The Problem with Self-Care
“How much better to get wisdom than gold*, to get insight rather than silver*. The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:16-18
The Problem with Self-Care
*also see: the perfect body, grades, social media status, clothes, money, marriage, your dream job, optimal health and well-being…
The health and wellness world is buzzing with the term “self-care.” I am constantly running across articles titled something like 6 Steps to Loving Yourself More, or reading rants from lifestyle bloggers about how you need to put you first more; how you can’t be the best version of yourself until you have tended to every need, every want; how you deserve that glass of wine, that bubble bath, the Lulu pants, the luxury vacation, etc. And who doesn’t want the green light-to be applauded, even- to spend more money, time, and attention on themselves? I sure do, and have done exactly that.
Don’t get me wrong- I am all about prioritizing and enjoying nourishing food, making a point to relieve some stress through exercise each day in a way that is fun and energizing (even if that means paying a little more for a studio class), or saying no to social plans to stay in and enjoy a face mask and a good book every now and then. When you begin to take control of your own health and wellness, to realize that you are the one who can determine how your body, time, and energy is stewarded, it is incredibly empowering. So many people are overcommitted, chasing money, titles, or recognition, and they neglect to give themselves the proper nourishment and movement their bodies need, or time for their minds to be quiet and still. This often leaves them burnt-out, overly stressed, and discouraged. Thus, there is great benefit to setting boundaries and taking measures to care for oneself. However, a problem arises when we believe that the activities of self-care are the secret to a happy life, and then proceed to revolve our world around it.
So where is the line between self-care and selfishness?
Our world has not done a good job at drawing this line, nor does it seem to have even tried. Selfishness has become another sin that has been normalized, and often celebrated. If you’re not careful, you can find your world quickly dwindling down to “population: 1.” In the name of self-care, I have found myself falling into the trap of putting my desires before the needs of others. I’ve said no to spending quality time with loved ones, or neglected the opportunity to serve someone because I was concerned about getting my work out in, getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthier meal at home- basically, becoming a slave to the desires of my flesh, and justifying it as an act of “self care.” You know, because the Bible commands us to “love yourself first and foremost.” Or at least I thought it did…?
We can sometimes be even craftier than the devil himself when it comes to justifying our own sin. And I strongly believe that is why I see so many people who are chasing the myths of “ultimate health” and “self care” become ridden with anxiety and depression. It’s never enough, and we are simply not created to serve ourselves. If Jesus had lived by the “self-care” mantra, making sure that he was completely comfortable and all his desires were tended to before doing anything else, do you think there would have been a crucifixion? (see Isaiah 53)
Cue the words of Proverbs 16. How much better is it to seek wisdom and insight than material possessions that inevitably feed our pride and lead to our own destruction? We must be so careful to guard our ways, for we do not naturally stray towards righteousness. A little permission to give ourselves some attention, and suddenly we are consumed with selfish thoughts and actions.
Not only do the things we are chasing fail to satisfy our desires, leaving us empty and unfulfilled, but they contribute to a sense of pride when we think we are in control and know what’s best for our own health and well-being. The Word warns us against the pride that comes with building our earthly kingdom which ultimately leads to a fall (also see James 4:6, Galatians 6:3). Guard your heart against thinking too much about yourself, and instead, seek to do things for and with others (Philippians 2:3-4 drives this home). Seek to serve the only One who possesses the wisdom and insight that is more precious than gold and silver.
If you must “self-care,” then make it “spiritual self care.” Be sure that you are prioritizing your personal time with the Lord before you attempt to shepherd others. It is true that if you only pour out, you will eventually run dry; but if all you ever do is fill up, your cup will start to overflow and you’ll find that you’re wasting your time and resources. We don’t need any help loving ourselves- that’s why God tells us to love our neighbor as ourself, because he knows that’s a heck of a lot. Be sure make an effort to make others feel as valued, pampered, and cared for as much as you would yourself.