Self-care that fails to address the full dimension of individual healing simply isn’t enough.

Self-care honestly gets a bad rep. There is a time for action and a time for rest, and our bodies and spirits need the balance of both to work their best. And while there’s a space for self-care that incorporates face masks and bubble baths, the issue becomes apparent when self-care is only centered on addressing our appearances, rather than what truly plagues us below the surface.

With self-care becoming more widely known, it’s important that we understand the necessity of incorporating self-care that dives beyond the surface. Self-care that fails to address the full dimension of individual healing simply isn’t enough.

We know that self-care is important because, like other living things, we need to take care of ourselves before we can care for others. Marginalized people especially tire ourselves out, each day, by overextending ourselves out of necessity and survival. Running on fumes is normalized. And when so many of us commit the invaluable parts of ourselves to causes that go bigger than ourselves, we have to learn how to better prioritize our revitalization.

But self-care as we know it seems to be misdirected. Its purpose doesn’t come from simply feeling better at the moment, but in helping to normalize self-healing. Self-care is an important tool that teaches us what long-term self-focused healing can look like, but exactly what does that mean?

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This can be hard for many of us to visualize because culturally, self-care barely scratches the surface of what longterm self-healing looks like for many of us. In fact, many of us have no idea what healing we even need. But the question really becomes, how do we go beyond the introduction of self-care? The problem (and criticism behind) mainstream ideas of self-care come from the fact that they only skim the surface. How do we incorporate self-care that dives into the root of the problem, by addressing the increasing need for self-repair and self-healing? What shape do these actions take when we as individuals don’t have access to the tools, knowledge, or spaces that capitalist-centered self-care narratives say that we do in order for our self-care to be “legitimized”?

In short, self-care that rejuvenates our self-healing has to address the core of what is causing our emotional disparity. First, we have to address what is in need of healing. We have to become accustomed to routinely checking in with ourselves — how are we feeling physically, emotionally, in the different aspects of our lives. How do we wish to be feelings in these areas of our lives?

Another important thing to know about yourself is to be aware of how you, individually, find yourself feeling recharged and refreshed? For some, it comes from spending time alone, reading books and spending time offline to listen to their inner voices. For others, its spending time with loved ones, and it is through the energy of others that they find themselves. Understanding the ways that you recharge and reenergize can give you a better understanding of the self-care activities that will truly sustain you.

Self-care rituals can really embody anything the help you to push past your current feelings and set you along the path of feeling rejuvenated and revived. Don’t feel that you have to limit yourself to just to stereotypical self-care activities — journaling, yoga, meditation, and taking a cleansing bath may not work for you, and that’s okay. Whether you recenter yourself through meal-prepping for your family or working on a project that you’re passionate about — any activity that you enjoy for yourself that helps you to refocus your energies and find yourself again is legitimate self-care.

In the end, self-care is underrated because it has so much potential to help us to better understand ourselves and what we hold important. Our inner health and self-alignment to centering that, even when life gets the better of us, are paramount; self-care is only a tool that helps us to fight against that. With self-care, we are asserting that our self-value and health is important, that our well-being is just as important as our commitment to service and making the world a better place, for ourselves and others. It’s time that we take self-care a little more seriously, and begin to truly utilize its potential.