I have seen quite a few posts while scrolling on Instagram that always catch my attention. While many variations of the same post exist, they hold the same sentiment: self-care isn’t eating chocolate cake and lighting candles. I beg to differ, and enough so that I am expanding on this discussion and dedicating an entire post to it here.
Why is eating chocolate cake and lighting candles not considered self-care by some people on the internet who identify as health professionals/health coaches/healers? And what is self-care, then? And also, who sets the rules for what self-care is and is not? How could anyone else in the world know what is care for you or me at any given moment throughout our lives?
I’m here in support of lighting candles and eating chocolate cake or doing whatever feels like self-care for you at any given moment and calling it whatever you want. I’m in support of you discovering what feels like self-care and giving yourself room for that to evolve through life or remain solid and supportive throughout the years.
Sometimes, I see this argument that self-care isn’t as simplistic as baking a cake, covering it in chocolate frosting, devouring a piece or several, and calling it self-care (the same argument applies to lighting candles). According to this argument I have seen on Instagram, self-care is about setting healthy boundaries and having a therapist and whatever else seems more important, worthy work than a sweet treat or the glow of a candle. Some people say lighting a candle won’t solve all your problems. But also, going to therapy won’t solve all your problems. No one thing is going to solve your problems. Also, maybe we can take this moment to question what we consider a problem to be?
Furthermore, is self-care really about solving problems? Is care just about treatment, or is it about prevention, too? Isn’t self-care about longevity and bringing quality to a life lived?
On that note, how is eating chocolate cake unimportant, insignificant, and uncaring? How is lighting a candle anything less than sacred, at least for some of us?
Going to therapy and buying yourself a gorgeous candle to light while basking in its glow are not mutually exclusive. Lighting a candle and calling it self-care does not give any less value to finding a therapist or a coach and doing the hard work with them by your side. Eating a piece of chocolate cake and calling it self-care does not remove the importance of setting a healthy boundary. Is this a competition between actions that could possibly be considered the most important aspects of self-care? All of these actions add up to a life, so how is one more important than the other?
Additionally, where does one action end and another begin? Lighting a candle can be a part of setting healthy boundaries. What I mean by this is it can, for some, look like taking a moment to turn off your phone and sit in your room while lighting a candle and sitting in peace, or whatever else. This is just one example. We are not compartmentalized beings. Our actions do not live in separate corners, never to overlap. The strict boundaries sometimes placed on the definition of self-care seem restrictive and limiting.
Whenever I see these posts online about self-care, I recall when I thought I deserved nothing beautiful. My self-worth was living in the garbage, and I believed that everyone else could have beautiful things, and I couldn’t. I could watch their joy as I remained on the sidelines. Whenever I got to the point where I decided to spend $16 on a locally-made, toxic-free candle, boy, oh boy!!!! (GIRL, OH GIRL!!!) It felt like the nicest treat in all the land. I remember where I bought it too. Before making this purchase for myself, I would only buy a candle or something lovely like this for someone else as a gift, never reserving the money for me and never offering myself this type of beauty.
When I decided to buy myself the candle, it was a milestone, but that candle lived on my shelf for a while, collecting dust. When I finally chose to pull it off the shelf, light it, and enjoy the glow as it illuminated my room, it was heaven. Yall, when I made this a ritual and a regular practice, it was like allowing beauty into my world, among other things, and it lifted me up. Candles have become part of my spiritual, mealtime, and meditative practices. The glow feels beautiful, and I love it. (and love/joy are healing forces)
Making time to do something beautiful, spiritual, and lovely is caring for my mind, body, and spirit. Who could argue this? It’s hard for some folks to understand how transformative it was for me to earn some money, then go to the store to purchase a lovely candle (or any candle) for myself, then take it home and light it and enjoy the moment, but people don’t have to get it. I get it. It’s part of my story.
And while I am here, let me touch on the cake topic. In a world that wants women to stay small, skinny, and restrictive, saying yes to a piece of cake can be self-care. Maybe not for all, but some. I couldn’t even begin to count why it might be self-care for an individual. There can be as many reasons as there are humans. Maybe it’s a practice in saying yes. Perhaps it’s a practice in enjoying a treat. Maybe it’s the choice to expand, indulge, eat butter, nourish your inner child, or taste something yummy. Whatever it may be. You know what will feel like self-care for you; if you don’t, you get to figure that out, and there are no rules to it. Your practices can evolve and shift and support you in different ways throughout the chapters of your life.
These posts on Instagram probably aren’t that serious. Many of us scroll social media daily and receive more information than ever, so why pause to reflect and comment?
It’s a reminder that you and I are aware of our choices and ourselves, or maybe we are on the path to deeper consciousness. Regardless of our exact whereabouts, our stories run deep and hold complexities that only we understand. As we know ourselves better and how to support ourselves, we learn how to best care for ourselves. The nuances of what we need and want might run similar to our friends and family, but they might be unique and occur at their own pace. It’s a journey of discovering ourselves, our needs, and our wants and saying yes or no, even when no one else aligns.
Of course, I looked up self-care. I looked through a few resources, but I will keep it simple. Self Care: the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s health.
What contributes to one’s health, then? Well, everything. It’s your physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, environmental, and communal self. It’s all connected, and it’s all a part of you, and you are a part of it. Optimal health consists not only of regular exercise and proper hydration; it also includes play, experiencing joy, and allowing yourself to flow and explore. Your heart is not just a beating organ; It’s love, forgiveness, joy, and any emotion that vibrates in the chest. It’s part of your frequency.
So who knows you better than you know yourself? Who gets to decide what self-care means for you? (Spoiler, you do.)
And maybe as you read this, you’re thinking, fuck cake, fuck candles. Then good. You get to decide what self-care looks like for you.
What is something that feels like self-care that perhaps no one else will understand??
Do you care that no one gets it?
Do you practice self-care anyway?
((what do you think about my need to expand on this subject? Do you agree or disagree?? Let me know in the comments below. Or feel free to share one of your favorite self-care practices or rituals.)