Why Your ‘Self-Care’ Might Be Self-Centered

Wikipedia says self-care refers to “the care and cultivation of the self in a comprehensive sense, focusing in particular on the soul and knowledge of the self.”

Knowledge of the self is a tall order. It’s hard. Cultivation of the self, even more so. As a result, self-care has become a shorthand for making comfort based decisions. For staying the same. For avoiding a stretch. 

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ve decided that I’m not going to put more on myself,” or, “I’m not going to put myself through that”? On its face, this seems smart. It seems like this person is practicing self-care. He is saying no. He is avoiding activities that create anxiety and stress.

But there’s another way. What if that thing that caused him stress just didn’t? What if he grew? What if he could learn to rise above and handle it?

Self-care does not involve avoiding things that cause anxiety or discomfort. Self-care means leaning in, little by little, so you cultivate but don’t break.

One Way Team Sports Are Gendered

In the U.S., team sports are a metaphor for real life. Amazon is a team. Lucas Films is a team. Even our presidential administration is a team. Each has its star players. Everyone on the team has a part to play. That’s one part of the metaphor.

The other part is the competition. Team sports require a head-on battle with another human for a ball or a pitch. In real life, it’s looking someone in the eye and making a pitch for money. Or votes. Or some other high-stakes thing.

We project these ideas onto our kids all the time. And football is the ultimate expression of the team sports metaphor. But people are slowly becoming more open-minded; boys don’t have to learn to hit and take a hit playing football, and girls are not limited to dance or cheer.

Keep going. Use sports to teach resilience, toughness, and teamwork. Play to kids’ strengths and work on areas for improvement regardless of gender. Every kid needs to learn how to be part of a team.

How to say what you mean: Be Specific

When my kids have a fight and when the hitting and name-calling are over, I like to get each of them on (separate) couches to talk. Like an intervention. I will then ask each of them to relay the details of what happened, and without fail, they have different accounts of what started the fight and who did what. Always. When I ask something like, ‘Why did you hit your brother,’ I usually get an answer like, ‘Because he’s a jerk.’

What is anyone supposed to do with that information?   

Saying what you mean is an art and a skill. It takes maturity. It takes language and vocabulary. And it takes removing the emotion so that the other party can hear you clearly. Why do you think legal contracts are dry and boring? The documents to sell my house has phrases like ‘promulgated exclusions,’ and ‘effective date.’ You wouldn’t know there was any emotion from reading it, yet there is. Paradoxically, when confronting someone who has offended you, it’s best to keep it dry and specific. Emotion just gets in the way.   

Respect Your Domestic Help

In Colombia, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, if you were middle-class, you probably had live-in domestic help, and you probably called her La Muchacha. She might be an adult. She might be a kid. She definitely came from the countryside.

The topic came up at lunch a month or so ago. My mom remembered the Muchacha from her household, a young girl the same age as my mom was at the time. But unlike my mom, the Muchacha did not get to spend time with her mother and family and did not go to school. She was invisible to Bogotá society. She did not rate.

Today things are a bit different in Colombia. But everywhere, including the U.S., a similar problem persists, where disadvantaged people perform domestic work within an informal economy for less than minimum wage, and the like.

If you want to do right by the people who do paid work in your home, treat them with respect. Meaning, treat them the way any kind, fair boss would treat an employee. I suggest the following:

Provide expectations. Tell her how you want the floor cleaned. Tell him how you want the grass cut.

Provide clarity. Tell her that you plan to stay with her for at least six months at two visits per month, for example. Mean it.

Pay people reliably and on time. Duh. 

Pay people at least minimum wage. Come on. 

Talk about how to handle reschedulings and cancelations. They will happen.

Offer a “Thank You” gift at Christmas time. This is a nice thing to do.

Respect is not about going above and beyond. Respect is about treating people the way anyone deserves to be treated.

Just because you can’t measure it, doesn’t mean it’s not important

John Boyd said that. But they say the opposite in science fields. They say, if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. 

Of course, we know this isn’t true. Still, people get in a lot of trouble this way because a heuristic unfolds. It goes something like this: if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t matter, and if it doesn’t matter, it can be ignored. 

If you can’t measure it —> Ignore it

Feelings, emotions, ideas, and other abstractions are hard to measure. Activities, dollars, and things are easy. Don’t ignore the abstract, the hard to quantify and measure. Pay attention to it. It might be important. This short piece in The Atlantic says it best.