What “Self-Care” Really Means, Because It’s Not All Bubble Baths And Retail Therapy

Self-care is all the rage these days. A scroll through Instagram makes it look like something you achieve through expensive products like spa sessions and retreat getaways. While those things might come into some people’s self-care plans, they aren’t necessary. They don’t capture the essence of what self-care really is. So what does looking after yourself actually involve? Read below to find out.

  1. Looking after your physical health Looking after your physical health is the ultimate act of self-care. You only have one body, so it’s super-important to look after it. No one else is ever going to care about your physical health the way you will. And while a lot of aspects go into self-care, it all crumbles if you don’t have a strong foundation in the form of a healthy body.
  2. Validating yourself Self-care is about approving of yourself, even if others don’t approve of you. If you can do this, seeking validation from other people won’t be so important, because you’ll already have your own validation. Give yourself permission to be who you are unapologetically, regardless of what anyone says. You don’t need a certain amount of likes on Instagram before you can feel good about yourself. Start feeling good about yourself now.
  3. Seeking help when you need it It may be called self-care, but it’s not always a solitary process. In fact, truly looking after yourself is about recognizing when you need help from others. Help might come from your support network. Or it might come from a licensed therapist or an online counselor. It might be in the form of coping strategies, medication, or just an ear to listen to you.
  4. Accepting and forgiving your mistakes Part of self-care is forgiving the mistakes you’ve made in the past. This is crucial if you’re going to move on from them. Note that forgiveness isn’t about saying that a mistake was okay. It’s really about acknowledging the mistake, making a commitment not to do it again, and reminding yourself that you don’t have to carry that guilt around with you for the rest of your life. You’re only human!
  5. Honoring your promises to yourself Self-care is honoring the promises you make to yourself. If you commit to following an exercise regime, making more of an effort with your friends, or taking out me-time, then self-care is following through with those things. Why? Because they’re important to you. You wouldn’t have committed to them otherwise! You’re looking after your best interests when you honor those promises you make to yourself.
  6. Being selective about who’s allowed in your life Your time is precious, so be picky about it. Don’t just waste it on anyone. Looking after yourself involves only letting the people in your life who are going to leave a positive impact. While you might not be able to avoid seeing certain people, you can limit how much time and energy you give them.
  7. Setting boundaries and sticking to them Boundaries are a huge part of self-care! Boundaries are the lines you set to protect yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Don’t be afraid to set these boundaries, make them clear, and stick to them. For example, it’s an act of self-care to remove someone from your life who constantly crosses your boundaries, such as disrespecting you or your property. You might not always have to cut them out, but enforcing your boundaries means voicing them and reminding people that they need to follow them if they want to stay in your life.
  8. Addressing your mental health issues There’s no shame in struggling with your mental health. Self-care can be categorized into the physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental levels. So part of self-care is keeping on top of your mental health and addressing any issues that arise. Don’t be ashamed to seek help from a doctor or therapist. Don’t be ashamed to take medication if that’s what you need. And don’t be ashamed to take time out to focus on your mental health if you feel you need it.
  9. Making time for positive things in your life In the interest of self-care, your happiness should be one of your priorities. Actively making it a priority means making time for positive things in your life. Fill your cup with things that make you smile! You don’t have to adopt an “all play and no work” mindset, but don’t dismiss the importance of playing altogether. Figure out what makes you happy and make room for that in your life.
  10. Spending time in nature Nature should be part of your self-care routine because being in the natural world positively impacts your wellbeing. Time in nature can reduce stress, which if left to manifest can cause increased blood pressure and lowered immunity. Some people also feel a spiritual or emotional connection with nature. It helps at the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels, so it’s a must!
  11. Exploring and meeting your spiritual needs Everybody has a different relationship with their spirituality. You definitely don’t have to become super-spiritual to practice self-care. But part of self-care may be exploring any spiritual needs or curiosities you have and addressing them. It might just be learning more about different schools of thought and finding something that makes sense to you. For those who do feel a strong inclination towards their spiritual side, they might have to take more action to meet their spiritual needs, such as adopting a meditation routine. It entirely depends on the person and there’s no right or wrong way to be spiritual! Just be aware of any needs you have and don’t be afraid to explore them.


Vanessa Locampo is an Aussie writer who’s equally obsessed with YA fiction and pasta. Her time is divided between writing all the things, reading all the things, listening to Queen, and bopping her cat on the nose. She has a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and has written for sites including Hotsprings.co and Discovering Montana, and currently works as an editor at Glam. You can keep up with her on Instagram @vanessaellewrites.