Diving into the semantics of self-care

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Self-care isn’t selfish,” said every clichéd Tumblr blog ever.

Well-intentioned though these posts may be, I can’t help but cringe at the indulgence which their wording implies.

It’s not that I disagree with the sentiment; I just can’t help but question the helpfulness of it.

My first quarrel is with the term; although “self-care” in and of itself is not inaccurate, I do feel as though it is misleading. In coining the term, we have purposefully separated it from the more mainstream notion of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

The discrepancy comes, I believe, from the expectations involved with the respective notions  or more accurately, the lack thereof.

Faced with the example of the latter, almost anyone could list the various aspects involved with a healthy, balanced lifestyle: a nutritious diet, ample exercise, plenty of water, and rest.

Self-care, on the other hand, is dangerously unclear.

In speaking about self-care as a notion separate from overall well-being, we build around it an incredible sense of ambiguity, then worsened by the accompanying discomfort and shame.

This is no doubt why self-care advocates feel the need to reassure themselves and one another, “self-care isn’t selfish.”

Encouraging though these words may be, it is nonetheless important to move away from the clichés surrounding well-being.

Too often, we deprive our bodies of what they need. Especially as a student, I am incredibly guilty of this. Habitually, I work late into the night. More often than not, I opt for foods which are quick instead of nourishing. Many days, I drink more coffee than water, and I can’t even remember the last time I went to the gym.

By the standards of a healthy lifestyle, I know this does not serve me well. However, by the sketchy standards of self-care, I might be tempted to spend a day in bed in order to feel better about the situation, rather than take action to change it.

Regardless of the semantics surrounding self-care, it’s important to recognize that the concept is not a superfluous addition to wellbeing, but rather, a requirement.

Beyond the clichés, we must merge the concept with the ideal of a healthy lifestyle — not only in theory, but in practice.

It’s time to take self-care a step further.

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