So many of us have jacked up ideas of what it means to treat ourselves kindly.
All of us, former dieters and non-dieters alike, are socialized to associate treating ourselves kindly with: feeding ourselves food that we don’t typically allow or eating it in greater quantities, permitting ourselves to relax our personal boundaries, and before we know it, we find ourselves feeling worse than we did to begin with.
For many of us, self-care is a meal with no rules.
For many of us, the idea of treats or rewards for good behavior is hard-wired in, even long after we’ve excavated the litany of other dieting rules and regulations from our lives.
For me, it’s the promise of an ice cream sundae.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me, treating ourselves kindly can mean an ice cream sundae. But, only if you’re the type of person who can safely and healthfully eat an ice cream sundae without awful bodily recourse. And I’m not talking about gaining weight.
Sugar makes me crazy. It makes me yell at the people that I love, and feel like my body is overrun by an army of insane feelings running every which way all at one time. It makes me self-conscious, paranoid, alarmed, terrified, and sad.
Now, the point of this post isn’t to tell you not to eat sugar, the point of this post is that I know that eating sugar makes me totally flip out, and yet, whenever I’m stressed or overwhelmed, I feel, deeply, like I deserve to eat that ice cream sundae.
I have earned it.
I have been so good and I have been working so hard.
But, you have to stop and wonder, why am I “rewarding” all of my hard work with something that makes me feel like shit? Something that makes me feel 100% worse than I was already feeling when I was so stressed out.
What is it about the ice cream sundae?
It is the food I didn’t allow myself. To me, ice cream sundaes have been synonymous with breaking all the rules, hanging out, relaxing, letting my hair down, and saying fuck it to all the hard things in my life. It has been the ultimate revenge against all the things that have pushed me beyond my own capabilities, or asked me to be more than I am.
It has been my way of reclaiming my right to my own body and mind.
And yet? For me, it is completely the wrong choice. It is a choice that is laced with my personal history of body hatred and control. It’s not that I can’t eat a sundae mindfully, it’s that, if I were being mindful, I would realize the sharp pains in my stomach or the acceleration of my heart rate or the huge crying fit that is just welling up in my chest.
It’s about taking a moment to be sweet to yourself, truly sweet and loving and compassionate, and realizing that what might actually make me feel better is an avocado on some 7-Grain toast with salt or an indulgently long shower or an impromptu trip to the movies with my sweetheart or a delicious nap.
By definition, self-care should be something that makes YOU feel CARED FOR and love and cozy and merry. This will be different for everyone, but I invite you to take a good look at what your self-care practices reflect. Are they fulfilling your deep need for comfort and relaxation? Do they leave you feeling well-rested and loved? Do they inspire you to hop back in an tackle your next project?
Because truly, I deserve so much more from myself than that damn ice cream sundae. I deserve some solid attention and care.
What’s your favorite self-care activity?