Self-Care versus Life-Care (or, how to talk about caring for the self in a way that’s actually meaningful)

I was at lunch with a group of friends the other day when I announced that I’m over the whole notion of self-care. It is no longer interesting to me, and I think it’s a rather poor promoter of true health and wellness. Stay with me, here. 

Self-care has been reduced to clickbait. It’s a headline: Five ways to blow off steam after a stressful day. How to do something nice for yourself when you have three minutes or less. Ten suggestions for a self-care afternoon with girlfriends. It’s manicures, bubble baths, and quick breathing techniques all the way down, and I’m no longer here for it. 

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with any of these things. Taking a bath is lovely. Intentionally planning time alone with oneself is valuable. All of it is fine, but it doesn’t amount to enough to truly make a dent in the overwhelm caused by daily life in our stressful, ambitious, work-and-shame-oriented society. 

I’d love to replace the notion of self-care with life-care. Life-care could simply mean the creation of a  lifestyle that is supportive and nourishing to us generally, that meets us where we already are, that is not drowning us in shoulds, that is not judgmental of ourselves or others. 

Some questions to consider: How do we create and sustain a lifestyle from which we don’t want or need to take constant breaks or vacations? How do we consistently live in a way that’s authentic to how we’re built as individuals, rather than what might be expected from us by outside forces? What are our own wants and needs as identified by us, and not prescribed to us by society at large? What does it really mean to prioritize ourselves? 

What is our own version of life-care?

For me, life-care might mean the following: Seeing four clients or less per day, because that is how I do my best work. Long prescribed periods of time spent alone to revitalize myself. Truth at all costs. Choosing to spend my time with people that respect and love me. Evaluating my own worth and asking to be treated accordingly. Investment in the priorities that I’ve identified as most valuable to me: Education. Safety. Adventure and Growth. Self-Compassion. Love. 

It also means choosing not to invest in things that don’t nurture me by saying no, over and over again. Removing myself from environments that I deem to be toxic. Staying far away from angry and negative folks. Being gentle and compassionate around my own areas of growth and development, at a pace decided by me (and nobody else).

It also means so many other things I haven’t discovered yet, that I am still learning how to ask for directly, confidently, and assertively, every day.

Life-care. It beats a bubble bath. 

*Just a quick but essential note – It’s equally as important to support our people in creating lives that prioritize their wants and needs. This means fighting for one another when needs can’t be met because of oppressive systems that make caring for oneself impossible. Because no matter how you slice it – self-care/life-care – it’s a privilege and it’s not afforded or available to everybody in equal measure.