What does self-care mean to you? I was asked this recently in an interview and I had to pause for a second. I’ve always been someone that takes good care of myself. I started spending more money on skin care when I was 25. Joining a gym or signing up for a yoga class has never taken much convincing. Traveling with my girlfriends was essential (and will be when we can travel again). Even when I first started my career on a small salary I always had room for the things that made me happy. I didn’t consider it self-care. It was just me being in charge of my money – and using it however the hell I wanted to.
The Self-Care Industry
Between 2019 and 2020 Google search trends showed a 250% increase in self care related searches between men and women. That is pretty trendy if you ask me! The thing that bothers me when it comes to trends is how easy it is to manipulate our spending habits. We all want to fit in with the group. That is just a part of our basic human brain that believes strongly that if we are an outcast we will die. We all know this isn’t true but it does feel good to be like the crowd. Marketers know this and are fantastic at leading you down that path. We also love anything that reinforces what we already believe in. Don’t think so? Go scroll your news feed and see how many ads appear for things that are perfect for you.
Self-Care = Self Improvement
The dictionary defines self-care as the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s health. I am 100% down with this and would consider the spending I mentioned above on skin care and fitness as falling squarely in this bucket. In 2020, my spending on mental health increased with a life coaching certification training and getting coached by others. Being in control of my mind has turned this pandemic from being an epic failure to one of the most productive times in my life. This is not because I am #blessed – it is because I work on my thoughts every single day.
This year I hired a nutrition coach and trainer. My husband looked like he was going to throw up when I told him my plans. He thought it might be a waste because I should know how to “do it myself”. As a woman that helps people manage their money and investments for a living I know that knowing “what” to do and doing it are VERY different things. Knowing that Jaime looks at my food diary and photos of me in a swimsuit – EVERY WEEK IN THE MIDDLE OF JANUARY IN NEW ENGLAND is motivating. I do this work with plenty of people who are tired of having their heads in the sand when it comes to money. Having someone take a look under the hood is intimidating but damn is it effective if you want lasting habits and change. It also turns out I really don’t know that much about nutrition and doing it myself probably would have given me the same results I’ve always had.
Self Care ≠ Sabotage
When the self-care trend took off it appeared to give women the freedom to finally spend money on the things they want. Like I mentioned before, I’ve always done this whether it be vacations or a skin care regime. However, when I did this at 25 some people might have thought I was selfish or self-indulgent. My mother certainly never spent any money on herself. So much so that I didn’t really know what she liked to do besides being my mom until WAY later in my life when I started asking. Men seem to have always had a bit more flexibility to do the things they want – whether it be golf or buying top shelf liquor. They could say it was good for business! My husband would never consider watching Netflix “self-care” – it is just doing what he wants to do. Generations of women have been conditioned to spend their time and money on the greater good – not themselves.
Now I’ll see women qualify everything as self-care from a weekend in Napa to taking a god damn shower without someone knocking on the door asking for a snack. To me, these are just things we can and should be able to do once in a while. If you are using self-care as an excuse to rack up credit card debt or get blackout drunk you may be doing the exact opposite of the definition above. Be mindful of this, and if your self-care is secretly a way to escape your life instead of improve it you might want to slow down and evaluate. Self care should not do more harm than good.
Should there be room in your budget for things you simply want to do for no good reason – YES! Just own it.
Having it ALL
My self-care habits include managing my money, a few expensive investments and a bunch of free ones. I’ve found that reading early in the morning helps me. By choosing what information I consume rather than waking up and scrolling my phone helps me set the tone for the day. Jim Kwik has referred to this as setting the thermostat rather than seeing what the temperature is. I’ve been walking a lot more to reach the step goal my trainer set. It is cold out and somedays it is easier than others but walking has been a nice time out from the doom-scrolling. Everyday I look at my investments and my clients investment accounts – watching them grow brings me the tranquility I assume people who can keep plants alive feel. I’ve also shut off my phone notifications other than texts and email. This may seem small but it helps me focus a lot more and put my phone away longer.
Some of my clients got a self-care kit from me for the holidays. A local nurse put them together and was selling them in a women’s group I belong to. The kits had candles, lip balm, aromatherapy, a journal and some other items that could offer a little pick-me up during a tough time. They were very well received and aligned with my idea of self-care in the best way. As we enter 2021 I’d love for us all to remember that WE are our biggest asset – not our bank account, home or followers. Your financial plan should always have room for the things that make you better – and the things that you simply want!