Is Tending the Same Thing as "Self-care"?

Aug 5 / Rachel Bulkley

It’s common to hear the term “self-care.” But exactly what self-care is, can be ambiguous, or not particularly caring at all.

Binge watching Netflix with a large pepperoni and a bottle of shiraz isn’t self-care. It’s self-sabotage.

As lovely as a day at the spa is, or sleeping late on the weekends, these aren’t enough to compensate for the ways we are drained in the chaos of modern grinding.

When my kids were young, each Sunday evening when they were with their dad and I wasn’t working, I’d pour myself some wine, watch TV and eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

It felt fantastic in the moment, but it felt terrible the rest of the week. I started out sluggish on Monday, and my jeans always felt a bit uncomfortable. I never felt rested, and it made me even more anxious to just get through the week until I had some more alone time.

Then I’d repeat the pattern: drinking a depressant, turning off my mind, and filling my gut with sugar and fat. (I still like drinking wine, and love Ben & Jerry’s, but they aren’t what I vainly rely on for “self-care”.)

With tending, we are essentially learning to re-parent ourselves.

And what is the definition of good parenting? I describe it as providing for needs with boundaries and routines. Most of us got some instruction and demonstration on how to feed ourselves, put ourselves to sleep, and get exercise.

But no one told us we needed to nourish, rest, and exercise the immaterial part of us, our being.

As parents (or imagining ourselves as parents), we don’t give our little ones a bag of candy and  can of soda, and set them in front of the TV for six hours. But that’s the equivalent of our Netflix scenario.

We don’t withhold comforting embraces from our little ones all week, and then spend a whole day cuddling to make up for it.

We don’t starve them all week and then pile their plates up on the weekends.

But we regularly fail to meet our own true needs and assume life is just too busy and complicated to do better. We struggle with depression or dissatisfaction and feel at a loss for answers.

What we never got was instruction and demonstration on how to care for our actual selves, the immaterial self that animates our bodies.

The WellBeing Project aims to provide the understanding and guidance needed to begin caring for our adult selves with the same dedication that loving parents of small children do.

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