The Ugly Side of Self-Care

Sometimes self care doesn’t look like bubble baths and candles or chocolate and a shopping spree. And self care isn’t always buyable.

Writer Amil Niazi says:

The act of self-care has become yet another thing women are expected to be good at. Did you use the right filter for that ‘gram of your impeccably prepared acai bowl? Are the candles you just lit in your Snap story made from organic hand-poured soy or are they that mass-produced factory ones?

And how can we stem the inevitable capitalist tide from turning something as simple as self-care into yet another thing to be bought and sold?

Amil Niazi

If you have to regularly indulge in consumerism, it’s because you are disconnected from what self-care is. It has little to do with pamper treatments and more so with nurturing yourself and making the right choices for your overall wellness. This includes your mental, physical and emotional needs. That’s not always going to look pretty.

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Self Care is Natural, Not Exceptional

It’s unfortunate that we live in a world, where women have to remind themselves to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, self care usually comes at a point when we are on the brink of exhaustion. That’s when we will treat ourselves to a little luxury but the truth is self care shouldn’t look like that. Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some escape from our own relentless internal pressure. 

Self care is making the conscious decision to live a life we don’t have to escape from.

And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.

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Here’s the ugly, difficult side of self care:

Take Stock of our Life 

Sometimes self care looks like taking stock of your life and being honest with what is really working and what is not. Can you be forthright enough to say that you  are failing at something in your life? And once you have figured that, maybe it is time to re-strategize. It doesn’t have to be the end. We usually know what we need to do, but our insecurities and denial cloud our judgement on a consistent basis.

We are exhausted but we are comfortable, so we say it’s okay. And carry on. Sometimes self care can be looking at the ugly truth we are hiding from ourselves. 

Just Be Normal 

As women there are all these expectations to be everything all at once. We need to look glamorous, while making cute fresh bread cut-outs for the kids for lunch. And of course our homes need to look Instagram perfect all the time. Sometimes it’s okay to be regular. Normal. Unexceptional. 

Self care can be having a dirty kitchen and you being okay with that. It’s choosing to do some relaxing coloring in or indulging in some poetry because that makes you happier than doing the dishes. And yes, the dishes will be there when you finish your activity, but you will also be in a better frame of mind to tackle the task at hand.

Saying No

We all want to do more, I’ve often heard women lament, “If only there could be more hours in the day.” But if there were more hours in the day we would only fill it up with more things we can’t say no to. Sometimes no might be the wrong answer but it’s the right thing for us to do at that moment.

TheEveryGirl says, “Saying no is a radical form of self-care because it helps you prioritize your well-being over your obligations and relationships.”

Stop Using “Busy” as an excuse 

We’ve all done this, used the “I’m busy”’ excuse as a badge of honour. Cancelling dates with friends or even cutting gym and prayer out of our schedule because we are just too busy. We’ve used the busy excuse to self sabotage our good eating habits with over indulging. Sometimes we use it to run away from confronting ourselves.

…your body has a right on you…”

Allah’s Messenger (Bukhari)

Self care is learning how to stop trying to “fix ourselves” by being busy and start taking care of ourselves. And when we start attending to caring for ourselves, those things we were trying to fix will attend to itself.

Being The Hero in Our Own Lives 

Sometimes being the victim, means we don’t have to stand up for ourselves to friends, bosses or even spouses who are toxic. But all the rewiring we are doing only means we are building a life where we might need therapy to recover from. And yes, there is no shame in having to go to therapy or seeking help but also we need to be the heroes in our own lives. It’s about choosing a life that not only looks good but feels good too.

Cutting out the toxicity in our lives is sometimes necessary, even when it means we will be labeled as a not a nice person. When last have you met your own needs before putting everyone else first? How many of your own goals will you let fall by the wayside, because pleasing others comes first? 

Knowing Yourself 

There’s a saying that the Sufis often use, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord”. How can you know yourself if you are not allowing yourself to be yourself. Knowing who you are is the way we can seek and correct our connection to Allah.

We deny ourselves so many moments of self discovery because we are scared of what we might uncover. My bedtime is 10 pm, which often gets me laughed at. But I know that for me to function at an optimal level throughout the day  I need to go to sleep at ten. Whatever I’m doing will have to wait till tomorrow.

Knowing yourself is the self care we most often deny ourselves.

Self care is becoming the person you want to be, and have every right to be. Bubble baths and chocolate are there to make life a little more beautiful. But life needn’t be escaped from. We can have what we really need to give ourselves. 

About Fatima Bheekoo-Shah
Fatima Bheekoo-Shah is the author of "Saffron" (A collection of personal narratives by Muslim women), a freelance writer and book reviewer. She resides in Gauteng, South Africa. A book nerd and avid reader, Fatima is always looking for her next great read.