HAHAHAHAHA well f*ck 2020, you got us mate, you got us good.
Huh hem, roll-call please: COVID-19 global pandemic, BLM riots and protests across the world (absolutely necessary, might we add), ‘murder’ hornets, economic crisis and impending recession, bushfires, a literal clown for a president in the USA, locust swarms, earthquakes, Carole MF Baskin, Kanye West running for president which also means KIM KARDASHIAN WEST AS A POTENTIAL FIRST LADY… we’ll stop but you get it. We get. Everyone gets it.
In short, the past six-plus months have truly delivered, and not sure about you but this has been a TIME for the ol’ mental health. I’m not researching stats on this (it’s too miserable) but if there was ever a time for self-care it is now. Matched with social distancing, isolation, quarantine, and the potential for a full lockdown on the horizon (again)… damn, these are tough times!
In these instances, we often reach out for others, and staying connected is so important. But just as vital is making sure our number one relationship, the one we have with ourselves, is as rock-solid as possible. Showing love and kindness to ourselves is as important as giving it to our community, friends, and family, particularly when we’re spending so much time alone. I really don't want to be that white girl who quotes Ru Paul but I'm about to be a white girl who quotes Ru Paul - “if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
I'm really sorry...
Image credit @dykeblanchett Instagram
Through this weird intro to our new decade, we need to prioritise ourselves for a hot minute and recognise what self-care means to us as individuals, not what we’re told it is by others. This is, of course, important ALL the time, not just through a global pandemic… so maybe try and find a silver lining and call this a period of personal development. I mean, if we can all manage to get through this we’re pretty bloomin’ incredible aren’t we?
We understand the theory, but like everything to do with the betterment of our mind and body, the concept of self-lovin’ often becomes a money-making commodity (capitalism strikes again). So, as an alternative to buying love, let’s talk a bit about how to recognise what it is we need from ourselves, and others, that can be done $$$ free.
First thing’s first: acknowledging how you nourish yourself.
It is really important to understand and acknowledge that self-care is different for everyone. This sounds super obvious, right? But as a friend or ally to someone who is in need, we have to recognise that how we show and receive love varies from person to person. When I am in need of some one-on-one time, I feed myself: I cook myself food, I clean my house, I spend time in my space and energise it with as much positivity as I can muster. Sometimes I’ll read, sometimes I’ll play games, sometimes I’ll dance, sometimes I’ll dress up, or spend time playing and building intimacy with myself. Most important to this process though is that I am alone: I turn off my phone and stay the hell away from social media.
As an introverted human, this is how I love myself. BUT, this is certainly not how some folks do self care. While the shyer amongst us may need alone time, isolation, quiet spaces, and introspection, our more extroverted friends will be fuelled by the presence of others. Talking through issues, loving themselves by showing love to another, holding and being held, and even going out for a party or dance in a busy and lively space, or, in COVID-19 times, party or dance on HouseParty or Zoom.
In order to love yourself it is really important to recognise the differences in each of us and respect the needs of one another.
Some steps for self-love, regardless of how introverted or extra you may be:
- Acknowledge how you receive love.
The ~language of love~ is different for everyone. Think about when someone shows you care, and when it has really meant something to you. Was it when they verbally said I love you? Was it when they made something for you? Drove you to the airport? Held you, cuddled you, or caressed you? Recognise which pillar of love speaks to you, and then do that to yourself. Simple right? Kinda… it’s much, much harder to say ‘I love you’ to yourself, but trust us, it feels damn good when you mean it.
- Write your love
Sometimes when you need self-care the most, it’s when you believe in yourself the least. Write down a list of all the things you love about yourself, what you’re proud of, why you would date you, what makes you the most snackable snack there is. If this is proving to be really difficult, get your loved ones to write down some for you. Now put this in a box, a bag, a drawer, a sock, wherever, and return to it when you need a message of love.
- Loving yourself does not need to cost money
If you like to treat yourself, fabulous and kudos for being money savvy! With the rise of self-care in our social vernacular, however, we are watching it become more and more of a commodity. Fed to us is the message that self-care is buyable. Don’t get us wrong, we believe spending money on yourself can be a sick time, but if you can’t afford it, don’t do it. Buy responsibly to avoid feelings of guilt later. Saying that, if what you’re spending money on gives you power, makes you feel stronger, or will work with you to better your relationship with yourself: go for absolute gold. We could harp on about neo-liberalism and consumer culture but at the end of the day… follow your bliss, or whatever Cher said in that one episode of Will and Grace.
Gif from Giphy.com
- Spending time with yourself.
Regardless of how you spend time with yourself, we really believe this is one of the most important aspects of self-care. We don’t always love ourselves, heck we don’t always like ourselves, and we definitely don’t always want to spend time with ourselves, but it is really important to prioritise yourself as the individual outside of others. This can still be done while in the company of people, but allowing true acknowledgment of what you need, how you need it, and when you need it is vital to self-care. Too often we are stripped of our voice, so give yourself the platform you deserve, and allow yourself to be heard, even if it’s just you who is listening.
- Acknowledge the needs of others
Now some of us do this too much, and that can be an issue in itself, but we can learn a lot from how other people need to be loved and how they love themselves. It’s like building your tool box (but the tool box is invisible and stored in your brain). Gaining tips from other people can be beneficial to your own negotiation of self-care, plus, talking openly and honestly helps to de-stigmatise chat around our mental health.
While learning to care for yourself, however, it sometimes becomes easy to focus too heavily on our own needs, especially while in a relationship. If you are practicing self-care and learning what that means to you, encourage others to verbally tell you what their needs are. Not only does this allow you to work on your repertoire of self-care techniques, but allows you to be present and open with others and build more meaningful relationships.
- Concern yourself with community
Although we’re here talking about the necessity to prioritise the self, we don’t live as singular entities, and our identity is developed by those around us. To have a thriving sense of self we must nurture those who help feed us. Give back to your immediate and global communities as much as you can without burning out. Talk. Stay connected. Donate time, energy, money (if you have it), resources, skills. We’re all a part of something massive, let’s make sure we’re fighting the good fight together.
It’s not an easy path, but self-care is so necessary, particularly in such uncertain times. Be present, be kind, and learn how to love yourself, and those around you. And if you’re feeling down and out still, a little hopeless, like despair is here to stay, we’ll leave you on this note: