Recently there has been an incredible self care movement. There is an enormous amount of self help books, along with various social media posts that encourage solving your problems by taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. It's actually quite a wonderful thing. Self love and self care are lacking in most of us, and I would argue that it is harder for millennials to grasp these than other generations before us.
The only thing that I have an issue with is the solutions that many people provide and practice. Many people preach that the way to feel better about yourself, or practice self love is to slap on a face mask, take a bath, listen to some music that you like, and magically find peace within yourself. I won't lie, I have done and do those things and does help. I'm not saying that its a bad thing to take a bath, or use a face mask, or be alone and be okay with it. All of these things are great! But... what happens after your bath water isn't warm anymore? After the 10 minutes you're supposed to take off that face mask? When your favorite playlist ends, or even worse, when you find yourself skipping every song because you don't want to listen to anything?
In moments like this for me, I feel like I am merely putting a bandaid on my self worth. I don't actually address what I don't like about myself or even attempt to work on it or accept it. I am not actually purely loving myself, and I fear that many others may feel similar, we just don't discuss it.
I started the beginning of this year in a relationship with the man of my dreams. He was absolutely wonderful, and everything I could have ever wanted or needed in a partner. I felt so secure in this relationship, because it was healthy and we were all around happy. I was content with being alone, and I often found myself preferring to be by myself because I was secure with who I was. When I got out of the shower, I would check myself out in the mirror. I started lounging around my house naked because I was comfortable with my body. I never doubted my abilities or character, and was very confident. Although I never placed my worth in him, all of this happy content-ness and love that I had for myself disappeared when we broke up. In the midst of dealing with a break up, other problems arose in my life. I hated being alone. I became the unproductive stoner. I lost all of my hope and ambitions. I stopped taking care of myself. I started to fall behind in school, I was slacking at my job, and my relationships with my friends and family started to go south. Most importantly, my relationship with myself was unhealthy. I struggled with suicidal ideation. I was full of self loathing and couldn't understand why everything in my life suddenly came crashing down all at once. In April, I began seeing a therapist. I was depressed, and as she put it, I was having a "minor existential crisis." She helped me put my emotions into words, and see my experiences from a different perspective. She helped me accept that I wasn't okay and that that was okay. I had to reach a breaking point with her before I could begin to actively make a change in my life. The most important question that she asked me was "If everything was good right now, what would you be doing?" After many mornings of letting this question boil in my brain, I began to remember my motivations and my goals. I realized that there were a lot of things that I wanted to do, and many places that I wanted to go to. I realized that, in fact, I did NOT want to die.
I began my journey of self care by talking to myself. I know that sounds crazy, but it worked. I would speak out loud and tell myself comforting words that I would tell someone else in a similar position to my own. I would hold myself and rub my head instead of crying myself to sleep. I wrote down my goals, and made a list of places I wanted to go to. I even made little positive affirmation cards and posted them in my room. I acknowledged that the lifestyle I was living was unhealthy for me, and came up with alternative ways to spend my time. I invested into this blog. I forced myself to journal, even if I wanted to rot away in my room instead. I began writing more songs and creating tracks on GarageBand. I wrote poetry. I started watching a new tv series in the name of a "new era." I ended a toxic friendship and stopped drinking. I traveled and started going out of the house to do things I enjoyed, like going to the beach or on a drive. I began taking care of my physical health. I even took a few a baths and used a few face masks.
Currently, I am still practicing self care and self love. I'm still seeing a therapist. I am constantly reminding myself of who I am. I feel as though I am going back to my roots. I even went back to church to connect with old friends and spend time with God. It wasn't until I started acknowledging that I wasn't okay, and working towards getting to a point where I was okay, that I found myself again. I put in many gruesome nights of thinking, writing, feeling, and forgiving. I actively made an effort to be better as an individual. I've found hope again. I've found a new confidence in myself that cannot be shattered.
Self care is a journey, and like almost all other journeys, there really is no destination. Rather, it's a state of being. Self love is attained through work, just like any other thing in life that is worth having. Spending time to relax is not a bad thing. Taking care of yourself is an amazing and necessary part of life. Its powerful and terrific, but it is so much deeper than a face mask.
Maren Hoflund MT HHP, is a massage therapist and holistic health practitioner based in San Diego. This her self created space where she explores topics such as mental and physical (holistic) health, self care, spirituality, and child development; in addition to her poetry and prose.