I was browsing the internet the other day in a distracted sort of way, when the title of an article caught my eye. “The Secrets of Radical Self Care.” I was pretty excited about that. Bog-standard, ordinary self-care has been an increasing part of my life recently. I’ve been living with depression for a large chunk of the last couple of years. I’ve had to learn how to pace myself, how to take time out for things that will make me glad, how to have realistic expectations for myself and not attempt to do All.The.Things. This has been good and important. But you get to the point where articles on self care are mostly telling you things you already know.
But, an article on RADICAL self care, that sounded like something different. That sounded like something exciting, and I was keen to find out more. To my disappointment the article was the same old recommendations for learning to say “No”, taking quality time for yourself, and plenty of fresh air and exercise.
It got me thinking. What would radical self care look like? If I were feeling rebellious, subversive and inclined to be disruptive, what might I do? Where there problems with the traditional notions of self-care, that needed questioning? An interesting discussion followed, on twitter.
Traditional self care assumes that the problem is with me. If I am overloaded or stressed, it is my own fault for attempting too much. I must adjust my expectations of myself. I must learn to take on less. I must give up my attempts to have it all, or do it all, and I must make time to relax. On one level, this is good and sensible advice. But sometimes the expectations placed on us really are unreasonable. Perhaps radical self-care would challenge those expectations. Perhaps radical self-care would find creative, disruptive ways to make the game our own, rather than play by someone elses rules.
Would radical self care mean that instead of quietly dodging out from some of the demands that face us, we noisily avoid them, and explain why, even if it makes us and others uncomfortable and embarrasses all concerned?
Would radical self care mean deliberately finding things to do badly, and being proud of it? Or learning to be a beginner at things and enjoy doing them for the sake of it, not just so we can be good at them? Or learning all over again to be a kid and to play, “just because”. How about deliberately making ugly art, or being bad but happy at a chosen sport? Or neutralising the fear of failure that can paralyse us, by failing gleefully, again and again, and having fun do it. Or undermining the perfectionism that many of us carry, by finding places to be rough and ready and cheerfully not very expert. A Society for Doing Things Badly, or a Society for Wearing Stupid Hats and Not Caring.
Perhaps radical self care would mean finding ways of questioning attitudes about ambition and what a “successful life” or a “good career” look like. Or creating an environment where disabilities, mental health issues and other restrictions are something that can be talked about openly as normal, rather than the exception.
So, what are the problems and unhelpful assumptions that traditional self care has?
Could there be such a thing as Radical Self Care and if so, what might it look like? Have you seen it in action?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.