I recently ran into something online that shocked me. It was shared by a Christian leader who was advocating the absolute wrong kind of self care, including reminders to “be selfish,” to think of our kids as burdens, and to put our own happiness first in our marriages.
When I came across these words, I was two things:
- passionate about sharing on Christian self care, and
- reluctant to write from a perspective that could be misunderstood.
So here’s my disclaimer: I promise I’ll forever encourage you to take care of yourself. But I’ve been chattering on about self-care and pinning to my self care board like a bubble-bath-loving fool…and now it’s time to voice my thoughts on the self care movement.
Because I totally agree with it. Except for when I don’t. Here’s my beef with modern self care and the things that I love about it too.
My Beef with the Self Care Movement
The world sees self care as a “me time” moment that we all (especially women) need to stand up for. It touts everything from manicures to meditation as the glamorous solution to a serious problem. Today’s self care looks empowering as well as wise. But is it? What’s the harm in self care?
- It easily morphs into selfishness. I don’t feel that self care is selfish. In fact, I’d like to convince anyone who thinks so of the opposite. But most of the advice the world is shouting at us in the name of #selfcare is quite literally, “BE SELFISH.” Ironically, selfishness isn’t healthy. Self care has been co-opted by basically everyone, no matter what they’re promoting, because self-indulgence is seen as an acceptable way to talk about it.
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This is not the picture of self care. Denying ourselves and having self-control is what makes believers different from the world. (Matthew 16:24-26, 2 Peter 1:5-7)
- It encourages us to view others as burdens and interruptions. When Me Time is what you’re focused on, your kids and spouse, and basically anybody you encounter can become an obstacle to your desires. The self care movement urges us to pursue our favorite things as a reward for the regular stress we face because of others. But other people are exactly who we’re supposed to be valuing. (Philippians 2:3)
- It raises our unrealistic and unhealthy expectations. When we elevate the benefits of self care and are overly focused on getting it, our expectations go through the roof. That mindset only results in deflation and disappointment when our self-care dreams aren’t realized, or when we don’t feel satisfied or peaceful if they are. This sets us up for a cycle of disappointment and frustration. (see Matthew 6:19-20)
- Self care can be viewed as a replacement for real spiritual health. Detoxifying our bodies, relaxing our minds, and painting our nails are all wonderful ideas. But this movement bombards us with the message that self care will save us from the world. It isn’t usually phrased like that, and it’s subtle, but it’s repeated again and again. Instead of finding satisfaction in God, it seeks to promote pleasure as the way to peace. (Philippians 3:18-20)
- It shuts others out in the name of healthy boundaries. While having boundaries is healthy and biblical, lots of people are claiming “self care” as a justifiable reason to dismiss and even devalue others–especially our kids! Friendly reminder, world: we are all priceless in God’s sight. (Matthew 10:29-31)
- It promotes commercialism, greed, and vanity. In our journey to be our best selves or live our best lives, Americans are buying more products and services and consuming more material goods. Self care is being used by some as a smokescreen for empty self-obsession and vanity. (See Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)
The movement is just so easily warped, you guys! And I know I’m not the only one thinking about this situation.
Something I’ve been wrestling with lately: the pervasive culture of self-love/self care in Xian circles right now. I’m such an advocate for healing and wholeness, but the short leap to self indulgence troubles me. It’s so privileged and so Western. It’s so me me me. Thoughts?
— Nichole Nordeman (@nicholenordeman) September 18, 2018
What I Adore About the Self Care Movement
Friends, I believe that most of us could use encouragement to take better care of ourselves. Caregiver burnout is real, and such a risk for moms in particular.
Here’s why I adore this movement.
- It encourages mental, spiritual, and physical health. I am ALL ABOUT health, friends, and I love the awareness this trend has brought us. I’m a big believer in putting on our oxygen masks first, so to speak, by caring for our basic needs in order to help others. We’re called to honor God with our bodies, and self care is in line with that. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
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- It releases us from false mom guilt and shame. In the past, caring for yourself was seen as lazy, egotistical, and/or elitist. Our culture has moved far away from those untrue associations, and I’m glad. I feel like moms in particular struggle with false guilt over taking time for ourselves because we’re so used to caring for our kids. I’m passionate about removing emotional obstacles to self care. (Psalm 34:5)
- It’s made a positive difference for many of us. It’s amazing what a little hashtag like #selfcare can do! We’re more likely to truly care for ourselves because we regularly see others doing it. This movement is making a huge impact.
- It helps us say yes to relationships and opportunities. For the mom whose life is stagnant, crowded, and tiring, self care reminds us to go to that ladies’ night out with friends or take a risk in pursuing a hobby. These little moments lead to bigger ones that help us live out our God-given callings. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
- It reminds us of the biblical concept to rest and retreat. We know that Jesus was big on taking time alone to pray. He was devoted to serving others and yet he rested (and slept) too! (Matthew 18:28-30)
- It’s reduced mental health stigma. This might be my favorite benefit. I love that self care has made us more aware of those (including ourselves) who may struggle with mental health issues. That awareness has meant better acceptance and openness when it comes to facing our greatest enemies. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
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You guys, I love self care when it’s coming from a balanced, Christian perspective (not a me-first one). So if you see me sharing about time with a cup of coffee and a good book, these are just a few of my thoughts behind the tag I’m using.
Take care of yourselves, ladies, and seek after God with all your heart!
How do you practice self care?