trying to find joy in self-care

december 16, 2017

i used to love fashion magazines. granted, i compared myself in a very unhealthy way to the images therein, but i loved them. pretty pictures of pretty people wearing pretty clothes, living pretty lives.

i used to try out the things i saw in the pages. i used to try to follow the advice and experiment with different looks. i was never very good at recreating them (garage-door eye makeup was my go to for years) but i made the effort and it was kind of fun. i enjoyed caring for myself in that way. it made me feel good. i stopped doing things that fell into that category long ago.

i used to wear odd, quirky clothes. personal and unique fashion choices that mostly made me happy. i wore them even in the face of criticism (where did that courage go?). i found pleasure in my individuality. i picked clothes that sparked something in me.

i used to take care of my face, my skin, and my body. i used to make sure i shaved. i used to moisturize after i bathed. i used to shower regularly. i used to brush my teeth three times a day. i used to use the bottles and jars of moisturizers and toners and fillers – promises of perfection in decorative glass jars.

the pleasure has disappeared and the joy is gone. i still read one or two but they seem so disconnected from my life; self-care seems so far away. the things they suggest seem pointless, just too much bother. my routines don’t celebrate anything, they feel like work i’m supposed to do but don’t enjoy. doing anything in the mornings beyond slapping powder on my face is a struggle. wearing clothes that that aren’t yoga pants or old levis and stretched-out t-shirts seems bizarre. my cool shoes are all gathering dust. accessories lie neglected.

that little voice inside my head that lives to criticize and condemn calls me shallow and vain when i even venture to think about re-engaging. it’s a “who do you think you are” kind of criticism. why do i imagine i deserve to engage in self-loving behaviour?

part of the current state of neglect is due to habit, i’m sure. we are shockingly habitual creatures. we fall into routines easily, and it seems like the more negative they are, the more ardently we embrace them. not a stellar survival characteristic.

my self-care habits faded over time, as my eating disorder gained in strength, and vanished completely when my depression exploded a few years ago. i got out of the habit of doing. everything seemed like too much work. as i move forward with recovery, i’m discovering that some things are harder to bring back.

i go through motions but i’m disconnected. i mostly remember to wash my face morning and night. that’s a step in the right direction. (the fact that i need to congratulate myself on doing these basic things makes me sad. how did i get to the point where i need to give myself props for accomplishing the expected?) sometimes i style my hair. mostly i don’t. it’s all work and no pleasure and i resent it. i miss the happiness that these rituals and acts of self-care used to bring. i miss the joy and excitement the glossy pages used to inspire.

i’m trying to keep doing. it’s an “if you build it they will come” kind of plan. i keep doing things that used to make me feel better about myself and hope that one day they will again.

sometime i wonder if it isn’t connected to my eating disorder. perhaps my efforts to move beyond judging myself for my appearance leads me to underestimate the importance and value that comes from taking care of yourself.

how much esteem am i really holding myself in if i neglect myself? is self-care really selfish and shallow? i accept and admire it in other people. i feel jealous and ashamed when i see people who look well-dressed and kempt. why do i hold myself to this bare minimum standard? is there really any value to it? i haven’t rejected it as a consequence of a philosophical position. do i really think i deserve so little?

does dressing well make me shallow? does taking care of my skin make me inauthentic? can i not let myself take pleasure in my appearance, and in the routines and rituals that make up the same?

i want to feel the joy of looking after myself again. i want to feel it now. i want to stop treating self-care like it’s medication. i want to want to do it. i want to value myself but i’m impatient. i’m like a child who keeps pulling a seedling out of the ground to check on its progress, but surprised when it fails to thrive. still and all, even going through the motions beats the alternative.


photo credit: organic groove


december 14, 2017 – anti beauty routines, trying to find joy in self-care


By Em

I like writing. Words help me unpack my thoughts so things start to make sense. I suppose that once I figure out life, the universe, and everything (my thanks to Douglas Adams), I'll have nothing left to say. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing, and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow


  1. Thank you so much for writing this. I think this is a very prevalent problem especially among women. It’s hard to discern what is and what isn’t obsessive and/or vain. The added disadvantage of ED’s and all the problems they pose is quite a big one. Personally (not trying to say I understand exactly but I experience this on and off again) I think there is so much confusion surrounding beauty and what is and what isn’t acceptable. I don’t have all the answers but I can tell you that it is more than OK to want to take care of yourself in that way again. I think it is healthy and shows a great deal of self care and appreciation. With ED’s the fixation on looks is something survivors try to stray away from so their relationship with their looks is a love/hate one. Honestly just opening up this discussion does wonders (it has for me at least) and I am appreciative you took the time to share. I hope to hear good things in the future but regardless I applaud you for doing your best even if it feels opposite of that.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

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