If you’re sitting there asking yourself this question right now, then you aren’t alone. To be honest with you, I like the term self-care because I think it’s important but I really, really wish that we could call it something else because it’s gotten super misrepresented y’all.
Story time! One day I was sitting at a Starbucks trying to get some work done (and failing, but that’s really beside the point). This was back in the summer when they had those intensely sweet unicorn frappuccinos that people were losing their minds over. Anyway, there were three ladies sitting around this table all drinking the aforementioned unicorn beverages while waiting for their fourth friend (I know this because I asked if I could use their spare chair but I could not because they were waiting for Marilynn). This is important because Marilynn is a hero but you don’t know this yet because I haven’t gotten to that part in the story yet)! So the three friends are sitting around the table, admiring their drinks, chatting to themselves and waiting for my hero to arrive.
In walks Marilynn like a breath of fresh air, all business and forward momentum. She glides up to the table looking calm and cool despite the heat. She takes an appraising glance at the table before even greeting her friends, lets out a sigh and then gets around to saying hello. They hug, they smile but you can just tell that Marilynn has something to say, something important. I’m waiting with bated breath. One of the ladies, the bravest one I’m guessing says, “Oh Marilynn, you should get one of these amazing unicorn frappuccinos, they are delicious and they are only around for a week!” You can tell that she’s excited, that she really wants Marilynn to be excited too.
Only, she isn’t. She really isn’t. She may even be frowning. I love her already.
In a nervous voice one of the other ladies pipes up, “You know, we had to spoil ourselves, it’s self-care!” The other two nod in agreement. But not Marilynn. Marilynn takes a deep breath and I feel like we are both gearing up for something big.
Let’s have it, Marilynn!
“That,” she says, motioning towards the matching, slowly melting frappuccino monoliths on the table, “is not self-care, that is self-indulgence. That is also enough sugar to feed a small country. That is eating your feelings all wrapped up with food colouring and clever marketing."
I told you that Marilynn was my hero, didn’t I? Oh. My. Goodness. I love her. But she didn’t stop there. “Self-care is actually taking care of yourself - not inducing a sugar coma at 2 pm that will make you hate the rest of your day. It’s taking care of yourself as best as you can. I’m going to get an americano. I love you ladies, but honestly.”
I was literally shaking and thought I might cry. Not from sadness and not even from happiness but from a statement being so true that I felt it down to the core of my being and my body and soul didn’t know what to do so it thought, hey, maybe crying is appropriate?
Marilynn got herself an americano. She added in some milk and a little bit of sugar. She sat with her friends and not another word was said about self-care, what Marilynn had had to say, or the frappuccinos (although I did see that there was a lot left over when they got up). They chatted about movies and their boss and at that point, I realized that I’d been eavesdropping for entirely too long.
Here’s the thing - self-care is something that we should be practicing every day, multiple times per day. All. The. Time. It’s about actually taking care of yourself - getting enough sleep, giving time and energy to people who deserve it, eating well, taking time to pursue things that are important to you, and not procrastinating the things in life that need to get done. It’s taking care of yourself like a parent might - making sure that you eat your vegetables before you eat dessert, that you get to bed on time, that you’re spending time outside away from video games, that you’re spending time with friends, and that you’re doing your homework. Sometimes, we grow up and forget to do these things for ourselves. Sometimes we just really need to be our own parent - or we need Marilynn to be our parent!
Sometimes, Marilynn is the hero we need in our lives. Someone to tell us that coping mechanisms are not the same as self-care, that self-indulgence is not the same as self-care, and that we should probably get our shit together and start practicing legitimate self-care if we want to be happier. Sometimes we need a Marilynn to tell us to pay attention to the stuff that we’re putting in our bodies, to the stuff that we’re feeding our minds and to the things we really should be doing for ourselves.
The more I look around at the world, the more I realize there has been some funny business going on