What does self care mean?
November 22, 2017 7:18 PM   Subscribe

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

But what about living in a world where each day's news brings "...violent shock and new inhumanities"? What does self-care mean amid a barrage of news and social media? How can you practice self-care when you're staring down the barrel of having Thanksgiving dinner with your politically contentious relatives?
posted by AFABulous (64 comments total) 126 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really really needed to read this today. Thank you.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:31 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


That first article was really good! Thank you!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:43 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Very relevant and timely. Great share.
posted by Fizz at 7:48 PM on November 22


yikes at that Thought Catalog article. In addition to a weird culture of self-care there is also a weird culture of policing how people do self-care. Not sure how to put this quite right, but I spent a long time subscribing to the "real self-care is ONLY BEING RESPONSIBLE and PARENTING YOURSELF and NOT INDULGENCE" and it can be rooooough if you're already going through a hard time in your own head. It turns out therapy and cake are both great, and pampering yourself is not necessarily "escapism" if you've never done it or even if you have, and it can in fact be incredibly difficult.

People should self-care however the hell they want and I hope everyone does.
posted by colorblock sock at 8:11 PM on November 22 [100 favorites]


Well, and also - like what if the things that are weighing on you are things like “the patriarchy” which no matter how much I could possibly try to escape in my personal life is still going to be affecting my political life and earnings and so much more. No amount of “doing the messy work” is going to tear that down by Tuesday. Should I not eat any salt caramels until it’s destroyed?
posted by corb at 8:21 PM on November 22 [73 favorites]


a weird culture of policing how people do self-care

That is a cancerous form of morality. Mind your own business, policers.
posted by thelonius at 8:27 PM on November 22 [15 favorites]


I have an audiobook from Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron where she has a great quote about this. Since it's an audiobook I can't really link, so to paraphrase - "Maybe a nightly candlelit bubble bath is what you need to cultivate compassion for yourself, or maybe it's yet another of your million strategies for avoiding being fully present. Who's to say?"

I love it because it's a warning about how easily things undertaken for a true and worthy reason can turn into self-indulgent crutches. So, the first time you took that bubble bath, it really was something you needed... but then when you adopted it as a regular thing, over time the intention behind it got disconnected, and without you even realizing it, now it's become how you hide from problems.

And in the realm of "policing how people do self-care" - well, you'd have to hear it, but the way Chodron adds the "who's to say?" is remarkably nonjudgmental. Like, the warning is there, but she's totally leaving the work of evaluating the situation to you, because that's really your work to do in the first place.
posted by dnash at 8:49 PM on November 22 [86 favorites]


Brianna Wiest is the author of The Truth About Everything

Well then!
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:53 PM on November 22 [6 favorites]


I don't know, I think there is a valid space for tough love. I know people who are just opting out of dealing with their shit and calling it self-care. Sometimes there are legit mental health issues, but a lot of it is just the everyday stress of being an adult, or the stress of not having been an adult when you should have been. I know, blah blah millennials get off my lawn, but postponed adulthood is a real thing. I've gone the escapist route plenty of times and I've learned that it relieves more stress if I spend 20 minutes doing my budget than if I spend that 20 minutes in the bath or whatever.

There's a whole industry around self-care and it's whispering soothing words while it pickpockets us. "Ssshhh.... don't worry about your problems.... treat yourself to our memory foam slippers..." It's good to have a jolt of reality. If you already have your shit together to the best of your ability and you're taking a well-deserved break, then this article doesn't apply to you.
posted by AFABulous at 8:55 PM on November 22 [53 favorites]


I know this was just an example, but If the worst thing you can say of yourself is you have a habit of using bubble baths as escapism, I think you are doing pretty well....
posted by thelonius at 9:18 PM on November 22 [37 favorites]


You're also allowed some breaks before your shit is fully together. If the insistence here is not only to deal with your debt but to have a veritable spreadsheet of it--presumably ISO 9000 compliant or whatever the current organizational fad is--before you can burn a candle or two, then the Eat Your Vegetables Police can just suck it. There's also a whole industry built around self organization, you know.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:24 PM on November 22 [38 favorites]


a weird culture of policing how people do self-care

way too much fucking proscriptiveness in the culture these days. Robyn had it right seven years ago.
posted by philip-random at 9:40 PM on November 22 [8 favorites]


The greatest sin — and I do mean *greatest* sin — is denying your own happiness.

I say this as someone who endured seven years of medical training and decades of abuse by the US healthcare system. I’m all for looking at long term goals and ignoring temporary pain, but if you can’t wake up and imagine the joy that might await you as you approach the day, then you might not be self caring.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:42 PM on November 22 [29 favorites]


When feeling plagued by angst or elevated stress, one friend who lives in DC said he throws himself into deep dives on the internet, researching questions like “How to calculate the number of stars in our solar system?”

I love this problem. But it's cheating if you use a calculator or the internet. You'll do far more self-care if you connect with the world around you for the answer. Ask your bartender. Your waitress. Your next door neighbor.

Then take the average. Use the power of many minds.
posted by surplus at 9:54 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


People whom I've voluntarily given authority over me—teachers, managers, significant others, clergy—are allowed to show me tough love. But it just doesn't exist without that prior relationship of trust.

Much like the more physical and kinky interpretation of "tough love": you need boundaries and communication first, then it's ok to get harsh.
posted by traveler_ at 9:54 PM on November 22 [20 favorites]


I appreciate the perspectives presented in these articles a lot. Self-care is a personal thing that is poisoned by so much — by self-righteousness, by self-centeredness, and by social media.

I hate walking into a situation that could be a form of true self-care FOR ME, only to realize I’m more focused on documenting my experience than actually living it. It’s only valid self care if other people are going to be able to validate it online in the next 24 hours or whenever my stupid hootsuite queue deems it most advantageous to post about it. Instagram stars like Kayla Itsines have turned their personal forms of self care into their personal brand identity. When everything else is falling down and your form of escapism is to indulge in Instagram or whatever and you see demonstrating self-care as being something to make money from, to gain popularity with, etc, that’s suddenly a really heavy amount of conflicting information being thrown your way.

We’ve lost our privacy and we miss it but are made to feel like we’re not being “brave” enough if we don’t do our daily performance of living for the people who subscribe to our channels, our feeds, etc. We don’t feel like we can be authentic because authenticity can be used against us and so much of what’s being sold to us as “authentic” is totally fucking fake to begin with. Self care is something we need so desperately that others know it’s a need that can be easily exploited.

Like, I turn 30 in January. I’ve got a lot of regrets, and 95% of them involve me feeling terrible that I didn’t do a better job of taking care of myself over the past 27 years. I spent an hour pretending I was talking to 13 year old me, apologizing for not protecting her, for not knowing what I know now. I wrote down all these things I’d ask to redo. Stay away from this long list of people who will be terrible friends and/or lovers. Be kind to your body. Be patient with yourself if you don’t learn something immediately like people expect you to. Ask for help sooner rather than later. You don’t have to be ashamed of anything. I’m so sad that I didn’t take better care of you. I’m so sorry. Maybe if I give you this 3 page guide, you’ll be able to make better choices and things will be different.

It feels gross even typing that out right now. What I’d really like to do is hug inner 13 year old me and say, it has been rough but we made it and even though here isnt that great it’s also not terrible and anyway at least we’re still here, period. 29 year old me would also like a hug as well. And I’d like to say thanks to AFABulous for making this FPP because I didn’t realize just how much I needed something like it today.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:19 PM on November 22 [72 favorites]


And just after posting that I realized I am late to a night meeting for work and now my form of self care is holding my goddamn adult self accountable and getting my ass into that call stat to apologize
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:24 PM on November 22 [5 favorites]


If you already have your shit together to the best of your ability and you're taking a well-deserved break, then this article doesn't apply to you.

I suppose then the question that I have becomes: how do you tell which you are?

No, really, I mean it: where's the line between postponed adulthood, or distracting oneself with small baubles, and being someone coping with external challenges by self-medicating or taking a well deserved break? What counts as deserving? Who does and doesn't deserve these things?

I struggle with these questions.
posted by sciatrix at 10:29 PM on November 22 [46 favorites]


Me too, sciatrix.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:18 PM on November 22


How to calculate the number of stars in our solar system?

I'm reclassifying smug internet pedantry as self-care so I can point out that the answer to this question is a no-calculations-required ONE. I'M BEING MY BEST SELF.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:34 PM on November 22 [52 favorites]


> how do you tell which you are?

No, really, I mean it: where's the line between postponed adulthood, or distracting oneself with small baubles, and being someone coping with external challenges by self-medicating or taking a well deserved break? What counts as deserving? Who does and doesn't deserve these things?
I believe that an unexamined life isn't really living, and those are very important questions for me, too.

Lately, I've been reading some Carl Rogers. His thesis is basically that we as human beings have the inherent capacity of approaching it once we can accept and mobilize the entirety of our experience, which ranges from the more "bodily" perceptions, the emotions, needs, desires and feelings, to the more "cognitive" aspects such as memory, learning, and reasoning. Too often our own defensiveness splinters and distorts our feeling and thinking, and we turn out not fully experiencing.

His approach is to immerse the person in a safe and healing relationship where it's safe to open up to and explore the totality of experiences, as they are, without subjecting the self to rigid and distorting judgements. During this process one gains a kind of inner confidence about mapping out her own truth, which she knows the best. This process is laden with conflicts but one doesn't proceed despite the conflicts; the conflicts are the process; they are yet another input and data point.

There's no "end state" as in "from this point on you know The Answer to these questions and do the Right Thing", but the starting of a process in which one feels open and fully engaged in, always adjusting and balancing her own approach autonomously.

So this is my very dry summary of what I read from him, and it rings true to me from my experience in my psychotherapy. Of course I can't speak about it as a mental health expert. I hold it to be self-evident, though, that we know the best about our own lives -- provided that we resolve to not split off any of it, but to accept and engage.
posted by runcifex at 11:45 PM on November 22 [8 favorites]


Hugs to all, and to Hermione Granger. You really have done your best and your existence proves that.
posted by runcifex at 11:51 PM on November 22 [7 favorites]


There's a whole industry around self-care and it's whispering soothing words while it pickpockets us. "Ssshhh.... don't worry about your problems.... treat yourself to our memory foam slippers..."

Smug internet pedantry aside, I guess I actually agree with the basic premise of the first article, which is that "self-care" is not synonymous with "stress relief" or "luxury." Consumer capitalism sucks and it would LOVE it if you bought some expensive bubble bath or fancy gelato when you're stressed instead of calling your sister or taking a walk.

It just skews a little too wine-drinking millennial creative for its own good. There's one line about "making sacrifices for others," but the rest of the suggestions seem to assume that you don't have obligations to anyone but yourself. "Building a life you don't have to escape from" is awesome for motivating you to polish your resume or kick out a shitty roommate but what are you supposed to do with your sick relative?

I would be down for a whole article about self-care on the cheap though. Who can afford a fucking mani-pedi every time they're going to lose their shit?!?! Lately I've been printing coloring pages and coloring on my lunch break, but I still do a lot of shit like buying myself a 3 dollar face mask or a new blanket. Also at some point the treat food must go from "self-care" to "just my diet" and that point is certainly behind me.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:41 AM on November 23 [18 favorites]


it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

How lovely to have such choices. Life under the patriarchy, in late capitalism, on a planet we're not so slowly killing, among conspecifics armed to the teeth and seething with rage, doesn't seem like it offers those choices to many of us.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:19 AM on November 23 [27 favorites]


How lovely to have such choices.

I dunno, that’s a lot of vitriol. I mean, Marx said:
People make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.
but he didn’t advocate stopping there. Yes, we live in a world stained with murder and corruption, a world that hurts many or even most of us every day, but we can still, within our limited circumstances, choose how we are going to respond to that. Self-medication is a response. Activism is a response. Taking a break is a response. Taking responsibility is a response. Taking a nap is a response. Getting angry at someone who deserves it is a response. Getting angry at someone who doesn't deserve it is a response. My reading of TFA is that consciously choosing a better response is self-care. What the author doesn’t stress quite enough is that a) there’s no answer that’s always right (although there are some that are always wrong) and b) you can’t tell if someone else is making the right choice for themselves or not.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:43 AM on November 23 [44 favorites]


I would be down for a whole article about self-care on the cheap though. Who can afford a fucking mani-pedi every time they're going to lose their shit?!?! Lately I've been printing coloring pages and coloring on my lunch break, but I still do a lot of shit like buying myself a 3 dollar face mask or a new blanket. Also at some point the treat food must go from "self-care" to "just my diet" and that point is certainly behind me.

I would be down for this too! Also would make a great AskMe question!
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:45 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I'm buying it. It's an argument against a constructed dilettante that's frivolously getting their hair done while Rome burns. I guess there are some people like that, somewhere, but I don't really know that many. It's fun to imagine them and get mad and/or feel superior about it, but most of the people I know do a reasonable job of managing their lives, and also like to flake out from time to time. Sure, there's a balance to be kept, and if your house is on fire it's not the right time to go to the arcade. But if you need to be told?that, you probably have problems that a stern article isn't going to solve.?
posted by Shepherd at 3:47 AM on November 23 [11 favorites]


I love it because it's a warning about how easily things undertaken for a true and worthy reason can turn into self-indulgent crutches.

I think it's weird how 'crutch' has become a loaded word, like something being a crutch is a bad thing, first in the context of psychiatric drugs but now to the point where harmless treats are regarded with suspicion. Imagine telling someone with a broken leg: "Why are you using those crutches? Your leg will never heal unless you walk on it. Don't you realise those crutches are nothing but a crutch?".
posted by kersplunk at 4:10 AM on November 23 [56 favorites]


It's an argument against a constructed dilettante that's frivolously getting their hair done while Rome burns.

Well kind of, but it's also speaking to all those being told that our stress over Rome burning can be alleviated by buying the right combination of luxury, 'pampering' treats. I'm thinking of the kind of thing the manwhohasitall Twitter account sends up so well:

"Working dad? Learn to relax! Lose yourself in a yoghurt, curl up with a scented candle or treat yourself to an extra almond. 'Me-time'."

"Stressed working dad? Enjoy a hot candelit bath and relax with a super article on 6 weird things about your penis that are totally normal."

"STRESS-STRICKEN DAD? Did you know that drinking lemon water has many benefits? It releases the hormone that tackles structural inequalities."
posted by Catseye at 4:40 AM on November 23 [26 favorites]


I've just finished a biography of Charlotte Bront?, and am working through her letters, and so the idea of "build[ing] a life you don’t need to regularly escape from" sounds quite strange and shallow to my ear right now. Of course some forms of suffering--e.g. suffering because you have mismanaged your finances, friendships, or work--are avoidable, and the wise thing to do is to work on avoiding those forms of suffering. But there is usually an irreducible core of stuff that won't go away if you just try hard enough, and that has to be coped with and sometimes regular escapes are a wise and rational method of coping. Your family is your family, your past is your past, your situation is your situation, death and illness are death and illness, and there is no away to step right out of all that mess and context and simply recreate yourself from scratch as a person who never suffers. Given that that's what the human condition is just like, the desire to build a few escape hatches into your life--for example, by obsessively fantasising about Byronic dukes or by writing Jane Eyre--seems like a perfectly natural and good response to me. Chocolate and bubble baths have a small but valuable role in that context. I doubt Charlotte Bront? ate anything like the amount of chocolate she should have eaten in her lifetime.
posted by Aravis76 at 5:06 AM on November 23 [32 favorites]


Oooh, thanks, this is a topic I'm really interested in, and these were great articles. I've been really fascinated seeing these conversations move through my queer and trans communities especially, over the past few years, and the roles of self-care and of community care are something that I think about a lot.

I took a look through my bookmarks for some other articles I've enjoyed on these topics:

Beyond Self-Care Bubble Baths: A Vision for Community Care, by Abeni Jones, on Autostraddle
"Rugged, self-sufficient idealism doesn’t work for those of us with brains or bodies that require other people’s support in order to make it through this world. An over-reliance on self care reifies this American cultural touchstone rather than challenging it. We need to destigmatize burdening others, normalize asking for help, challenge ableism. A shift toward a community care model could be a means by which we can do just that. We could focus on learning “10 Ways to Take Care of Your Friends Who Are Struggling,” instead of ten ways to make our baths more relaxing."

For the love of self: we need to insist on community care, by Amani Ariel, on Blavity
"If you ask me, solitary revitalization is superhuman. It is yet another expectation that we can do more than we were built for. How can we, as black women, take care of yet another body as if we haven’t already been taxed with taking care of everyone else’s? "

Why I don’t believe in “self care” (and how to make it obsolete), by Liz Kessler
"The real problem is that self care is an enormous task. Nobody can take care of themselves 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It’s just not possible. [...] Capitalism, and the individualism that supports it, have made us believe that as adults we have to take care of ourselves (and maybe our romantic partners). And so in order to get through it, we cope. We buy things we don’t really need, we eat out, and we shop for shiny new things. Because that way, it feels like we’re doing it all by ourselves."

for badass disability justice, working-class and poor lead models of sustainable hustling for liberation, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
"Guess what else I have? Badass resilience strategies of loud-ass working class femme of color laughter and shit talking, organizing methods with other disabled and/or chronically ill folks who find ways to do amazing organizing that centers what our bodies can actually do, trading massages as we sit in court praying for a youth who's been locked up on bullshit charges, doing grounding and praying to our ancestors outside court, a spiritual practice that is banging, yoga I do every morning in my house, for free, that allows me to manage my pain, fatigue and cognitive challenges and that helps me do my work from a grounded place of love that centers my crip body."
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:52 AM on November 23 [41 favorites]


Self care always includes a tiny bit of tasty chocolate.
posted by sammyo at 6:01 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]


How can you practice self-care when you're staring down the barrel of having Thanksgiving dinner with your politically contentious relatives?

I don't know about the rest of the year, but self-care at Thanksgiving, if you're having a crowd over, is making sure everyone around you has an acceptable relief valve and always feels welcome to use it in an acceptable way.

Don't make anyone sit and listen to someone they think is awful. Make sure there are at least a couple of places it is OK to go, maybe the living room or the kitchen or some other room, plus a place to get outside, with full freedom to roam among them. No "Sit down at the table with everyone else, young lady" stuff if that means she's going to be miserable.

Give smokers a no-pressure way to go and smoke as many smokes as they want to smoke without bothering the non-smokers. Now is not the time to convince smokers to stop smoking. Now is the time to hand them an ashtray and show them the right place to smoke and let them know they are welcome to smoke.

And maybe let the most contentious adults (crazy uncle? newly woke college student?) get wasted and fall asleep, if they aren't crazy angry drunks. Ply them with alcohol or dope. Leave them the bottle. Give them soft, warm seating. Put on the game or their favorite movie or music. Make sure the food supply never stop. Let them literally knock themselves out. It will be their best Thanksgiving ever. (Just don't let anyone drive drunk or otherwise get hurt.)
posted by pracowity at 6:11 AM on November 23 [11 favorites]


Ugh, then I'm doomed, lol. I'd gnaw my arm off to escape the dead half of my life if I could, if there was something as obvious as a bear trap holding me there.

I'm not so much escaping my life this Thanksgiving as riding it out on a tiny life boat on a very big, very dark sea, but I'll probably sleep a lot to make the tension and PTSD stress of not being able to spend the holidays with my kids bearable, but I can't and don't think there's any "escape" from reality that doesn't cause more harm. Taking aspirin for a toothache, say, isn't escapism but a coping strategy. I'll probably use some emotional aspirin, comfort food, watching some comforting TV, etc. All that really matters is that I survive because my ex wife and kids need me to keep earning money for them, even if I can't manage to be much more than a money supply they forget about and take for granted half the time. They need to be able to take me for granted though, as kids, to feel secure, so I guess I look at myself as a sort of utility now.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:30 AM on November 23 [7 favorites]




I dunno, that’s a lot of vitriol.

None whatsoever intended. It *would* be lovely to have that choice.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:21 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


Oh, it is.
posted by thelonius at 7:33 AM on November 23


Actions rarely match the stated intention, isn't that the textbook definition of gaslighting?
posted by infini at 7:57 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


How can you practice self-care when you're staring down the barrel of having Thanksgiving dinner with your politically contentious relatives?

To paraphrase the Buddha, there are many paths. But personally, I'm going with Pennsylvania rye whiskey.

Good luck, everybody.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:35 AM on November 23 [6 favorites]


Lately for me self care on the cheap means lurking Johnny Walker’s metafilter posts and talking goofy shit with him on twitter.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:47 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]



How can you practice self-care when you're staring down the barrel of having Thanksgiving dinner with your politically contentious relatives?


Edibles.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:58 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


I'm not so much escaping my life this Thanksgiving as riding it out on a tiny life boat on a very big, very dark sea, but I'll probably sleep a lot to make the tension and PTSD stress of not being able to spend the holidays with my kids bearable, but I can't and don't think there's any "escape" from reality that doesn't cause more harm.

I'm sorry this is a hard time for you, saul_goodman, and I hope the weekend goes OK.
posted by thelonius at 10:00 AM on November 23 [9 favorites]


I think there is a valid space for tough love. I know people who are just opting out of dealing with their shit and calling it self-care.

Yes. In my twenties I had a friend who was in an abusive relationship and hated her job and complained all the time because all she had in her late thirties was a one-bedroom rental apartment. But instead of actually doing something constructive about these issues, she'd spend all her free time on her ballroom dancing lessons and going shopping and talking about taking a trip "somewhere different". There's nothing wrong with doing any of those things, but the problem was, she was doing them instead of resolving the issues that were making her so miserable, with the result that things were only getting worse and she was expecting all her friends to listen to her complain endlessly about her problems. I remember one time while we were shopping she found a paisley top in orange and pink and said, "Ooh, this looks rebellious! I should buy it because I feel rebellious," and I seethed with frustration, and wanted to snap, "If you don't like your life, why don't you make some actual meaningful changes instead buying another damn piece of clothing that you won't wear because your closet is already overflowing?" This is the kind of behaviour the first article is addressing.
posted by orange swan at 10:11 AM on November 23 [15 favorites]


My go-to weird-trick method of self-care is giving the middle finger to snappy web posts and listicles that feel entitled to judge how I self-care in a world that increasingly doesn't give a damn about anyone who's not got enough liquidity not to have to worry about self-care.
posted by blucevalo at 10:58 AM on November 23 [7 favorites]


I also agree with the basic premise of the first link, but find the tone off putting. For a fresher, more personal take - Mawiyah Patten on what nobody tells you about self care.
posted by staraling at 11:10 AM on November 23 [6 favorites]


I would be down for a whole article about self-care on the cheap though.

So would I, except that I don't know how much I would get out of it, because on a fundamental level I struggle sometimes with what self-care even looks like, beyond the basics I hold for myself:

-eating at least two meals a day
-sleeping at a reasonable hour, given my 5:55a wakeup time
-medicating approximately on time for me (usually 8a)
-going out for a long walk once a week

Those are my personal self care focuses. They help my body, but they also help my mind. For me, focusing on that is taking care of myself. (They're none of them glamorous, and I struggle with them like nothing else. Fuck, I gotta tackle showering today, actually.)

Currently for self care I am trying to add "spend some time clicker training the dog" which is also free and lets me spend some time soaking up her joy in learning. Quality time with friends who love me; an afternoon once a week with a cup of hot chocolate and a pack of laughing jerks. Making things, when I can; I am dabbling in writing, but I should break out my embroidery supplies again soon.

The emphasis on community and focusing, instead of self-care, on caring for others and consciously dipping into relationships with them works better for me. A lot of my recent depression comes from feeling abandoned and rejected--there have been a lot of those events in the past year--and part of healing from that is trying to immerse myself in place where I am loved and wanted. And those kinds of relationships don't happen without dedicating time to watering and caring for those relationships.

It's hard to build them, though. And here's where I come back to that question about deserving, because I think that's a framing that sets people who are clinging by their toes up to fail and doesn't even impact people who are using "self-care" to escape the possibility of tackling their own issues: 'deserving' is the wrong word. I think you have to ask yourself: "Am I just trying to use a crutch while I am healing? Is this a temporary stopgap, and what will it look like when I can face the underlying problem? Is the underlying problem something I can control?"

Because the answers to those questions are the important things, really. If the things that are stressing you out aren't actually in your control, there's a limited number of things you can do to push through them and improve things. And maybe you use comforting stopgaps and coping mechanisms to let you hold on while you try to tackle the things that are in your control, and maybe you try to prioritize and handle one stressor at a time.
posted by sciatrix at 11:16 AM on November 23 [20 favorites]


Metafilter: That is a cancerous form of morality. Mind your own business, policers.
posted by mecran01 at 11:17 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


I also would like suggestions of cheap self care activities - I have a couple links I skim through for ideas occasionally
- budget self care ideas
- ideas for small rewards
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:35 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


I'd like to see the evidence or at least theory behind "if we take away these people's bubble baths and lattes they'll get their shit together." Like... I know people who definitely don't have their shit together, and use consumer self care to alleviate their misery. But removing those things... is not going to make them get their shit together? It's not like these people don't know they need to get their shit together, they just either don't know how or don't have the skills to do it. It's easy to say "make a budget" or "apply to other jobs if you hate the one you're in" but these people either don't know how or have executive functioning or emotional problems that get in the way. Giving up their self care won't change that.

Probably the only thing that would is therapy or someone teaching them all the shit their parents didn't and that either requires money or good friends with a lot of free time and patience. Sometimes people just don't have the skills they need to move forward in life and that's not a matter of using self care as a "crutch," it's a failure of resources.

Now that I think about it, this sounds an awful lot like "just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and stop wasting money on frivolous things like fridgerators."
posted by brook horse at 3:05 PM on November 23 [20 favorites]


No, really, I mean it: where's the line between postponed adulthood, or distracting oneself with small baubles, and being someone coping with external challenges by self-medicating or taking a well deserved break?

"Adulthood" is an arbitrary judgement. I'm 46 and I can damn well wear colorful socks and spend my evenings playing video games or reading comic books if I feel like it. My body says I can't eat cookies as much as I might otherwise choose to, but when I do, I haven't somehow let down the human race.

We, as a species and a society, really do not have our collective shit together to the extent that everyone seems to pretend.
posted by Foosnark at 3:13 PM on November 23 [13 favorites]


What does "postponed adulthood" mean for people with disabilities? For people who are single parents and work close to minimum wage because their skill set in childcare doesn't pay a living wage? What does "adulthood" mean for all the people who can't afford to feed and house themselves and pay for childcare even while working full time?

There's so much judgement in this phrase and so many people thrown under the bus and their humanity and adulthood disrespected for factors well out of their control when they may even be working harder or just the same as people with different circumstance and ability.

I get it there are more people who live with their parents or rely on aid from their parents but the younger generation also earns less and CAN'T just fix their own mistakes with money like their higher earning parents did.

Thanks for all the great comments in this thread and links to really cool articles especially ITheCosmos. Life is exhausting enough without a bunch of judgement about whether you are performing "adulthood" well enough to their standards, or whether you're pulling yourself up by your self love bootstraps well enough. (As if that doesn't at times just deplete us more).
posted by xarnop at 7:01 PM on November 23 [27 favorites]


I am taking a "coping with anxiety" class through Kaiser Behavioural Health Education. My teacher is a former therapist, now yoga teacher and educator who does mindfulness meditation, yadda yadda. And she said something that made me burst out laughing in class yesterday. She said she stopped being a therapist because people kept coming back, they never got better. "They're just thoughts," she said, "we take them too seriously."

This made me laugh because yes, I do take my thoughts too seriously. As she also pointed out, horrible situations that we face are genuinely horrible. But how we think about them, and how we choose to react to them makes a difference in our suffering. We can make it harder or easier. Personally, I've spent many years of my adulthood making it harder. But I am learning how to make it easier. And one thing that makes it easier is doing self-care and a lot of my self-care involves the kinds of thing that sciatrix mentions. Stuff like getting my meds on time, feeding myself reasonably well, seeing friends at least once a week. Sometimes, it involves seeing a movie. Sometimes it involves doing things like calling my members of Congress. Even though it is a pain in the ass. Capitalism fucks up and makes commodities of everything possible. That is true. I still need to take care of myself. That is also true.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:08 PM on November 23 [6 favorites]



I am taking a "coping with anxiety" class through Kaiser Behavioural Health Education. My teacher is a former therapist, now yoga teacher and educator who does mindfulness meditation, yadda yadda. And she said something that made me burst out laughing in class yesterday. She said she stopped being a therapist because people kept coming back, they never got better. "They're just thoughts," she said, "we take them too seriously."

This made me laugh because yes, I do take my thoughts too seriously. As she also pointed out, horrible situations that we face are genuinely horrible. But how we think about them, and how we choose to react to them makes a difference in our suffering. We can make it harder or easier.


sure we can.. that's why there is no need for therapy or medicine or yoga anymore. Because of the power of positive thinking!!

/hamburger
posted by some loser at 9:01 PM on November 23 [4 favorites]


Nah, positive thinking is bullshit and that's not what she was saying. It made me laugh partly because it was both true and not true.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:18 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]


She said she stopped being a therapist because people kept coming back, they never got better.

Have you considered the possibility that she was a terrible therapist?
posted by thelonius at 3:07 AM on November 24 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I struggle with this. I know from personal experience that basically anything pleasant can turn into a trap, if it becomes a way of not feeling things you don't want to feel. It's not a moral problem, it's just the way most brains work: difficult emotions tend to grab you more the more you push away from them, even if you get some temporary relief at first. So I get what the first author is saying here, I think.

But it also has to be okay to not be 100% "on" during all 18 waking hours. Right? (Actually genuinely not sure! Do we ever "need" to watch TV or read garbagetrash or aimlessly surf the net? Or is this just something we're vulnerable to that capitalist society then takes advantage of? What would we realistically do if those anaesthetics weren't on the market, and would it be any better for us? I'm clearly not even close to being "on" for even the majority of my waking hours, so is this just me neurotically trying to defend my own behavior so I don't feel bad about it?)

Also, when I was in a really bad place, being distracted with endless hours of TV was probably better than just being alone with my thoughts. It just obviously wasn't a permanent solution... more like a kind of harm reduction. One of the links talks about the depressed person who orders pizza because it's all they can bring themselves to eat and man, did I recognize that: there's something to be said for finding the right place in the trade-off of "things you can realistically handle" and "things that are good for you," instead of overcommitting to an unsustainably healthy lifestyle, and then not only flaming out immediately but also dealing with the negative emotions of failing at something yet again because you'll clearly never get your shit together etc.

I just don't know that I trust myself to know where the line is, maybe. I think my self-parenting tends to be either indulgent or harsh. And that awareness doesn't really translate into action for me.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:16 PM on November 24 [15 favorites]



I'm not really sure what this says about me and my performance of 'adulthood'. Right now I'm in the process of creating new ways of 'self care' and it's taken me right back to my pre-teen and teenage world of playing games.

This past year has been tough for me even without all of the political and social stuff and my typical ways of taking care of myself just haven't been cutting it. I realized that a lot of what I did to take care of myself was retreating and passively letting my brain withdraw from the mundane world. Video games, movies, netflix etc. I found myself starting to actually loathe those things and they lost their magic.

I started playing role playing games again and it's been a spark that I needed. Rping isn't passive. Narrative shared story telling is not passive. It's creative. And now I'm moving on from just participating in someone elses game to creating the games as well. I'm learning new skills in digital art. I've picked up drawing again. And I'm delving more into the theory of story telling.

So now you'll find me spending several hours working on a map, making characters and places for people to play in. And when I'm down I feel better.

And the absolute best thing about it is that adult me is more able to bring in parts of the real world in for people to engage with. I'm finding it hella cathartic. Pissed of and the Trump admin and feel helpless at not being able to do much? Well guess what, in my world we can engage with those people (my fantasy versions) and what they are doing. The one silver lining of the whole mess is that it has made creating bad guys and foils as well as complex and interesting political plots hella easy. There is so much to chose from.

I'm not sure I even care that much if it is adult enough. All I know is that my players and I are really looking forward to meeting and dealing with 'Dohny Two Scoops' Merchant off Odahfen and the smuggling operation that involves several towns on the east coast of Tal-Dorei.

*shrug*
posted by Jalliah at 2:56 PM on November 24 [12 favorites]


But it also has to be okay to not be 100% "on" during all 18 waking hours.

Get some extra sleep for 2 of those hours. Everything else will get easier.
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:44 AM on November 25


Lol, mental subtraction fail. Assume I meant 16.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:29 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


I really like this thread and did find value in the first article (I have a disability but am also not the most responsible person).

However, after reading the Baffler article, this line from the first article jumped out at me:

It is often doing the ugliest thing that you have to do, like .... get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time

Especially through the lens of the statement "Society isn't mad or messed up, you are". Because of course, we're supposed to find a way to 'accept ourselves so that we're not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time' while working two jobs.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 11:08 AM on November 25 [3 favorites]


and there is no away to step right out of all that mess and context and simply recreate yourself from scratch as a person who never suffers

This is actually the theme of a decently good book I'm reading at the moment, BTW, and which is directly relevant to this discussion: Todd May's A Fragile Life.

His general line is that the effort to create what he calls an "invulnerabilist" self is bound to fail, and is in any event less desirable than learning how to admit suffering into one's life in a way that can be lived with. I'm not yet sure if he's managed to convince me — after all, he's arguing against ideas at the core of Taoism, Zen Buddhism and Stoicism, which are nothing if not robust traditions of thought, and are besides ones I've found personally inspiring over most of my adult life. But it isn't a trivial piece of self-help writing, either.

I dunno. I'm finding it useful, and I'd be willing to bet some of you would too.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:40 AM on November 26


His general line is that the effort to create what he calls an "invulnerabilist" self is bound to fail, and is in any event less desirable than learning how to admit suffering into one's life in a way that can be lived with. I'm not yet sure if he's managed to convince me — after all, he's arguing against ideas at the core of Taoism, Zen Buddhism and Stoicism

My knowledge is mostly superficial, but isn't that exactly the idea of Buddhism?
posted by lazuli at 12:35 PM on November 26


(A caution, though: May's account of Buddhist and Taoist thought doesn't appear to have been informed by Buddhist or Taoist practice, and, where it touches on matters I have some familiarity with, is occasionally technically incorrect. Despite some fondness for Marcus Aurelius, I'm not familiar enough with the Stoic tradition to say whether he gets it right in every detail. So caveat lector and that.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:35 PM on November 26


My knowledge is mostly superficial, but isn't that exactly the idea of Buddhism?

There are many Buddhisms, of course, but to the degree that they all derive from the Four Noble Truths, no. The "point" of Buddhist practice is, explicitly, to end suffering by ending attachment.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:37 PM on November 26


« Older 400yo Map of Nahuatl Lineage in Southern Puebla...   |   Small beer Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.