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The Misconception of Self-Care

By Mickenzie Vought, Onsite Editorial Director  

The Misconception of Self-Care 

How to Give Ourselves What We Really Need 

What do you think of when you hear the phrase self-care? 

You might think about a great massage or getting your nails done. Perhaps you imagine spending the whole day on the golf course or an evening cigar. Or maybe you picture lying by the pool with a frozen drink on a luxurious beach vacation. 

While those activities can totally bring us rest and rejuvenation, the romanticization that many of us carry around about what self-care looks like might be limiting our ability to truly care for ourselves. 

Have you ever bought into any of these beliefs about self-care? 

5 Misconceptions that Keep Us From True Self-Care  

1. It Requires a Lot of Time or Effort 

Often, we overlook the small things that actually contribute to our well-being. We inadvertently put off taking care of ourselves until we think we can find “more time” or “more energy” to do the gran- diose thing we’ve labeled as self-care—the trip, the pampering, the day of solitude. But we can care for ourselves in the everyday moments instead of waiting until we’re burnt out or exhausted. Small actions have significant results; for example, stopping to take a minute of deep, cleansing breaths might be all the self-care you need in a moment. 

2. If It Works for Someone Else, It Should Work for You 

How many times in life have we let comparison dictate our actions (including how we carry out self-care)? One size does not fit all, and it’s important to remember the word self in self-care. We universal- ly need to take an active role in protecting our well-being, but the ways by which we most effectively do it are highly individualized— determined by our preferences, capacity, and season of life. That means what works for someone else (or what worked for you in a different season) won’t always work for you. Instead of looking to other people to determine what brings you rest, ask yourself, “Will this improve my well-being and make me feel good?” If the answer is yes—then it’s right for YOU! 

3. It Is Expensive 

Haven’t you ever heard, “the best things in life are free?” While it’s essential to invest in your health, that doesn’t always mean you need to invest money. What would it look like to invest your other resources into self-care? Your time, your energy, or your relational capacity are all resources you can tap into when determining what would rejuvenate you on any given day. 

4. It Has to Be Fun 

Here’s a hard truth many of us don’t want to hear: Self-care isn’t always fun. Some of the best things we can do for ourselves are not enjoyable experiences. They might require a little bit of work. 

Perhaps you never want to work out, but you know that you always feel more like yourself and energized after you finish. Therapy can often be a great way to take care of yourself, but it doesn’t always feel good to spend time delving into your stuff. Another great way to self-care is to offload things that are taking up mental energy: making the bed, taking out the trash, paying a bill, picking up your clothes—you know, boring adult things! 

5. It’s Selfish 

True self-care isn’t selfish, it’s actually self-less. When we show up for ourselves, we can better show up for the people in our lives. Many of us have gotten really good at taking care of everyone else and neglecting our own needs. 

If you didn’t have any cash in your pockets, but someone asked for a dollar, you couldn’t give them the money you didn’t have on you. But when it comes to our emotional and relational capacity, when the people in our lives ask for something we don’t have, we try to give from an empty pocket. Taking care of ourselves is the kindest thing we can do for ourselves and others. 

Self-care doesn’t have to be extravagant or indulgent; in fact, often the most caring things we can do for ourselves are small intentional shifts and practices. When we use that lens, it opens our understanding of how to better prioritize ourselves and broadens our understanding of what self-care is. 

The small practices that make up our days eventually make up the sum of our lives. Rethinking the way we prioritize our well-being is an invitation into a new way of living—one in which we live and give from a place of rest, rejuvenation, and peace of mind, body, and spirit.