Promoting self-care is all the rage lately and, for obvious reasons, I’m on that bandwagon. It’s certainly an important aspect of life – nurturing ourselves so that we can truly thrive. This concept helps us evaluate our food and movement, our work environments, our friendships, our parenting, our family time and it encourages us to make room for “me time” – whatever that means for you. It gives us a different perspective on wellness and caring for others – YOU are included in the caring for “others” part.
So what could possibly be the problem?
I hate to over-analyze this or bring up a negative aspect to a really positive thing but I think this is important.
Is it possible that we sometimes feel shame about not doing enough, or the “right” kind, of self-care? Not cooking enough, not bubble-bathing enough, not DIY face masking enough? 🙂 Do you ever wonder if you’re doing this self-care thing “correctly?”And one has to also wonder – does shame and feeling bad ever lead to better self-care? Spoiler alert – No. It never, ever, ever does.
As we browse social media – especially Instagram – we see these gorgeous photos of meals, family outings, and self-care. We see the Instagram food photographer/blogger who not only manages to create these works of art, but she always seems to have some really cool rustic wood or cozy Fall blanket to eat on. And her caption is something like, “Lunchin’ at work! Nom nom nom.” – Super casual. Super easy, right? 🙂
We see the mom who somehow has time to cut fruit into stars and spaceships and sprinkle it with fresh mint from her organic garden. Where are the toddler messes? Or the toddler screaming and pulling down her pants while she scrambles to get the right shot? We don’t see that part.
We also see the girl who talks about her “self-care day” – lounging around her “Better Home and Gardens” living room, sipping on homemade juices and talking about cozying up to a book in her perfect (and insanely expensive) “active wear” – all. day. long.
Now, I’m actually a huge fan and supporter (and even friend) to many of these individuals I speak of. I think they do awesome work. Heck, sometimes my own account might be included in that (ok, my food photography skills are lacking big time but just sayin’)! If you’re reading this and I’m describing your Instagram – rock on. Please don’t let this bring shame to YOU. I think the photos are gorgeous and they inspire me to get creative in the kitchen and dream about entire “self-care” days (although I def don’t have time for that). I’m not really suggesting that these posts are wrong or harmful in and of themselves. What I AM saying is this –
I encourage all of us to own our reactions to these posts and messages and identify whether or not they are helpful or harmful to us. Do you have a good spam filter in your brain? Can you remind yourself that real life, real food and real self-care don’t always look like this? For some of us, especially new moms, self-care is figuring out how to shower every single day, carving out an hour (or 5) on the weekend to find bras that actually fit (story of my damn life – blog on that later!) or managing to read 1-10 pages in a good book before bed. Maybe it’s finally making the call to talk to a therapist or dietitian for help or sitting down with your spouse to ask for more support with meals, childcare, etc… These aren’t always “social media worthy” but these are real forms of care that count in every way.
So the next time you open up your Instagram feed, here are some facts to remember and questions to ask yourself….
Facts (I hope no one throws organic heirloom tomatoes at me for sharing this info!):
- Many food and lifestyle bloggers do not use their own kitchens for posts. Some of them use fake backdrops or use another kitchen to take the photos. They also might print backgrounds on foam boards to make it look like they travel with rustic woods – but they don’t. Shocking, I know 😉
- Most spend many hours each week developing and perfecting these recipes. Some spend their weekend making 5 or 6 meals, taking pictures and then asking friends to come over to grab some of the food. I’d like to be the close and local friend of one of these people! 😉 I guarantee you that their kitchens are a complete disaster – just like your kitchen and mine. They’re just really good at using that zoom function on their cameras!
- Nutrition and health experts are creating a brand and sending a very intentional message. Many of them are sponsored or do this as part of their job. They want to encourage cooking with whole foods, making food fun for kiddos, taking care of ourselves, etc… and in order to sell these important messages they need to make it sexy. That’s what catches our eye. So remember that their job might not be to portray YOUR life. Their job is to encourage you and they do not intend to instill shame.
That brings me to the important questions you need to ask yourself:
1. Do I find the people I follow to be positive and encourage me to live a healthy life that aligns with my values, sense of humor, health goals, etc…? Or do I torture myself with shame-triggering content?
2. Do foodie Instagram feeds encourage me to think of new ideas and get creative in the kitchen? Or do they make me feel like my turkey sandwich is not good enough and therefor I should feel lame for eating it?
3. Can I change my perspective on this while following those feeds or do I need to take an Insta-break?
4. Do the examples of self-care serve as a nice reminder of what I can do to incorporate care into my life or do they make me feel like my smaller versions of care are not good enough or don’t count?
5. Can I keep a healthy perspective and remember that these staged photos are typically a skewed version of “reality?” Or am I becoming obsessed with living my life in a way that makes me Instagram-worthy? Again, not possible as these are not real lifestyles – only perfectly crafted snapshots of reality – literally.
<3 Your Favorite RD,
(Who’s Still Figuring Out the Daily Shower Thing 😉 )