The Ugly Side of Self-Care

By Stephanie HauerJuly 30, 2018

It took me a long time to embrace the ugly side of self-care. I’m a perfectionist at heart, so whenever I’m not at my best, I consider it a failure. But after a good, hard look, I’m realizing that those moments when I think I’m just giving up and giving way to brokenness, are actually opportunities for self-care and grace.

But not the type of self-care we’ve come to know. It’s not just about using face creams to achieve glowing skin or movie nights with your best friend. Sometimes it’s putting down your work and sobbing at your desk. Sometimes it’s calling it an early night just so you can curl up in bed and watch Vine compilations. And sometimes it looks like laying on the floor and playing the same song on repeat until you feel like you can breathe again.

We can’t always be at peak performance. We are human beings; we get burnt out and drained. We need to rest before we can run. Self-care is the choice to pause. It is the choice to rest for a moment and tend to the tired parts of yourself that are in need of love and nourishment. That can look like a regimen, a regularly scheduled routine to maintain your body and soul. But sometimes, we need to do a spot treatment. If one particular need is not being met, self-care is attending to that one thing.

I am trying to be more patient when my body or my heart tell me that I need to pause.  As a chronic overachiever, I am used to going, going, going, and working nonstop—I’m always doing something. I set next-to-impossible expectations for myself and then feel completely pathetic when I don’t meet those expectations. But the reality is, I’m a messy, clunky, and complicated being. I have an array of parts that work together, so if one of those parts is in need of help, the others must wait until it can catch up.

So when my brain acts up and the slightest mishap causes me to burst into tears, I give myself permission to hide in my room and watch videos for an hour. I give myself permission to press the pause button until I feel more rational. And when my workload piles up into an intimidating tower that’s demanding my attention, but I’ve had a rough and painful day, I leave it and cry for a bit.

We are allowed to step away. We are allowed to feel our emotions—even the uncomfortable ones. Contrary to popular belief, we are not failing to rise to the challenge that is life; we are simply preparing ourselves to meet it. We are not running away from difficulties—we are giving ourselves the best chance of overcoming them.

There’s nothing wrong with the more aesthetically-pleasing side of self-care. Doing a face mask once a week to help quell my rampant acne is definitely a meaningful part of how I take care of myself. And routine self-care is essential—like taking my medications every day so that my body can function properly. But what I am teaching myself is how to practice the pause, and to recognize that self-care comes in many forms. It’s not always scheduled or “fun.” Sometimes it’s the recognition that I need something else, or that my body and my heart are not failures because they have needs.

We are worthy of time. We are worthy of attention. But it is only us who can give and provide that self-care.

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Comments (8)

  1. Delicate Flower

    This is beautiful. I admit, the first part really hooked me, told me that I am that person. I used to never sat down to peacefully tend to what I really needed, it’s always about me pointing out my imperfections and beating myself out for being flawed. Maybe because it’s how I grew up? I was always achieving things as a child, and when I’m not making it at the top, I’d be reprimanded for not making it enough for them.
    Years later into college, I fell out from the limelight. It was the hardest to battle, as I thought, but the hardest was to love myself as I go through the ugly path. But through it, I began to see myself as a delicate flower who needs to take care of. It’s hard, giving out love to yourself, but I’m slowly doing it anyway. And I will never regret those days where I chose myself.

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  2. Elizabeth Grace

    Thank you and this is, for me, the beautiful side of self-care. It is the definition of self-care, since when we go too hard for too long and ignore ourselves, that is unself-care – denial of ourselves. The pausing and self love is the beauty, whatever it looks like. When we persist in going overboard, that gets ugly. Hoorah for giving ourselves permission to recharge and love ourselves enough to care.

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  3. Barb

    Sometimes we need time to cry alone sleep or listen to music in the dark. Were not robots, we need to stop we need time for us. I need to read this today. Thanks!

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  4. Christina

    I get what is being expressed here. My concern is when I work 5 days 8-10 hours per day, errands and chores on Saturday and by Sunday the majority of my day is spent napping, reading watching movies. Is this ok or unhealthy. And what if both Saturday and Sunday look like this most weekends? It does make me feel like a slug and that I’m failing at the game of life. Thanks

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    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Christina,

      We appreciate you taking the time to share this with us. Methods of self-care come in many different forms, the most important thing is that the self-care method is providing you with some form of care. When you nap or read or watch a film, is that time spent allowing you to feel more well-rested or refueled?

      If you want to talk to us more, you’re always welcome to email our team at We will do our best to provide you with some encouragement and support!

      With Hope,

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  5. Vickie bennett

    Well spoken. Thank you

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  6. Adeline

    Yes! Self-Care is about learning to care for yourself and do what is most nourishing for your body, mind, and heart. And it includes cheering yourself up when things are hard, or giving ourselves permission to feel. It also includes practicing mindfulness or learning new paradigms that help us not just cope but thrive.

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  7. E.K.

    I love the way you define self-care! You’re right, it can be as simple as rocking to your favorite playlist on your commute home; or baking a cake over the weekend just for you to indulge in; or taking a hot shower just to breathe in that steam and clear your head. There’s no one way to self-care– whatever works for you, stick with it. I’m inspired to be more compassionate to myself now, thank you!

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