As Lizzo sings in Good as Hell:

Lizzo (Image from billboard.com)

Woo child, tired of the bullshit
Go on dust your shoulders off, keep it moving
Yes Lord, tryna get some new shit
In there, swimwear, going to the pool shit
Come now, come dry your eyes
You know you a star, you can touch the sky
I know that it’s hard but you have to try
If you need advice, let me simplify

If he don’t love you anymore
Just walk your fine ass out the door

For me, this song represents accurate self-care. It’s more than just “treating yourself” by taking a spa day. Self-care means dusting yourself off and taking the first steps to find inner happiness. Self-care also requires a period of self-reflection: you must decide what’s best for you, and what you want in life. Self-care requires taking a step back from your crazy hectic life.

True self-care is not bubble baths while reading a good book, but the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape. Self-care means having a sink filled with dirty dishes and not trying to keep fake people in your life. It’s deciding that you must address the root of your anxiety. If you find yourself participating in consumer self-care and making up a thousand reasons to not do something, then you’re only hurting yourself more. Self-care means taking the difficult first steps to admit you’re not happy and doing something to address your emotions. It means getting out of the house, asking for help, then getting the help. 

Image from mindful.org

I know it’s easier said than done, but taking those first heart-aching steps will make you better. I’m here to share my tips for achieving proper self-care.

Acknowledging the Negative.

My mother always says, “let go of the negative, and focus on the positive.” Although the theory isn’t bad, it only masks the negativity in your life. The power of positive thinking encourages the disregarding of everything negative, and does not allow for self-reflection. In a nutshell, the power of positive thinking allows one to accept that one good thing makes up for all the bad shit in the world. Ignorance of the bad is only bliss for a while, not the solution. For example, the power of positive thinking does not help those who are clinically depressed. Simply changing their mindset or getting their hair done doesn’t get rid of the depression. It does not suppress the urges to cry in a corner or stay in bed all day. Because they cannot change their mindset overnight, clinically depressed people feel more sadness from not being able to think positively. Hence, the power of positive thinking does not work for them. However, I believe it doesn’t work well for anyone. As Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote

“It’s only when we’re unhappy, even upset, about things that we will feel the urgency to act and create change. Complacency is the enemy of progress, and happiness is just an extreme manifestation of it. Not to put too fine a point on it, but our [species’] ability to suffer is an essential trigger of change. Taken too far, positive thinking threatens to inhibit it–and usually fails anyway.”

I tried my mother’s view of only focusing on the positive and ignoring the negative, but all those bad feelings would repress themselves. Eventually, I would reach a tipping point and explode. We must take time to understand why we are upset: what makes up unhappy? Why are we so anxious? What’s the cause of the stress? Without answering those questions, we are not indulging in self-care. If you have a hard time answering those questions, then seek professional help. Going to therapy not only gave me answers but gave me the strength to face any challenges. Therapy showed me that I will be okay emotionally in any situation.

Shut up, write it down, and go get help.

I like to vent about my day like everyone else. It’s one way to work through how you’re feeling and get advice, but, I found myself becoming emotionally dependent on those who I vented to. For example, I would often follow the advice of those closest to me without thinking about what I wanted. I thought if I followed their advice, they would be proud of me and not judge me for my problems. However, this became a crutch. All of sudden, my actions were dependent on what they wanted me to do. So, when someone would ask me what I wanted, I couldn’t answer. I’d never thought too much about what I wanted. By venting to those closest to me, I dumped all my negativity on them which opened the door some unsolicited advice that I felt obligated to follow. Also, constant venting kept all the negative thoughts in my head. I’d spent countless hours thinking about all the bad stuff instead of finding healthy ways to balance my mind. I am not saying, “don’t talk about your problems.” Rather, I am saying to be mindful of how you do it. Often, I give my friends a disclaimer when I am venting. I’ll say, “Hey, I need to talk something out and I need you to just listen.” Or, I’ll go to my trusty journal and write down everything I feel, then make a note to talk to my therapist about it.

Image from dreamstime.com

My therapist told me that I had an emotional dependency on those who were close to me. It was unhealthy and I needed to find an outlet where I could make better decisions for myself Now, I “vent” to my therapist. We look for the source of the negativity instead of hiding it away. My therapist told me that, based on our sessions, I had to find empathetic listeners and make trusted allies. (Luckily, I found both of those!) Occasionally, I will not tell anyone what’s going in my life. It’s not that I don’t’ trust people, rather, I want no influence on how I handle things. I take the time to process situations myself. If I vent too much, then I recreate this emotional dependency. Once I figure out what the hell is going on and what I want, then I go to my therapist. He allowed me to find my solutions without influencing me. Also, he encouraged the ways I kept the “good feelings.” (I cannot emphasize more the importance of therapy.)

Doing Little Things.

Other than therapy, I indulge in little things daily. For example, I practice mindful meditation. This allows me to find the root of my anxiety. By acknowledging what’s bothering me, I can start to meditate to get rid of my high heart-rate and pits in my stomach. Focusing on your breath gives you’re a mind a chance to find clarity. By exercising, I can physically get rid of the toxins in my body. I let the stress sweat away, then feel super sexy afterward. When I exercise, my mind is forced to focus on my body instead of the events of my day. This space allows me to come back to my day with a fresh mind. And, of course, writing allows me to see my emotions and thoughts on paper. I can start to see patterns and trace back my feelings like…Rain Man (except I am pretty than him and definitely cooler than him.)

Additionally, I’ll make to-do lists for the next day before I go to bed. I’ll fix my bed every morning, and read before I sleep instead of watching TV. These extra little things help fix the anxiety and allow me to be my best self every day.

Inner Happiness.

I once heard my father say, “if you’re happy inside, then you don’t need a psychologist or psychiatrist. Inner happiness can come from getting your hair done at a salon.” This gross misstatement of happiness demonstrates the ignorance behind self-care. As I stated earlier, consumer self-care isn’t actual self-care. Rather, it’s a dependency that only makes you feel better for a few moments. Consumer self-care does not create inner happiness. As Brianna Wiest wrote:

“[Self-care] 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.”

Getting rid of toxic people in your life is one way to become the person you were meant to be. By saying to yourself that “one good act will not redeem the person from all the harm caused,” you can start the process of self-care. In a world where we want problems solved immediately and need information instantly, we often ignore self-care because it’s neither immediate nor instant. By recognizing that healing takes time, you can truly engage in self-care. Remember that self-care isn’t about fixing yourself, it’s about taking care of yourself. That is true inner happiness. And, maintaining that happiness means constantly working on your mental health.

Illustration by Yaoyao Ma

So…do the hard things. Stop making excuses. Stop saying you will go out tomorrow, you will see your friends later, you will socialize in a few months, or you will stay-in to watch Netflix because its dark outside. Start recognizing that doing all the above is hard, but trying will make you feel better. Acknowledge your anxiety and your stress, don’t try to act like you’re not experiencing them. Allow yourself to feel those emotions, then work on getting through them. Tell yourself that self-care isn’t instant, but an investment that will be worth it. Don’t make excuses for the toxic people in your life. If you can’t have an honest or effective conversation about the relationship, then end it. Don’t drag out things in hopes that they will get better. All of this will help you take those hard first steps. Instead, follow Lizzo by singing, “You know you a star, you can touch the sky…I know that it’s hard but you have to try.”

That’s all for now. Stay tuned!

Published by Nikita Srivastava

a passionate feminist and social justice warrior who occasionally calls herself a goddess. She received her JD in 2019 and became licensed to practice law in 2020.

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