By Anne T. Donahue
Like you, I now hate the term “self-care.” I have no idea what it means. Honestly, I’m too tired to bother even finding out what it means. It’s obviously objective, applicable to everything from nighttime skin routines to reading with a cup of tea to therapy to going to the doctor when you need to go to cutting off people who make you feel shitty. All of which I support and stand by and will applaud you for doing. But I’m over the term being a catch-all for merchandise and behavior that’s meant to make you feel healthy and better and amazing.
In 2020, I want the only justification for investing in myself or taking time off or being a person to be because it’s what I want to do. I want to be brave enough to make a choice and to simply stand by it without having to explain that I’d finally decided to care about myself. I want to make choices because they are the choices I would like to make, no hashtag required. I want to exist without the buffer of justification that “self-care” has come to represent. And here’s where I’d like to start:
Prioritize and nurture real friendships
I’ve learned few things this decade like the importance of real friendship. It’s sustaining. It’s a lifeline. It makes you feel safe and calm and understood and seen, and even in the midst of misunderstandings or temporary drifts, it’s still a house with a porchlight on. Friendship is incredible. Real friendship. It has saved me so many times, but it took until the last two years to realize that to be a good friend you have to be there for your pals while still allowing them into your own life. Vulnerability is terrifying. To confide in a friend or to reveal that you’re human is a nightmare in which you imagine the many ways you will be shot down and cut off.
But then you actually do it, and it makes things even stronger. You realize that friendship is an exchange, and that mutual vulnerability is such a precious, powerful thing. Does this give anyone permission to be shitty or cruel or use a life event to be hurtful or rude? Absolutely not. But those things aren’t the basis of friendship, anyway. They’re the plot device of a Riverdale episode that makes you scream, “WHY ISN’T ANYBODY COMMUNICATING”?
Do what I want, face/makeup-wise
There are too many skincare steps and all of them frighten me. I can handle like, four a night. And all of them need to be doable right beside my bed because I’m lazy and I can’t be bothered to do anything but fall asleep in front of Bake Off reruns every night. I’m sure retinol is great, but so is celery water or whatever and it’s not going to happen.
And I don’t care anymore. I’m going to have fun with makeup, I’m going to embrace the basics, I’m going to use face masks sometimes but I’m going to avoid clay versions at all costs because they make me break out so bad it looks like something’s happening to me that might necessitate a trip to the ER. Or maybe I will anyway. Either way, I will do it because I am a grown-up and that’s what I want to do, self-care be damned, please just let me live.
Entertain no romantic fools
If you are a guy, and I start to feel like I need to change myself in any way for you to like me, I am not participating anymore. 34 years is too long to squeeze one’s self into tiny boxes of silent expectations that do nothing but make me feel small. I don’t need to compete with anybody’s misogyny, coldness, inaccessibility, or unavailability. Not when I could roam around the mall window shopping, asking everybody who passes me what retinol is.
Eat what you fucking want
This isn’t revelatory. I’m not saying anything that’s even remotely controversial. All of this has been written about before. But fuck it: I have associated shame with food since before I was a teenager, and it’s a really awful, and I hate how it feels. So I’m not going to do it anymore – or at least try. When I’m craving something, I’m going to eat that thing. When my body’s yelling for vegetables, I’m going to eat some vegetables. When I buy a chocolate bar because I want a chocolate bar, I’m not going to save some of it for later like it’s going to mean something different.
I’m going to try and enjoy the process of being a living person. Self-care can go to hell for a while. I’m ready to simply like and value myself.