This week I’ve seen a few things that portrayed the concept of self-care as self-indulgence, and contrasted it with responsible respectability. But humans are complex creatures, full of needs and wants. We are not tireless responsibility robots.
To me it’s obvious that self-care and responsibility are equally important. I schedule my life around the understanding that I need both. I need to work and earn money, to wash dishes and vacuum, to brush my teeth and wash my body. At the same time, I need to respect the impact my disabilities have on me, need to be gentle with myself in case no one else is, need to rest so I can replenish spoons for the next day.
Self-care is for when you can’t be responsible. It’s a tool for getting back to a state where you can be responsible and productive again. It’s not an excuse or immaturity; it’s one type of responsibility. Managing my mental and physical illnesses is my job. Self-care is part of doing that job.
It’s important to remember that everyone engages in activities that bring pleasure or peace. Spending an entire Sunday afternoon watching football is a common, male-coded, socially acceptable form of self-care. No one seriously suggests men as a group should give up their personal time because the way they’re spending it isn’t productive. Yet women and disabled people – the groups most likely to use the term “self-care” – are constantly asked to defend the usefulness of our leisure time.
I think insulting self-care as a concept comes either from disdain for women and disabled people, or from a position of profound ignorance or shallow logic. It doesn’t take much thinking to realize that all humans engage in leisure activities.