I’ve been thinking about how to be a better person lately. Even though I love myself, and know I’ve made huge gains in the world of personal development and mental wellness in the past two years, I feel a little stuck at the moment.
Stuck how? Well.. I have a bit of a confession.
I haven’t really been taking care of myself. Instead, I’ve been participating in the “fake” kind of self-care. Like drinking wine ‘cause I “earned it.” Or binge-watching Netflix (Nurse Jackie, anyone?) while avoiding the hard stuff like meditation, self-reflection, writing and affirmations.
In short, I fell hard off the self-care wagon, and my mental health and well-being is suffering because of it.
But before I talk about how to be a better person, and how not participating in “real self-care” is keeping me from being a better person or version of myself, let’s talk about how I define real self-care and bullshit/band aid/commercialized self-care marketed at us so we purchase wine with electrolytes.
How to Be a Better Person: Recognize the “Fake” Self-Care
“Fake self-care” is the kind of self-care that puts a band aid on an issue instead of healing it. It doesn’t help us figure out how to be a better person, and often it’s the type of self-care that has been commercialized so those in search of self-care and healing believe they can purchase the solution.
- Problem: Constantly stressed and need to relax and chill the fuck out?
- Commercialized Solution: Join “Chill” Chicago’s premium meditation club for a low price of $150 a month. While you’re at it, try out one of their massages for 10% off a $90 massage.
- Problem: Feeling stressed and overwhelmed?
- Commercialized Solution: You need a retreat. Try out this hotel spa retreat for $495 where you’ll get two nights in a hotel, daily yoga and healthy meals prepared for you on site. Need an upgrade or spa package? We got you. That’ll be an extra $200.
- Problem: Exhausted all the time and feeling groggy and just BLEH?
- Commercialized Solution: For $139 you can go on a detox diet that will cleanse the body and soul. Feeling gross from shitting your brains out? Don’t worry for an extra $150 we can send you some “raw” pre-packaged food to help ease you into the detox.
- Problem: Feeling sad and lonely while staying in on a Friday night?
- Commercialized Solution: Order in some take-out, pour yourself some bubbly, pop some bath bombs into your bath, throw on a face mask and recharge. That’ll take the discomfort out of having isolated all your friends because you’re too busy with “me time“. Takeout ($30) + Bath bombs ($20) + bubbly ($20) + face mask ($5)= approximately $75 for a relaxing night to yourself.
For the low price of $1,518, you should be feeling all sorts of relaxed and chilled out and TOTALLY CARED FOR BUT DEFINITELY A BETTER PERSON, I THINK.
Clo Bare’s Issue with “Fake” Self-care
As a society, we’ve replaced self-care with a “treat yo’self” mentality deciding that if it feels good, then it must be self-care. This is problematic for a few reasons.
First– “self-care” is specifically marketed toward women as a way to justify women spending money on theirselves.
Yes, there is self-care for men but the industry is geared towards women because men have NOT been taught told or taught that they need to explain themselves for… well.. anything. But that’s beside the point, in this case we are talking specifically about self-care.
Let’s make one thing clear here– Women, we don’t have to justify doing things for our self. We do not have to label something “self-care” to not feel guilty about purchasing something we want for ourselves. You are allowed to buy whatever floats your boat and not have to make an excuse for it or label it as self-care to justify your purchase.
You are an adult, and you get to decide whatever the fuck you do with your money, your energy and your time. No one has to claim self-care to enjoy themselves or take care of their self. Period.
Secondly, “fake” self-care does not make you a better person.
Even though all of these things are fine and dandy if you want to spend money on them for fun, they become an issue when we rely on them as solutions to larger issues.
Commercialized self-care answers the question of how to be a better person with beauty products, spa days, new clothes, vacations, exercise and health crazes.
Some are self-soothing and make us feel good, but using these easy fixes isn’t necessarily improving our overall wellness or addressing our needs on a deeper level. They certainly are no help in guiding us on how to be a better person and might actually be a detriment to becoming a better person if we rely on this type of self-care to handle our issues.
Bubbly and bath bombs are lovely but they aren’t going to solve the anxiety we feel over being alone.
Meditation clubs and yoga retreats are amazing but aren’t going to solve our tendency to respond to change with stress and overwhelm.
Detoxes are not fun and horrible, but they still aren’t going to fix the habits and behaviors that made us feel like a garbage can in the first place.
Fancy dinner dates are exciting but aren’t going to revitalize a relationship if basic issues like communication and connection are causing the struggles.
These things may make us feel better for a moment, but after the bubbly is drunk and the fancy dinner eaten, the issues are still there.
There’s more to self-care and becoming a better person than swiping a credit card.
Now, let me pause and say I am not shitting on spending money on yourself for what you want or enjoy doing.
Do that. Do whatever you want.
But don’t cheat yourself into believing that it’s self-care.
When we lean on these things in the name of self-care or treating ourselves, these commercialized solutions become strong incentives to avoid the root issues that led us to be overwhelmed and stressed in the first place.
In fact, I think a lot of these things could make the actual issue worse as we continue to use stand ins to sooth ourselves instead of actually practicing the hard self-care that leads to self-discovery, introspection and growth.
The Self-Care Band Aid AKA Using a Bucket to Fix a Leaking Roof
Think about it.
Imagine putting a bucket under a leaking roof.
Yes, it solves the issue of getting water on the floor, but the leaking roof is still going to leak. The only way to get rid of the leak is to fix the roof. You can decide to just put buckets down every time it rains but what’s happening is the leak is getting worse while the damage deepens and gets more difficult to repair.
“Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it’s helping. Very often, self-sabotage masquerades as self-care. We misuse strategies to numb ourselves. Instead of restoring our well-being, we turn to travel, fitness, food, and shopping as ways to escape the exhaustion of daily life. We try to run from a bad relationship, an uninspiring job, disappointment over unmet goals — anything that doesn’t make us feel good.
We make justifications like “I deserve it” to reason having one, two, or three glasses of wine after a rough day. Or we swear off parties to stay home instead. As a card-carrying introvert and highly sensitive person, I’m the first to celebrate the glory of downtime. But skipping social gatherings can slip into isolation and seclusion if you’re not careful.
I see it all the time with my clients, and even in myself—we turn to indulgences or we turn inward as a way to self-soothe and achieve some semblance of respite in a world that often feels overwhelming. It becomes a cycle: The constant busyness of life gives us purpose, but when it becomes too much to bear, we go back to escaping through Netflix, or sleep, or snacks.”
“When Self-Care Turns Into Self-Sabotage”
Sometimes self-care doesn’t feel good. Sometimes self-care is really friggin’ hard and scary. Like going to therapy to work through trauma. Or deciding to cut a toxic person out of your life. Maybe deciding to get sober to create the space in your brain to heal. Perhaps even quitting a job to pursue something more fulfilling.
Alright. I think I’ve beaten that point to death. Got it, get it, good?
Now what in the hell do I mean by “REAL self-care” in order to be a better person?
How to Be a Better Person: Clo Bare’s Definition of Real Self-Care
If you’ve been reading Clo Bare for a while, you know I’m a huge advocate of “real” self-care. The kind that actually makes an impact on your overarching well being instead of placing a bucket under a leaking roof. The kind that creates space in your brain to deal with your issues.
Whatever the leaking roof in your life is, a deeper issue, insecurity, stressor, wound– whatever you want to call the parts of your life that don’t feel right or are keeping you from being a better person– real self-care are the tools and tactics we use to help us identify the leaking roof, face it, and then figure out how to fix it.
A Wise Word on Self-Care From “Dumpster Dog”
“Real self-care is about doing the things that actually make your life healthier in substantial and long-term ways. It is about health, both physical and mental, healing, and personal development. It is about confronting difficult realities in life and asking if there is some material way to change the worst of them, instead of constantly treating the symptoms of unhappiness like we’re battleground triage nurses. It’s about creating a life that doesn’t make us feel broken, as hard as that may be. While a bubble bath or a sheet mask can certainly aid us in feeling slightly less broken, let’s also be careful not to label the distraction as a solution.”
It’s the hard shit. The shit we don’t always want to do and the stuff we put off because often it makes our lives harder before they get easier.
I like to think there’s two types of “real” self-care:
- There’s the type of self-care that includes activities (meditation, affirmations, painting, walking, etc) that help create a safe space and foundation in our brains, bodies and lives to prepare us and allow us to space for the tough work that is involved in healing from the bigger issues.
- Then there’s the type that addresses the issues– the hard as fuck work you do to heal like therapy, behavior change, changing who you surround yourself with, etc.
What Real Self-Care Techniques Clo Bare Uses
Each of the techniques I list below serve me in a different way whether it’s therapy as a personal development guide or meditation to regulate moods or yin yoga to reconnect with my body and ground me when feeling anxious.
They are all tools in how I manage my well being and doing them all consistently help keep me sane and stable enough to address the harder issues that I’m working to overcome.
And you know what?
Outside of therapy, every single one of these activities are FREE. SUCK IT BATH BOMBS AND DETOXES! (Just kidding. I love bath bombs. I’m not a robot.)
Depending on the issue I’m facing, my healing has included a variety of techniques, big and small, short-term and long-term self-care, including:
- Changing behaviors that don’t serve me
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Spending quality time with friends and family
- Yin Yoga
- Walks outside
- Breathing exercises
- Painting/doing art
- Setting boundaries
- Giving up on perfection
Confession Time: How I’m Failing at Self-Care
Now I know ALL of this but you know what I’ve been doing lately?
The “fake” self-care.
Avoiding my thoughts.
Scrolling through Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook before bed when I should be practicing sleep hygiene.
And you know what?
None of those things make me feel good.
Not even a little.
Some of them actively make me feel bad.
And in fact, not practicing real self-care is showing up for me in many real ways.
Who would’ve thought not treating myself well would cause a slippery slope of negativity and self-loathing all over again? Here’s how not taking care of myself is impacting me.
How Not Practicing Real Self-Care is Impacting Me
1. Body Image
I have been struggling hard with my body image lately. And I haven’t been doing anything to counteract it.
I’ve been contemplating diets that I’ve tried before all over again, obsessively thinking about my appearance, deciding to restrict something only to binge on it the next day and doing facial exercises to try and get rid of my chubby cheeks. It’s crept up on my brain again and I am so sick and tired of thinking about my body, how I look and how I can look better.
Body positivity in a world where we are constantly told we aren’t enough. It’s hard to not give a fuck about beauty standards and anti-wrinkle creams and thinning hair and double chins. For me, not giving a fuck about how I look takes a lot of affirming, meditation, reading on the topic, and active thought regulation.
And I haven’t been doing any of that.
I’ve been anxious lately, but not in an extreme Xanax kind of way. More in a constantly distracted way. It shows up in the way I check my phone even if I looked at my notifications three minutes ago.
I feel it again when my brain won’t slow the roll of wondering as I try to go to bed at night. It’s noticeable in the way something feels off all the time and the room is always just a little bit too hot but the heat seems to be coming from within me instead of due to the weather.
How do I regulate my anxiety? Doing things like meditation, writing, exercise, yin yoga, walking outside, breathing exercises, phone breaks, etc.
Have I been doing any of those things? Nope.
3. A Little Dash of Depression
I say a little dash of depression because it’s very functional depression. Like.. more of a complacent and everything is just “eh” kind of depression. But I’m not sure I’d even call that depression– just a hint of it. Complacency might be a better word but it feels like what depression feels like…. Only incredibly mild.
It shows up in the ways that I am unmotivated to do much else than eat chocolate and watch TV in bed. It also shows up when I feel like maybe it might be a good idea to just give up on most things and instead just sleep in for a few days.
How do I manage depression? Opposite thought action, more meditation, lots of affirmations and reminders, spending time doing what I love, spending time with family and friends, painting, and more therapy.
Have I been doing those things? Again, nope.
Incredible the ways that not attending to real self-care can lead to this. So why am I doing the fake self-care crap instead of practicing real self-care?
Becoming a Better Person Isn’t Easy
Well. For one, I’m tired. And real self-care takes more work than drinking a beer, having a pizza and watching TV. My listed items of “real self-care” all take some amount work and they aren’t always fruitful. When something’s harder and not always effective, it’s super tempting to give up and go the easy route instead.
Which I guess is what I’ve been doing.
I’ve been doing the easy stuff because I think I’ve been a little bit tired from all the growing I’ve been doing.
Is it possible to max out on personal growth and self-development?
Yeah. I think so. I think that’s what I’m experiencing after a few months of overwhelm.
How I feel equates to a kid who’s tired of behaving all the time and decides to act out by not doing any of it anymore. Not doing her homework because she’s sick of the pressure to get straight A’s. Giving up on basketball because she went to eight basketball camps this summer and she’s friggin’ pooped. Deciding to try drugs and alcohol because she’s sick of always being the responsible one.
I’ve entered my personal development rebel stage and I’m feeling a little bit stuck. The difference between me and the kid version of myself though is that I know that giving up isn’t the answer.
So What is Clo Bare Going to Do About It?
I plan on handling this. Instead of rebelling and giving up on everything, I’ve decided it’s time for me to switch priorities again. I’m not overwhelmed anymore, so now is the prime time to get in on this real self-care shit. I am ready to be a better person, and I’m ready to keep on in this personal growth journey.
Here goes nothing.
How to Be a Better Person Through Real Self-Care
1. Identify the Ways You’re Using “Self-Care” or “Treating Yourself” as a Crutch
I think it’s important to first address the ways that we avoid dealing with our issues. We can’t change what we don’t know is a habit that no longer serves us.
I often use drinking and NetFlix to escape my brain and claim that it’s self-care. It rarely works because I end up going to a place where my brain either gets depressed or anxious.
Even when choosing to watch a show, nine times out of ten I end up scrolling through my phone which sinks me deeper into my brooding thoughts about how my life isn’t okay the way it is. Doing two things at once makes me more anxious as well, and it’s just a lovely recipe for a not so great mental space.
It is least of all self-care even when I claim that I’ve earned a night to do nothing, drink a few glasses of wine and check out of the world and into a show. Often when I do this, I’m trying to escape some way that I’m feeling. It’s not particularly helpful, and when turned into a habit, it delays actually fixing what it is I’m trying to escape.
2. List Out Some Issues You Want to Work Through and Heal From
When we decide to stop using our crutches, it’s important to take a step back and understand why we felt we needed the crutch in the first place. What was it we were trying to avoid? Where does the feeling stem from? What is it that makes us give up and want to escape?
This can be a tricky part of the process and can take a lot of serious contemplation. Sometimes to even get to this point we need a lot of self-reflection and perhaps even the help of a therapist to help us get there.
On my end, after years of therapy on and off, the realizations of things I need to work through are constantly evolving but there are common themes that always come up:
- Fear of conflict
- Feeling different and the associated loneliness and disconnect
- Improving certain relationships in my life
- Letting go of feeling responsible for everyone’s happiness
- Body image and feeling like I’m not enough
- Restlessness and feeling like nothing is ever enough
- Not being present and feeling as if I’m watching someone else’s life happen
Not Sure Where to Start?
You don’t need to come up with a whole list right off the bat, but what’s ONE thing that you want to work on? Sometimes looking at a list of more than one thing can be discouraging, so if it overwhelms you, pick one thing and go from there. Still not sure?
Ask yourself these questions:
- What have I been procrastinating on?
- What is something I always said I would do but haven’t yet?
- Is there unrealized potential in my life that I am avoiding?
- How do I need to parent myself?
- What’s important to me that I’m not doing?
- What’s holding you back from getting and being who you want?
3. Make a List of Self-Care Tactics that Help Heal and Create a Space For Dealing with These Issues
This is the tricky part. Knowing what you need to heal from whatever issue you’re interested in overcoming isn’t always a straight shot. Sometimes it takes trial and error and some more trial and error.
Your list should have things that not only make you feel good, but open up space in your brain for the healing.
What do I mean by that?
I mean that these things stabilize you for the hard parts of self-care. Back when I mentioned the different types of self-care? This is the first kind, the activities that prepare you for the hard work you’re going to do when you address the issue you identified in step 2.
They create a foundation of calm and wellness that allow you to dive deeper into the traumas and issues and things you’re working hard to overcome. They keep you strong and focused and even. These things open up space in your brain and in your life to address what you need most, and some of these things aid in the healing itself.
If you don’t know where to start, here’s a couple of things from my list of what helps me:
This self-care brings me calm, provides me space in my body and relieves my chronic pain. It makes my body feel good. And when my body feels good, it allows me to deal with other stuff in life, like getting over trauma, dealing with anxiety and figuring out my crap.
Painting for me is the ultimate self-care because it brings me into the present moment. I am never so focused as I am when I am painting. It consumes me, it brings me peace, and it helps calm the never ending buzz of anxiety that’s in my brain. Painting also helps me process things because often as I’m painting in the back of my brain I’m working through something hard and when I’m done I have a solution to whatever was on my mind.
Meditation, especially guided meditation, is a great tool to reground me when I’m dealing with overwhelm or anxiety. It forces me to slow down and literally face my emotions and what I’m dealing with head on. You can’t hide from yourself while meditating and while that’s hard, it’s one of the necessary components of addressing the issues, discovering why you do the things you do and regulating emotions.
Spending Quality Time with Friends and Fam
This is huge self-care for me because I often fall into the trap of making my life a to-do list and accidentally end up isolating myself because of it. In my list I talk about wanting to overcome loneliness as well as improve certain relationships in my life– this is part of the self-care that helps me tackle both those things.
This is self-care that falls into both categories. It can be the tough shit and it can also be the easier, talk through things shit to make me feel better. This self-care heals me by giving me guidance, working through some shit, and providing me with tools to handle that list of issues I want to work through. It makes me face hard truths and it gives me the support to handle those hard truths.
I used to think affirmations were dumb and part of me still thinks that they are BUT I’ve started to think of them more as daily reminders. They help remind me of who I am and what I want and who I want to be beyond the bullshit. Reminders like:
- “Don’t over-fluff but also don’t shrink.”
- “We are all delusional to an extent so might as well pick a helpful delusion.”
- “Be nice.”
- “Listen more.”
- “Stop looking at your phone so much.”
- “No one cares what you’re doing so do whatever best serves you.”
- “You are actually a goddamn badass dazzling sparkly unicorn capable of great things and also doing great things.”
- “You matter and your presence on this earth makes a difference.”
This form of self-care is helpful for me because it slows me down and helps me work through issues. I write through failures and disappointments and re-strategize on how to move forward.
Sometimes self-care is actual things you can do like in the list above, but sometimes it’s not a to do list, like getting rid of toxic people, creating boundaries, learning how to communicate better, or deciding to stop drinking. It varies person to person and each person has variances depending on what they need at any given time.
4. Form a Realistic Plan
Realistic being the keyword here. It’s not realistic to commit to meditating an hour a day when you’ve never meditated a day in your life. What is something small and achievable that will help keep you sane and well and allow you to start addressing some of the issues you listed out in step 2?
My plan is to spend 15 minutes a day meditating, 15 minutes a day writing, and hour long phone breaks twice a day. That is do-able for me and where I’m at right now. I’m also going to read out my affirmations/reminders when I wake up in the morning and when I go to sleep, and I’m going to see if that helps put me in a better headspace.
5. Make “Real Self-Care” a Priority
This is what I haven’t been doing. I haven’t been making real self-care a priority.
Instead of focusing on my life goals and career goals and money goals and blog goals– I need to make my mental health and wellness a priority.
In fact, it needs to be my first priority right now.
Mental health is the first step in EVERYTHING that I do. I can’t press forward with a shitty foundation that’s crumbling and press on in my career goals and boss bitching and what not.
I have to have a healthy brain and being before I can build on top of it. Because then doing all the other stuff? It’s easier.
So, this means instead of making LIFE/BLOG/CAREER to do lists everyday, I’m going to stick to my self-care plan, first a foremost. Period. Nothing else needs to get done if I don’t address those things first.
How Does this Make Me a Better Person, exactly?
I truly believe that becoming a better person starts with taking care of yourself. The steps above outline how to use self-care to create the space within you to heal.
Now dealing with the tough shit part?
Sometimes that comes through some of the activities in self-care naturally, and sometimes that stuff comes from putting self-care on steroids and getting thee to a therapist. I believe that using self-care to open up and create a solid foundation of stability and calm within yourself (myself) allows me to do the things I know I need to do to solve those bigger issues we listed in step 2.
Ultimately, I can’t be patient and on my game and caring and concerned for others if my needs aren’t met. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work that way.
In order to be my best self and become a better version of me, I need to take care of my shit. And that starts with the simple self-care to do list that makes space for figuring out my issues in my own damn brain and life.
How We All Become Better Versions of Ourselves
How we heal and how we become better versions of ourselves is different for everyone. What works for me, isn’t going to work for everyone. And what works for you, may not work for me. And that’s okay. The key is to keep trying until we figure out what self-care and healing looks like for us.
How do you heal? What is REAL self-care to you? What are some of the ways you might be practicing the fake self-care?
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