I love the feeling of freshly polished toes and smooth heels. But lately, with all of the media coverage about self-care and self-love, I’ve been thinking about what those phrases really mean for me. Is my pedicure an expression of self-care, or is it more of a pleasurable indulgence? And does it really matter?

What is Self-Care… and What Isn’t It?

A little while ago, I read this great article by author Brianna Wiest and it really hit home for me.

She says:

“Self-care is often a very un-beautiful thing. It is making a spreadsheet of your debt and enforcing a morning routine and cooking yourself healthy meals and no longer just running from your problems and calling the distraction a solution… True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.” (Read her whole post here.)

As much as I love a pedicure, it isn’t one of the building blocks of the life I want to have. When I crave peace and calm and meaning, or in the moments when I’m running around and overwhelmed, a pedicure won’t solve everything. It’s always enjoyable, but it’s not how I truly care for myself.

Here’s some other thoughts on the same idea from Odyssey:

“In general, I believe self-care requires being in touch with yourself. Knowing your limits, knowing what you do and don’t like, and simply being aware of you. It’s doing the things that make you feel good and happy and whole, and lessening doing or being around things that don’t.”

Are you nodding along with me? It may not be quite as fun as a massage and a girls’ night out – but I’m not saying we shouldn’t do those things. We deserve to have fun. We need to let loose, relax, and indulge. But who are we kidding – those indulgences aren’t repairing our souls or soothing our frayed nerves or giving us the sense of peace and joy that we crave.

So what is self-care?

I think it’s the idea of knowing yourself and what you want, and making choices that are true to those things. Acting in your own best interest. What that looks like will be different for everyone, but here are some things that I consider self-care for me:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Journaling
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Creating art

I really liked the way that Ariel Knutson described self-care in her post on TheKitchn.com:

“Self-care is not the same thing as self-indulgence. Taking care of yourself is just hard work and there’s no way to get around that. It’s showing up for yourself. It’s cooking when you feel like ordering something you know won’t make you feel good; it’s cleaning the dishes when you know it will make you happy tomorrow to walk into a clean kitchen; it’s taking a moment to prioritize your needs (not your wants); it’s being an adult when you don’t want to.”

Ugh, adulting. It’s not always fun, but it’s worth it. And we deserve to be taken care of! Who better to do that than ourselves?

So if you’re not doing a great job taking care of yourself these days, where can you start? Maybe think about one small way you can better meet your mental, emotional, or physical needs and begin there. Just one small step at a time.

An easy option is to use a guided meditation. Especially for people who haven’t done much meditation before, it’s an easier introduction than jumping into straight silent meditation. Guided meditation gives you an audio recording of someone talking you through a meditation, guiding your thoughts and experience. 

Originally published at circlebloom.com