We believe that caring for oneself is a real and necessary act of compassion. We all need rest and support, not as a means to higher efficiency and better productivity, but because we are human and deserving.
However, we’re seeing a lot of rules about self-care that undermine the practice’s radical intentions, and that co-opt self-care as a performance, a form of competition, a virtue signal, and a profitable industry. Self-care is being used to address the symptoms of burnout, but not the root causes.
We want to reframe self-care away from shaming rules and toward an ongoing practice of making choices with agency.
Like any rules, the ones that govern self-care are meant to distinguish between who is good and not, who is real and not, who is doing it right or not. Rules create categories in order to rank and shame people for their choices. There are no real rules about self-care. There is only agency.
When we eat fast food at the end of a grueling day, we could shame ourselves for the poor nutrition and labor exploitation. Or we could allow ourselves the momentary pleasure and nostalgia. We could own our choice as one in a series of choices about how we care for ourselves holistically. We could be fully aware of the consequences of our actions and we could extend compassion to ourselves for difficult working conditions that maybe we need to make a choice about. We could help ourselves build the capacity to make a different choice in the future.
What is the purpose of shaming ourselves with arbitrary labels for what is “real” or “good” self-care? We give away our agency and we limit our own imaginations when we live by these judgments.
There is no one right form of self-care. There are no criteria you must meet in order to be doing self-care right. What we can do is know our values, get curious about our needs, and align our choices accordingly. We may not always have the choices we want in front of us, but we always have a choice in how we show up.
Ideally, the organizations we work for are helping us assert our agency and giving us the capacity to make real choices in how we care for ourselves. They can do this by getting clear on their company values, establishing supportive working agreements, creating the space and time for relationships, and allowing how we care for ourselves to evolve with us.