There's no doubt that as self care as a concept has become commodified, it has shifted in perceived meaning and value. It's now often used as a marketing tool for selling face masks and wellness retreats with quadruple-digit price tags. It's been critiqued as vapid, selfish, as expensive. But how do you define self care? Because when we look at self care separate from the so-called self-care industry, we're reminded how empowering, re-centering, and radical the act of rest and recharging really is.
Hosted by Well+Good managing editor Samantha Leal, the latest episode of The Well+Good Podcast explores the real meaning of authentic self care. In dialogue with Leal are guests Lauren Ash, CEO and founder of Black Girl In Om, and Arielle Estoria, spoken word poet, speaker, and author. From the outset, they acknowledge that rest and self care aren't meant to be a luxury—rather, they're a necessity.
"It’s not a matter of ‘you need to heal’ you know, ‘you need to rest’, ‘you need to take care of yourself,’" says Estoria. "All of those things are really beautiful things and motivations and encouragements that we all need. But first, the beginning of a breakthrough that you need this is to remind people, ‘you know, you're deserving of rest, right? Like, you know, you are absolutely deserving of healing. You're deserving of taking care of yourself.'"
Recognizing your self-worth is one way of rebranding self care. And upon crowdsourcing intel from Well+Good staffers, we found a few other terms to describe what self care could actually mean.
How do you define self care? Below, we explore 3 other terms that describe it
Self care is occasionally branded as a quick fix to make you feel good in the moment. But, it could simply mean allowing yourself the time to do the everyday things that fuel you.
"Recently I got into cooking, and I feel like now the art of prepping a meal has become a big part of my self-care practice," says Zoe Weiner, beauty and fitness editor. "[Accessing self care has] been understanding what makes me feel good, and also understanding when I need to take that time for myself and do those things. And different days can mean different self-care practices."
"Self care is kind of walking that fine line between self-discipline but also listening to yourself because, you know, sometimes when I listen to myself, I say, 'I don't want to do anything today—I just want to sit on the couch,' and I know that that's not going to make me feel good," says associate editor Jess Freedman.
It's why she acknowledges movement as a major pillar of her self-care routine. "I think it's really hard to think yourself out of a bad place, but I find it easier when you change your physical space, when you move," she says. "That always puts me into a better head space."
"You take care of yourself the same way that if your best friend is having a bad day, you say 'here, these are the things that you love and make you feel happy," says Saanya Ali, editorial projects associate. "Do that for yourself when you need to—you're the only one that you've got, so be there for yourself."
And of course, you could always argue that self care, in its most pure form, is an act of bravery. It's not easy for many of us to prioritize ourselves—and no doubt privileges like time and money can impact or ability to take care of ourselves. But when you make space to center rest, it's definitely claiming your power, and that takes boldness.
"If my heart tells me, ‘look, Lauren, you know, you need rest right now,’ then the most courageous and self-compassionate thing that I can do is move things around in my life to honor that," Ash says. "And it's not always convenient. It's not always easy. But again, if we're committed to transformation, then that's our spiritual responsibility to move in that direction."
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