Health encompasses so much more than the fifth-grade nutrition class you had to take where you learned about the food pyramid and your Body Mass Index. Taking care of yourself is not limited to your diet or your exercise routine. Self-care, a core word for the feminist community, means doing whatever makes you the healthiest, happiest and safest version of yourself. Self-care includes mental, spiritual and sexual health.
Self-care is subjective and individualized. One method of self-care, like binge-watching season three of “House of Cards” after a stressful week of midterms, might only be helpful to certain individuals. It takes time to figure out which self-care tactics work for you and which ones are harmful. If you feel emotionally depleted, maybe a phone call home to your mom will help you recharge — for others that could only make it worse.
Even when the magazines tell you an “X” number of calories should be consumed or burned in a day, you have to realize that statistic is based on an average, and your body may need something different. It’s up to you to figure that out for yourself. It’s not going to be easy. You will do things in the name of self-care and learn later that you probably should have gone without that whole sleeve of Oreos or that 10-mile run. You are allowed to mess up.
Most importantly, because self-care is subjective, only you should have a say in how you take care of yourself.
Commenting on other’s habits, routines or choices under the guise of “for their health benefit” is unnecessary and often cruel. Mental, spiritual and sexual health is not something you can guess by staring at someone in line for coffee.
Even the physical side of health is misleading. One person’s body type might be what some people deem “unhealthy,” but that person could actually be in stable health. Unless you’re a medical professional or your friend asks for some advice, try to avoid making snap judgments about someone else based solely on what you think “healthy” should look like.
As long as he or she isn’t harming the people around them, you shouldn’t criticize or judge. If you think someone is harming themselves by their choices, then that should be a conversation both parties are willing to have.
As feminists, we try to be as open-minded as possible to different lifestyles, cultures and experiences. In doing so, we realize that choices we would make for our own self-care are going to be vastly different than the choices of the person sitting next to us in class.
Focus on yourself, your body, your mind and the best you that you can be. Try to help others do the same. Support the people you love. Grab a spoon when your friend comes home with a pint of ice cream after a night of terrible sex, and drive them to a bar an hour away when the campus bubble starts to feel way too small. Balance responsibility with personal splurges. You’ll never get it quite right, but who wants to be perfect, anyway?