When Self-Care Isn’t Radical

blue sky with sun rays

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of references to “radical” self-care. But I can’t help but wince a little at the idea that self-care has to be radical to be meaningful.

Sure, some approaches can be radical. Leaving an abusive relationship or making a career change are indeed significant life changes, but most acts of self-care are subtle.

For the past 257 days, I’ve been weaving in at least one act of self-care every day as part of my 366 Days of Self-Care Challenge. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process, but I’ve also learned a lot about society and culture.

It’s been fascinating–and a little surprising, frankly–to read the multitudes of opinions surrounding the notion of self-care.

On one end of the spectrum, there are those who view self-care as a non-negotiable necessity for survival. They understand the value of taking care of themselves, and see their health as a resource that enables them to care for their families and communities. They see self-care not only as an act of gratitude–a gesture of respect for being given the gift of life–but also as an obligation.

Others, however, have gone as far as saying that self-care is narcissistic. They subscribe instead to the idea of self-sacrifice, putting the needs of others first at all costs–even if the result of their self-neglect means they have less less to give to others. (Ironic, isn’t it?)

It’s not surprising, then, that many self-care supporters have come to label it as “radical.” In some circles, it is radical–especially so for those who have been raised to be traditional caregivers for generations.

I’m not at all suggesting that self-care should come at the expense of others. We all have obligations and responsibilities that require us to consider the needs of others in addition to our own. But I am suggesting that we intentionally find ways–even if it’s a small gesture–to ensure that we aren’t putting ourselves last all the time.

It’s important to recharge our batteries in order to recover from life’s challenges.

But being at our best sometimes means we have to put the needs of others second–or ask others for help.