There’s been a lot of talk about self-care recently.  It’s a “You deserve it” culture we live in – and somehow this indulgent framework became synonymous with the term “self-care”. We are encouraged to drown our difficult days with chocolate and escape into retail therapy, oftentimes forgetting that this relentless distraction-seeking approach signifies that we are, in fact, living a life we feel the need to escape from.  What if true self-care was something different than what our culture promises will anesthetize us from the aching for real purpose and meaning?  What if self-care is much more about being proactive than reactive? Instead of viewing self-care as a way to escape our reality, what if we chose to embody it as a way to build a better reality, one that we don’t feel the need to consistently escape from by numbing out with actions that will inevitably add more stress when the buzz wears off or the bill comes?

What if true self-care is choosing the end-game over immediate gratification- moment by moment, choice by choice? Lasting self-care can look like playing a guilt-free game of red light/ green light with your time, energy, and resources.  It may not be glamorous, but true self-care is enduring.  

In a culture where every moment is constructed for others to see and our worth is measured by achievements, offering ourselves the freedom to go to sleep with a dirty kitchen or an unfinished task because it means we prioritized a healthy amount of sleep as self-care. Choosing to be authentic over admired is a form of self-care. It’s taking the time to work through our insecurities in therapy or with a trusted friend so we can spend our time creating a life that truly is good, not just one that looks that way.  

Self-care can be in the form of additions too, of course.  Adding a time of focused prayerful meditation in the morning is one of the best ways to start the day (Mark 1:35).  Picking up a hobby or habit or exercise program most definitely adds to our physical and emotional well-being. Getting a haircut or a manicure or taking the time to go fishing with friends is pure refreshment to the soul.  But sometimes self-care looks more like subtraction: choosing to let go of other people’s ideas for your life, refusing to hold onto a victim mentality, or perhaps actively surrendering your “plans” for God’s higher purpose for you. 

True self-care is not a distraction from reality, it’s inviting God into our reality.  It’s not escaping to avoid our lives, it’s consciously escaping to connect with some(One) greater, as Jesus did (Mark 6:31-32).  Self-care in the form of conscious retreat into prayer is a true act of surrender and it births transformation.  The object of our focus expands from ourselves to a much larger picture—but it starts with intentionality and making space for the expansion. Self-care is choosing to receive God’s great love for us and live in the truth that we are His handiwork.  True self-care points us back in gratitude toward the one who created us. We honor what He made, so we take care of it.   

If you are having trouble prioritizing true self-care, it could be helpful to explore why.  Does your tireless focus on others provide a distraction from examining some hard-to-face aspects of your own life?  Is anxiety or FOMO (fear of missing out) preventing you from taking the space needed to genuinely rest? Perhaps the comparison game has snuck up on you, and you want to be the BEST parent, volunteer, employee, partner, friend?  What would it look like to be content with “average” sometimes in the name of soul care— the kind others can’t always see? 

When we are actively prioritizing our self-care, we aren’t being selfish. Instead, we are fueling our Spirit, soul, and body so we can serve others from a place of integrated wholeness. True self-care reminds us that if life feels overwhelming, don’t quit…just rest. Self-care isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.