The Fine Line Between Superficial and Authentic Emotional Self Care

written by
Michelle Estevez

Artwork by

Benju Pan

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Table of Contents

The most inspiring aspect of humanity is our drive to push beyond limitations and reach new summits along the evolutionary climb. From a historical perspective, humans have ebbed and flowed with what it means to rest and work. We once found ourselves in a seamless alignment with the elements that slowly transitioned to farming and an industrial means to earn a living.

However, in our modern era, space has opened up to release previous responsibilities and enjoy leisure, thus, birthing a new perspective surrounding emotional self care and wellness. The benefits of tending to our emotional self care needs are numerous, but not without a shadow.

How did emotional wellness become so mainstream, and is it possible we might be distorting what it truly means to take care of ourselves? While it is imperative to carve sacred time for ourselves, there is also a fine line for using it as a means of escapism. Where there is a demand, there is a supply ready to follow. Scroll once, and you are bound to come across several products.

Emotional self care has been reduced to applying an organic charcoal mask and showing up to the weekly sound bath. Yet, deep down, we know this is another form of bypassing our own needs. To truly take care of ourselves at the emotional level requires getting down in the dirt and facing shadows to earn the rewarding cleanse that naturally follows. It requires sitting with discomfort long enough until acceptance and understanding is the only thing waiting for you on the other side.

diving into vintage anatomical heart with flowers v4

What is authentic emotional self care?

When was the last you felt overwhelmed or like you had nothing to give? Maybe feelings of anxiety came up while you were paying bills or watching the news. Perhaps the crutching sensations have become so frequent that they are hardly noticed.

Whether you’ve got a good hold on it or not, there is something that needs to be spoken to when it comes to authentic emotional self care. In a capitalistic, consumer-based, and globalized economy, self care has been branded with eco-friendly products and cruelty-free manufacturing. The reality is authentic emotional self care can ever be bought.

Genuine emotional self care comes from a relationship fostered within. The good part about it is that it all your own, unique to your design. The trickier aspect comes from the unconditioning and rehabilitation of what it means to listen to what our hearts yearn for truly. The list below breaks down some of the different realms in self care while the rest of this piece will guide in making authentic emotional self care work for you rather than against you.

flowers growing from the heart

Emotional self care

Our emotional state is often an indicator of how the rest of our body is doing. Quite frankly, you can’t have emotional self care without tending to all areas because they are all interrelated. To practice emotional self care might mean practicing self-compassion, revisiting boundaries. Either way, it serves as a compass toward other aspects in the self care domain, which could lend clues to the overall picture. For example, if you feel physical pains in your abdominal region, it might be an indicator of emotional needs. This applies to other aspects such as social self care, spiritual self care, etc.

Physical self care

This includes any modality involving the body, whether that be through movement or touch. Some examples include going for a walk, working out, receiving a massage, or eating a nourishing meal, to name a few.

Psychological self care

We use our minds as the vehicle to filter and navigate through our reality. Tending to our psychological well-being is critical when it comes to ensuring our mental landscape can function correctly. To take care of this space, you might feel called to do a digital detox or sit in silent contemplation. Other examples include learning a new skill that simultaneously ignites passion within your being, like the guitar or painting.

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Social self care

We are social creatures by nature, yet, as humans, we can often isolate ourselves or feel as though no one truly understands what we’re going through. While we know this is not true, the mind can have its way with us and keep us from the community. Ensuring a vibrant social self-care regimen sets us up for success when dark times roll through. When we honor the commitments we make to others, ask for help, and spend time with those we love, we build our support system and are reminded of our strength to push beyond conflict and uncertainty.

Spiritual self care

Our subtle bodies are just as powerful as the avatars carrying us through this reality. Whenever we feel without purpose or lacking personal will, it is a sign that our spiritual self care is lacking. To cultivate values that are bigger than us is to what it means to be guided by a force that can never be taken from us. This might include going for slow walks in nature, journaling, or meditating.

These are just a handful of examples when it comes to the different dimensions governing self care. In essence, self care is an umbrella that can apply to multiple aspects, whether emotional, financial, environmental, etc.

heart and brain illustration

Emotions – Ease yourself into it

Emotions. We’ve all got our own take on them. I see emotions as my greatest teacher. As someone who cries often, I can remember the days I’d feel ashamed for being too soft around the edges. It’s not uncommon for someone to feel uncomfortable in the presence of an individual shedding tears. Over the years, I have been told to stop crying by family members, romantic partners, and the list goes on.

On the other hand, I have also been encouraged to let my tears flow by old colleagues, professional mentors, and more. What I’ve noticed over the years is when someone is uncomfortable with an aspect within themselves, they will try to change or control it in their external experience. I get it. Emotions can get messy. They speak their own language, and we live in a society that speaks in opposite tongues. If the emotional landscape is utterly foreign to you, then this is all the reason to jump in.

Swimming in the waters of your emotions is not a “sink or swim,” “my way or the highway” type of game. It is subtle yet intense. It is the strength of a rushing tsunami and the delicacy of a morning drizzle. How you navigate the change in weather is a result of how willing you are to listen. Ease yourself into it and be patient with yourself along the way. Showing up for yourself in this line of business is 80 percent of the work. The more you show up, the stronger your memory becomes.

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Three examples to tend to your emotional well-being

Almost anything you choose can work toward building a better emotional self care regimen. Whether it is a peel-off mask that genuinely makes you feel whole or a deep breathwork session to release pent-up traumas, the intent behind your action is what truly matters. This goes for any self care practice and life method, in general. Here are some ideas to help inspire what might fit best for your needs.

1. Have a solid understanding of why it’s vital to have firm boundaries

There’s a difference between putting up walls to shut the world out and having filters in place to process healthily. It’s essential to understand and honor our boundaries, so we don’t spread ourselves too thin or run ourselves dry. However, it is often easier said than done. Poor boundaries can be a trauma response stemming from examples like fear of abandonment or low self-worth. This can lead to serving others while ignoring our own needs. When we understand the importance of having firm boundaries, we become more aware of the areas that need

2. Practice saying yes to yourself

You. Not your boss. Not your obligations. Not your mind. You.
The fabric of society has created the illusion that we must constantly be giving or producing to be of value. This can be represented in the overworked rat-race mentality to the restless mother who carries the family on her back. Make no mistake. Generosity is a valuable principle. However, it must not be confused for martyrdom. Practice saying yes to yourself, even if it is as simple as having 10 minutes in the morning to enjoy coffee to yourself. You might just begin to notice slight shifts in the ways you’re able to entirely give and receive—without compromising your sanity or emotional well-being.

3. Create space for rest and reflection

Our emotions have a vital purpose from an evolutionary perspective. Our fight or flight response has allowed humanity to continue as a species when it comes to survival. However, it’s not always necessary to act on every emotion that stirs us up. If this were the case, we’d be riding an unstable emotional ride through life. What happens when we give emotions and our reactions space? It could be the determination of whether we lose our cool on our boss or say something we might not have meant to a friend. The more we give ourselves space to process and reflect, the more this practice becomes ingrained in our responses.

Integrating practices for emotional and spiritual wellness can be as simple as we make it.

crown chakra and geometric backgrounds

Getting to the heart of the matter

When we get to the core of it, emotional self care does wonders for the heart. It has very little to do with happiness and more with fulfillment. Just as mental health is essential to leading a satisfying life, the same is true for our emotional well-being. They go hand in hand! The positive effects do more than increase our life quality, but it also leaves a lasting imprint on the heart’s memory.

Embrace vulnerability

Vulnerability is a strength that takes courage and an understanding of oneself. When authentic emotional self care becomes an engrained practice, vulnerability comes without resistance. In doing so, we create deeper bonds with the people in our lives and empower one another to be ourselves. We all have flaws and embarrassing moments, just as we have proud moments. Vulnerability allows us to see beyond the illusion that we are separate or alone.

Strengthen close relationships

The better we become attending to our emotional states, the better we can show up in our interpersonal relationships. As you continue making emotional self care routines a daily practice, the space you create within will naturally extend outward. The sweet gestures you hold for yourself will quickly radiate out toward the world. Conversations may also become more fulfilling and profound as you cultivate this depth within yourself.

Resilience

If you gain anything from practicing emotional self care, let resilience be your pot of gold. Resilience is the ability to experience adverse events without letting them tear you down. Whether it be falling ill or losing a loved one, cultivating resilience is a tool that keeps us from breaking down at every cross-road. A strong sense of resilience offers a fresh perspective rooted in gratitude, positivity, and the understanding that we are strong enough to grow from any pitfall.

The fruits of an actualized emotional self care regimen don’t stop here. Other examples include creating safe spaces for emotional expression and setting containers to heal traumas.

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This magazine is a work of heart & art. We collaborate with people who feel it’s time for a more heartful world. Only with their dedication could we publish this article.

Michelle Estevez

Writer | Contributor

Benju Pan

Artist

Benju Pan grew up in Neverland and never left Neverland. You might see him around in your dreams and imagination. And you’ll feel his presence when you listen to your heart.

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