Self-care isn’t always pretty

Growing up to be the best version of yourself is hard work and it isn’t always Instagrammable.

Khalisa Zulkiflee

Creative writer and comedian on the side.

Published: 22 September 2021, 1:42 PM

In a time of a global pandemic, social distancing and drastic climate change, self-care has become a requirement for all of us. 

With the loss of normalcy, we should all be taking some time to cater to our needs. Unlike what Instagram would have us believe, self-care oftentimes isn’t eating comfort food, lounging around all day or splurging money online. 

Using instant gratification as a way of self-care can be disastrous in the long run. Take for example a child who prefers eating ice cream for breakfast instead of veggies. 

It shouldn’t be normal to give in to your every wish, succumbing to every pleasure, regardless of the cost, in the name of seeking good mental health.

How do people get self-care wrong?

Too often the term “self-care” is associated with splurging money, unhealthy food and lazy behaviours such as watching Netflix for hours. 

Many on social media may label spa days or munching on chips as taking care of themselves, but the reality is personal maintenance takes discipline and discomfort to fully dedicate yourself to a better life. 

Of course, there is no harm in treating yourself to the occasional box of donuts or an afternoon of movies. It only gets bad if you keep using treats as a way to take care of yourself, instead of working on what’s wrong.


Treats should only be what they are – something you get on special occasions and not an everyday thing. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/JAI


Shopping sprees aren’t self-care no matter how happy it makes you feel.

An afternoon of watching movies in bed could also be a form of self-care but if you’re doing that for weeks on end then it becomes laziness. Self-care isn’t about standing still in your life. 

What is self-care?

Self-care isn’t one-size-fits-all, but neither is it a quick fix for your problems.

It is doing the best you can to help yourself grow as a person and get the life that you want. Beyond taking care of yourself, self-care is also about creating the best life you can. 

Sometimes it’s cleaning your bedroom, filling up university applications that you’ve been putting off or cooking at home instead of ordering take-outs. It could also be something more difficult, like making a five-year financial plan and sticking to it or asking for a pay raise that you know you deserve. 


Self-care in my daily routine includes keeping myself hydrated once I wake up instead of scrolling through my phone. PHOTO CREDIT: GIORGIO TRAVATO VIA UNSPLASH


Even though sleep isn’t something that comes easy for me, I make sure I go for a run in the morning at least three times a week because it’s an activity that makes me feel better. I also include other activities that make me feel purposeful, such as volunteering and donating blood. 

If you take it a step further, self-care can also be breaking a bad habit or exiting a toxic relationship. 

A bad habit I’m currently breaking is using good grades as a way of personal validation. This has been detrimental to my mental health, and I’m still in the process of learning that my self-worth should not be tied to what I can accomplish. 

What’s important is knowing what you want and how to get there. Set aside some time to figure out what the best version of your life could look like, and take the steps to make it happen.

The importance of doing it right

Settling all your bills doesn’t sound as fun as a weekend of drinking but it’s the better thing to do for yourself. 

While having a day of self-indulgence can be self-care, it can impede your progress in self-growth and taking care of yourself if it happens too often. 


When you incorporate personal care into your routine, it can give you a sense of purpose and a more meaningful life. PHOTO CREDIT: TOA HEFTIBA VIA UNSPLASH


Taking the routine I have set for myself seriously has made me a better person and supports the life I want to live – being financially independent, getting into university and taking care of my family. 

When I do take a day to binge-watch my favorite series or go on a shopping trip, I feel less guilty about using instant gratification as a way of treating myself or making myself feel better – even if I miss out on chores or not save as much as I should. 

Creating a beautiful life you can be proud of living also includes finding the perfect balance. 

I hope you consider this perspective the next time you decide between giving in to temporary pleasures and prioritizing your wellness first. 

If you are looking for more mental well-being resources, check out Youthopia’s resource page with everything from mental health self-assessments to tips for coping with challenging seasons in life.

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