Self-care is not optional. It is necessary. You do not move forward without self-care. You do not establish yourself in your true worth and your true potential without self-care. There is nothing that is more important than caring for yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Anything you do that raises your vibration is self-care. Anything you do that makes you feel joyful is self-care. But be careful here. Sometimes we can fool ourselves into thinking that the joy of a donut is self-care. Sometimes it is. Sometimes that perfectly frosted confection is precisely what you need. But sometimes it's also a way to pretend to comfort yourself when you don't understand what true comfort looks like, or don't feel you deserve to have it. Sometimes it's a way to numb yourself. Sometimes it's a way to fit in with those around you.
As you learn what true self-care looks like, you will discover full awareness around what is true self-care and what is false comfort. When you notice the patterns and behaviors of false self-comfort, don't berate yourself for them. You were doing the best you could with the information you had at the time. Instead, gently reassure yourself that you have better tools now and it's time to play with using them.
Self-care should feel like play. It should feel fun. Sure, sometimes heaving yourself out of bed to go for a run doesn't match your precise definition of "fun", but if that's the case, look at where you could adjust your routines so that the activity you know raises your endorphins and smoothes out the wrinkles and puts the gremlins to sleep becomes a joy, rather than a burden.
Self-care looks like being gentle with yourself. It looks like accepting yourself fully. It looks like investigating where you don't accept yourself and bringing the old voices and the old patterns and the old decisions into the light. Often, when we shine a light on our darkest places, what we feared simply evaporates. Sometimes what we fear comes out to waltz with us for awhile. This is when the deepest self-care is necessary. It's when we need to trust that we are dancing with our demons so that our demons will leave us in peace.
When you're tired, sleep. When you're hungry, sit down for tasty nutrition. When your brain has stopped functioning, allow it to rest. When you sense that your life or habits or routines need an upgrade, ask yourself how you can create something that serves you better. When your emotions are calling for attention, give them some love. When your back hurts, take yourself to someone who knows how to handle painful lumbar regions.
Allow others to support you in your self-care. Many dedicate their life's work to helping others feel better, helping others heal, helping others find what they need to do their own life's work. As you step into nourishing yourself and releasing the self-judgment around this kind of work - for self-care is work - you will find the perfect people to help you find your way.
You are valuable. You are worthy of being cared for. You are allowed and encouraged to care for yourself. Caring for yourself is one of the most necessary and defiant acts of service. Defy the voices that whisper otherwise, defy cultural assumptions that tell you how to be in the world, defy what informs you that you aren't worth this kind of space and care and love. Those voices are only speaking from their own pain, from their own sense of lack.
Fill yourself to the brim, so that you do not feel that lack. If you begin to feel lack again, know that it's time to refill the well. Fill it as best you can. As with anything else, the more you practice caring for yourself, the better you'll get and the easier it will be. Self-care is the easiest and happiest road to the life you desire, and the one you were meant to live.