Emily Athena | Self-care
self-care, healing, soul, intention, women's holistic health, beauty standards
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Are we sacrificing self-care for conformity?

Self-care is a major buzzword heard over the last few years. It has
good intentions, and I agree with the concept of caring for yourself, but has this term become a blanket statement for conformity disguised as care? Has the beauty industrial complex co-opted the term to sell more things to more women under the pretense of self-care?


As similar as we may seem sometimes, we are all unique, like beautiful snowflakes. I cannot say what self-care looks like to me and expect it to look the same to you. So how do we define self-care? The dictionary says self-care is, “care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.” This places the responsibility for care in our own hands. With this responsibility, will we choose to treat our symptoms and external appearance, or will we choose to dive deeper in search applying a healing salve to the root cause?


I’m not saying there is anything wrong with treating symptoms. In fact this is absolutely necessary sometimes. I’m not even saying there is anything wrong with tending to your appearance and getting a temporary high, feeling of contentment, or sense of satisfaction from getting your hair done, nails done, eyebrows done, etc. The question is what is your intention? Getting your hair done could come from a place of trying to be someone you’re not, or it could be deep soul nourishment. Or it could just be a task to complete. It all comes back to reason and intention. Confidence can be a slippery slope and if maintaining a certain appearance keeps your confidence up, go for it. Use all the tools available to maintain self-esteem but, if this is as far as the self-care routine goes, I believe you are missing out.


The richness that comes from traversing the terrain of our cracks, bruises, aches, pains, and unloved parts of ourselves is irreplaceable. I speak of these wounds in both the physical and nonphysical forms, because like it or not, it’s all connected. A spa treatment can never do for the soul what befriending your pain can. This is where real growth and change happens. Maintaining your appearance is just that, maintaining an appearance. What lies beneath? What are you hiding from with those unnaturally long lashes we’ve been told equals beauty? Real growth comes from healing from the inside out.


How then, do we care for the cracks at the core of our being?


Honestly, I’m not an expert, just a traveler on the path. I have a hard time with this as much as the next person. What I will say though, is make time to simply be present and non-judgemental with it. The windows of opportunity and waves of emotion come when they come, rarely at convenient or properly scheduled times. As best as you can make time and space to be with and listen to what comes up. Let the emotions express. Cry. Let your body be your guide and move the way it wants to. The cracks, pains, and unloved parts are just that, parts of you. There is also the generative adult part of you. Resource your nurturing adult and parent the pain. What does the pain need? What words of unconditional love can you give to your pain, just as you would a child? Journaling, being in nature, and any kind of art are also good ways to tend to the pain.


Once you do this, will you be healed? Done? No, dear one. Our cracks and pains become less acute, but they are always there, as our perfect imperfections. Healing happens on a spiral and you may find yourself revisiting the same places again and again, like an old friend or your hometown. But each time it may feel different, or maybe the same, but the key to this deep self-care is to love yourself fully, no matter what.


Maybe loving yourself looks like an Instagram worthy bath set up and soak. Maybe that’s what your pain needs to feel cared for. Only you know that. What I am cautioning here is sidelining care for conformity. Don’t let mainstream beauty standards dictate how you care for yourself. Don’t let our culture’s fear of aging rope you into obsessing over preserving the image of who you once were. Resisting standardized beauty is an act of rebellion. When you do the deep dive work and learn to embrace, love, and heal all of yourself, you are no longer conformable. And this is how the we change the world. One deeply self-cared for person at a time.

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