The Dark Side of Self-Care No One Talks About
“You survived and you will surive again, and again, and again…”
By: Jean Flores
Self-care isn’t always pretty. It’s not always a colorful field of endless encouragement, positive energy, or confident spirits to prance around. Many people have this misconception that self-care is this picture perfect lifestyle. But it’s not. It’s tedious, it’s scary, it’s a hindrance. It’s almost annoying, because we’re taking these steps so far fetched from our usual self-destructive routine that doing something as small as complimenting ourselves or even drinking water to keep ourselves nourished becomes so treacherous and troublesome. Taking care of yourself is far from picture perfect, and far from what’s glamourized on magazines and social media. #LoveYourself #UhOkayHow?
They tell us to go out there and enjoy ourselves, to eat kale, to feel the sun on our faces and the sand between our toes, and to basically fall so in love with ourselves that our demons no longer phase us. That’s more than righteous to aim for, yes, but what they don’t tell us is how to prepare. They don’t tell us how to prepare for the “new world” of positivity and self-improvement. They don’t tell us how to prepare for possible relapses, triggers, or whatever else to look for. They don’t tell us how to prepare for sunshine when we’re so used to darkness.
So allow me, as one of many others who dove into this pool of self-love without the knowledge to swim, elaborate on this preparation. Self-care, as mentioned, has a dark side. What we are usually showcased is the brighter side of the after-glow resulting from all our efforts of doing better for ourselves; emphasis on the “after”. The brighter side shows the empowerment we’ve gained after we’ve learned to put ourselves first; the growth, the genuine confidence, the contentment. But what about the before? The during?
We need to understand the hard parts (aka the “dark” parts) in order to care for our spirits properly, because it helps prevent us from becoming easily discouraged when it gets difficult. First, and most important, thing to understand is that the road is not a clear one. There are speed bumps, detours, and even dead-ends where you have to turn around and try again. These set backs consist of what we very well know as the frustrated tears at 3 AM, the temptations to give up, the steps backwards to old habits, and everything else under the ominous clouds of self-doubt that prevent us from reaching the ever-so desired goal of wanting to be happy. And they’re not acknowledge enough because mainstream wants to paint self-care as bright and hopeful. It is hopeful, don’t get me wrong, very much so. But bright? Not always.
Despite how troubling that may seem, the second most important thing to understand now is that all those things are expected; natural, even. It’s natural to feel frustrated and angry at the process, especially when it’s a whole new concept that you aren’t used to. It takes time to adjust to the changes you make in your life to better yourself. From the small things like staying hydrated to the bigger changes like detaching yourself from toxic people or habits, every change you make adds up to a whole new you – a whole new BETTER you – in due time. More than often times, you don’t even realize how much you’ve changed. You’ll wake up one morning and actually look forward to the day, or you’ll look into the mirror and not scowl at your reflection, or you’ll wake up earlier to practice your passions that’s been itching to get out. The key word here is practice. This may all sound cliché now, but the more you practice taking care of yourself, the easier (and more natural) it becomes. You need to not be too hard on yourself when you feel like it’s too hard, because it IS hard. Undeniably. Taking care of your mental health requires so much efforts and attention that it drains you physically. But by practicing a positive mindset little by little, as opposed to forcing yourself to feel better and wondering why it all feels so fake, you become better adapted to positive habits and more willing to get better even when times get rough.
The process of self-care and self-love isn’t easy. But like many things that aren’t easy, the process is worth it, because what you get out of it is so much greater than the heavy burdens you already carry. You get a sense of purpose, of worth, of unconditional happiness that you’ve always deserved but did not see until you practiced and learned to love yourself. So don’t give up. Instead of saying that your path is always dark, say: where there is darkness, there is light. You’ll make it to the brighter side soon enough.
Hang in there.