A Vulnerable Guide to Self-Care
by Karlyn Quinn
Every day we are subliminally bombarded by influencers who appear to have perfect lives that we could never imagine achieving for ourselves. We scroll through Instagram feeds full of impossibly fit bodies, breathtaking world-galivants, and perfectly decorated homes, further complicating the mental state of young people who are already overwhelmed and continually searching for something to fulfill us but having no idea what we’re searching for. It seems that everyone I know, myself included, is on some sort of antidepressant or anxiety medication, and I can’t help but believe this false sense of reality and overloaded way of living is the culprit.
How are we supposed to find clarity and see through the chaos of it all? Where is the line between taking care of ourselves and falling victim to what the outside world wants us to believe about our current state of being? I got to a point in life where I was beginning to feel like I was living every day on auto-pilot, pouring from an empty cup.
Cue: my self-care journey.
Here’s the cold hard truth: taking care of yourself is scary. When I decided I was going to embark on a self-care journey, all I saw were question marks and dollar signs. Am I being selfish? How do I know what I need? What does “self-care” really mean anyway? Where and how do I even start?
After hours of online research and listening truly inspiring podcasts, I decided that my definition of self-care is “making a conscious effort to nurture my body and soul to feel as though I am living a full, confident, and intentional life.”
Through my journey, I’ve learned that self-care is sometimes as surface level as getting a manicure or buying a new outfit, because investing in feeling good gives me a boost of confidence, ultimately nurturing my emotional health. The key with surface level self-care is to be intentional about it. Instead of sweating bullets the entire time I was shopping thinking about how I shouldn’t be spending the money, I intentionally set aside a budget and allowed myself to spend it without guilt.
But self-care does go much, much deeper than buying a cute new outfit. To truly take care of myself, I needed to be real with myself. I had to spend some time in solitude to candidly explore my own thoughts and figure out what I needed mentally, physically, and emotionally to feel as though I am living a full and intentional life. Here’s what it boiled down to:
What I needed mentally
To truly take care of myself, I needed to put my mental health first.
Now, I delete social media apps off of my phone when I begin to feel anxious from jealousy and comparison. I bit the bullet and made an appointment for counseling, and I created daily affirmations to repeat to myself so I could learn how to be kinder to myself and truly believe that I am worthy of good things.
What I needed physically
It didn’t take long for me to realize that my physical state fuels the flames of my anxiety. I had stopped working out completely when going to the gym and daily long walks were once a huge part of my life. Lately, I have felt too overwhelmed and too busy to make it happen. To get back into exercising, I have started to schedule it into my calendar, and I fight to make it a priority commitment — knowing that the world will keep spinning if I cancel plans with friends or take a break from a project for an hour or two.
I also brought to the surface a considerable factor of my physical appearance that I have been sweeping under the rug for years. The embarrassment of my already fine and thin hair falling out has kept me from living so much of my life, but it was easier to avoid pictures and social outings than it was to face the music and care enough about myself to find a solution.
After consulting a professional and doing a lot of research on my own, I have found that a combination of a healthier diet, paired with the products my body needed like vitamins and medicated shampoos specific to thinning hair, and styling tricks have made my self-conscious hair loss situation so much more bearable. It’s still a work in progress, but it is progress. After being open and honest with my close friends about my situation, I have found that so many people have “that one thing” about their appearance that holds them back, too. For some, it’s their body image that hold them back from taking the spotlight, and for others, it’s their teeth that prevents them from showing happiness on their face. This journey has made me realize we are not alone in our insecurities and that it’s okay to spend a little time, effort and TLC on ourselves to boost our confidence. But more than that, it’s all in learning how to find confidence despite those things and making the choice to love yourself exactly the way you are right now.
What I needed emotionally
I wholeheartedly believe our feelings come from our thoughts, not our circumstances. For me, a large part of self-care has been practicing how to be intentional and aware of my thoughts. In the process, I have been able to catch the negative thoughts my mind likes to default to. Let me tell you, it’s a huge relief when you can start to think positive thoughts about yourself and not feel guilty about it.
Self-care isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. We all have to decide for ourselves what we need mentally, physically, and emotionally. Like everything else, it’s an ongoing process that consists of trial and error. The key is not to give up so your self-care can become a habit because we all deserve to feel good.