IS SELF-CARE YOUR NEW RELIGION?
I grew up in the South where your only free day on the weekend was a Saturday. Why? Sunday was devoted to the church. Growing up Sunday’s weren’t just a day to be with my church community, it was also a day that I could devote to giving myself permission to connect to that deeper being inside. For me, that is what my religion was (and is); finding the space for silence so I can actually listen to the guide inside. Fast forward a decade or so and I find myself living in NYC; a much different place than the mountains of East TN. As I adjusted to a life in a different culture I also began to adjust to a different way of understanding myself and what I needed to tap into the safety and stillness I found in my old country church home. Insert the hashtag #selfcaresunday. A nod to devoting time once a week to still find the peace I did growing up drew me and like many others the idea of self-care translating to religion.
“Yoga is my religion”
If you ever attend any of my yoga workshops, or just chat with me in class, you will hear me say that my mat is my church. When I am on my mat I am given permission (from myself) to be silent with myself, to breath into the depths of who I am and the greatness I am designed to be. I spend an hour being inspired, smiling, and sometimes even singing and crying. I leave with a deeper sense of gratitude for myself and a more open heart. Now, we are beginning to see an increase in people flocking to self-care with the same fervor that they do their churches, synagogues, and mosques. While I absolutely respect this and even live it (I am the queen of acupuncture, monthly massages, and high-end face masks) I am also charged to think of the industry that lies in it. Just like churches are billion dollar businesses the art of self-care has become an empire of wealth for us to tap into.
Happiness through self-care
It’s no lie that self-care does promote more health and overall happiness. Over the past few years, we have begun to debunk the lie that self-care is selfish. We know that people who take time to physically, mentally and spiritually care for themselves are generally happier and more productive. Yet, at what cost? We are beginning to pay homage to the gods of the industry through beauty box subscriptions and ritualistic regimens. Religious study sessions have become devotions to youtube videos and beauty blogs (if it’s about black girl hair or how to do the perfect cat eye it’s likely on my history browser.) While this can be extremely liberating it also has the potential to be dangerous.
A cautionary tale
As with any religious denomination, devoutness can be dangerous. With the plethora of products to serve our unique selves, we can find a new sense of pride in how we look but also an equal sense of disappointment when we tap into our wallets. Yes, self-care is important but it doesn’t have to be a tithing off 10% of your paycheck.
Beauty is finally being seen as something that is “in the eye of the beholder” (but like for real). It’s not one shape, size, or color thing anymore. Finally, mainstream media is embracing all humans tapping into the unique essence of ourselves that create our beauty and light. Yet with this embrace has also opened a floodgate of everything from particular oils for your body type (I use sunflower oil- it’s great for a Kapha dosha) to particular hair products for your hair type (talk to me about Organihairgroco- game changing!) The industry is booming with opportunity for you to purchase something to allow you to “be your best self and live your best life.” Here comes the cautionary tale, true self-care love is not something to be bought and is only something that can come from you. Just like half-heartedly showing up a place of worship or writing a bigger check to get closer to God, doesn’t work. Buying a product, reading a review, or jumping onto a fad isn’t the key to a religious experience of self-worth and love.
The key to self-care
So sage Natalie, what is the key to self-care? If you’re asking this than I can only present my thoughts on the foundation to help you unlock that answer. The key to self-care is self. Yes, resources like a guided yoga class, acupuncture, face masks, and hair products are supportive but they’re not it. You don’t need to spend your rent on the latest label. You do have to spend the time to listen to what you need. If that’s yoga there are plenty of free classes online for you to take, meditation throw on some soothing music and sit latest beauty trend? Find ingredients and replicate (before my obsession with my new hair products I used good ol’ store brand mayo and avocado to give my hair some self-care.) We should all feel good about who we are. Our latest trend towards self-care allows that. Let’s be careful to not equate labels and fads with the ever available opportunity to seek ourselves in solitude and stillness. That, my friends, is the true key to building resilience in our self-care and capacity to love. Everything else is just stained glass windows in the church of self.