If there was a list of words that I could retire after this year, appearing at the top very well might be “self-care” -- which is weird, since our best selling product actually contains that very term. But hear me out. Self-care has been ascribed to everything from moisturizer to sleeping until noon on a weekday. To binge-watching Emily in Paris (I know from experience) to drinking a martini at Sunday brunch. Have a self-indulgent behavior that you want to justify? Call it self-care and proceed with abandon. It’s become a buzzword that is often the opposite of what it really means.
Which is why I wanted to take a moment to restate what self-care means to us here at Smudge. For us, self-care is closely aligned with the concept of “mindful self-compassion,” an approach to wellness that emphasizes that you are deserving of the very same empathy and compassion that you give to others. In other words? Be your own damn best friend.
Being your own best friend means establishing a few very important ground rules:
Acknowledge your suffering -- though we usually have no problems acknowledging the suffering of others, we tend to have a harder time accepting that we sometimes do, too. “Suck it up” and “You’ve got this” are a more common mantra than a simple “this must be really tough.” Nobody likes admitting they aren’t totally together all the time -- even to themselves. Give yourself a break to notice when things aren’t perfect.
No judgment -- this is probably how the term “self-care” devolved into an excuse for pretty much any slightly questionable behavior. When you are talking about self-care in the context of self-compassion, the no judgment zone isn’t referring to the behavior but rather the fact you are suffering or having a hard time. Just as you would tell your BFF that it is okay if they are feeling lonely or sad or disappointed, you should be telling yourself that you're not judging yourself for feeling the same. Offer yourself kindness and understanding if you aren’t living up to your (or anybody else’s) standards.
Realize you are just human -- once you have accepted that you are feeling less-than perfect and feel kindness rather than criticism toward yourself, mindless self-compassion suggests that what comes next is the realization that these feelings don’t make you less than human. In fact, experiencing emotions such as loss, anger, or jealousy (or whatever you are processing) are precisely what makes you human. You're Not failing. You are living. And that realization? That’s the deep dive into loving yourself as much as you love a BFF that is the true meaning of self-care.
Approaching wellness this way has worked some pretty significant miracles for me. Shifting the narrative away from measuring up to an objective standard, even if I was the one holding the measuring stick -- is both liberating and comforting. It allows me to accept trauma and other personal challenges not as a unique experience that nobody understands. Quite the opposite, it made me realize that literally everybody is going through the same thing in their own way. It makes me feel less alone and more connected to everybody around me. And those warm feelings of love and acceptance that I easily push out into the universe but used to have a hard time directing at myself? They finally feel okay circling back to me.
Admittedly, being mindfully self-compassionate isn’t the simple act of slapping on an eye mask and sipping a glass of wine in front of Bravo. But I would argue that should you accept the mission, you will end up in a far more satisfying place. When we designed this year’s 10 Days Of Magical Self-Care calendar, we came at it from this vantage point, creating exercises and rituals that allow you to build the muscles of self-love in this deeper, more fulfilling way (using some pretty sparkly and magical products and tools while you’re at it!). We hope you enjoy this spell as much as we did creating it. My BFF (ME!) agrees it's amazing.
Interested in taking a plunge into self-compassion? Our much-beloved take on the traditional advent calendar, the Smudge 10 Magical Days of Self-Care -- this time with a focus on mindful self-compassion -- returns for a second edition and is available on our online store now.