dive into inner self-care will not only allow you to thrive internally, but will also enable you to give more to those around you. Building a strong relationship with yourself is the first step in transforming your relationships with others. It is your secret weapon of armor to help protect your sacred energy, manage stress, and live your best life.
Here are 5 introspective questions to ask of yourself to evaluate how you’re really taking care of you.
1| How is your self-talk?
The first step to inner self-care is paying attention to that voice inside your head. Are you constantly nagging yourself, comparing yourself, and putting yourself down? If so, it’s time to change the conversation. This negative self-talk is detrimental to your soul. It’s time to stop being your own worst enemy, and become your own best friend. When I find myself in the throws of self-depreciation, I literally imagine my children’s faces and ask myself if I would ever speak to them in that way. Another question I will ask myself is “How would you treat a friend who was in this situation. Would you degrade her and make her feel worse by pointing out everything she has done wrong?” The answer is always a hard no. If we would not speak to our children or a friend in that way, why is it okay to speak to ourselves like that? We must learn to speak to ourselves honestly but kindly.
2| Why are you so hard on yourself?
If you’ve identified that your inner conversation is constantly negative, it’s time to dig into the story. Is your inner voice parroting someone in your life who has told you that you are not enough? Or are you setting impossible standards of perfection for yourself that you can’t possibly achieve? If you are allowing someone else’s negative thoughts about you to define your own thoughts about you, it is time to debunk. Someone else’s adaptation of your story IS NOT your story. YOU have the power to rewrite your inner narrative to truth and you do not have to live your life according to theirs. You do not need permission from anyone but yourself to start speaking kindness and truth into yourself.
If your negative self-talk stems from perfectionism, it is time to develop reasonable expectations of yourself. Reasonable expectations include a hearty dose of showing yourself grace when things do not go exactly as you mapped them out in your head. Instead of dwelling on what didn’t “go right,” try opening yourself to seeing everything as a lesson and be grateful for them. Each lesson we’re given is molding us to be exactly who we were meant to be. The universe’s timing is impeccable and perfect.
3| How are you superficially filling your cup?
Do you find yourself eating when you have no hunger? Spending when you have no money? Drinking daily to take the edge off? Keeping yourself so busy that you don’t have time to think, etc? Often, we seek these comforts to stuff deeper feelings lying beneath the surface. These behaviors give us comfort momentarily, but it is a vicious cycle of feel good, feel bad, do more to feel good again, feel worse. Rinse, repeat. When we get in the habit of this cycle, we often do it on autopilot, not even realizing what we’re doing until we’re elbow deep in a Cheeto bag (or insert your poison.) Once we can admit to these habits, we can begin to identify our triggers. Try imagining an actual red stop sign amidst a binge or shopping spree and ask yourself some questions. What is bothering me? Will this action still feel good tomorrow?
4| How are you unpacking?
If you are keeping things bottled up, you are bound to crack. We are not equipped to handle everything on our own. We will suffer mentally, emotionally, or physically, if not all of the above, if we do not allow ourselves an outlet to get the words in our heads and hearts out into the world. This can look like regular coffee dates with a trusted friend or family member, seeing a therapist, or even just doing a daily “brain dump” type journaling exercise (Writing down anything and everything that comes into your mind. No rhyme or reason necessary.) You can even record a voice memo, then delete it if you want. Whatever method you choose, it is vital to unpack what we’re feeling inside.
5| What actions are you taking daily to exercise this self-love?
As with any habit, we must practice putting these actions into play regularly to see growth. You can begin building inner self-care into your lifestyle by setting a goal to ask yourself these questions daily. There is no wrong or right way to ask yourself these questions, and there is no wrong or right way to answer them. It is simply a matter of starting an important dialogue within yourself. Nurturing oneself is a key factor in being able to maintain strength, resolve, motivation, and inner resources to continue to give to others.
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Susie Trigg Tucker lives with her husband and two children on a ranch just outside of Austin, TX. Through her journey of recovery from disordered eating and lifelong perfectionism, Susie has found her voice in advocating for women's mental, emotional, and physical health. She is passionate about cooking real food and starting real conversations to help others who may be going through similar struggles. You can connect with Susie and find more of her stories and tips for navigating inner self-care, as well as her healthy recipes, over on her website and Instagram and Facebook.