Essays

About Self-Care 

Self-care means self-touch, noticing your body for what it is, feeling instead of seeing, surrendering to those touches over and over again, embracing them, and realizing that this part is essential.

By Anne Lomberg on June 14, 2023 -
Updated on October 21, 2023

Also available in German
Über Selbstfürsorge

I just re-read Joan Didion’s essay on self-respect, in that probably the most famous quote creates a subtle segue into my theme of self-care.

“To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously un- comfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.“

– Joan Didion

Her words resonate with a certain freedom we either embrace or forego, perhaps even for a lifetime. Then the uncomfortable bed we have created may not seem so uncomfortable anymore because the excuses regarding self-respect or self-care are self-tailored, virtually self-invented, right?

Know your boundaries

Self-respect and self-care are indispensably linked because self-care is your attitude towards yourself and your actions – your lived self-worth. And this has nothing to do with egoism but solely with a healthy degree of self-assessment; meaning, how far can I push myself to avoid falling into bed at the end of the day, exhausted, every single day of the week? How can I create a healthy balance by putting myself and my needs first? Self-care is the answer. 

Knowing my personal boundaries, maintaining those boundaries, and saying no more than yes; these are the basic requirements for healthy self-respect and the beginning of self-care. Then we start our day, each to our own, perhaps first with an orgasm instead of the annoying sound of the alarm. Self-care means self-touch, noticing your body for what it is, feeling instead of seeing, surrendering to those touches over and over again, embracing them, and realizing that this part is essential, along with a healthy diet, exercise, and fresh air, to get to know and respect yourself better. I deliberately do not talk about learning to love because respect already holds this love. Those who respect themselves know their limits, know how to shape their day consciously, take a step back when they feel like it, and bring their mind into dialogue with their body.

Ego identity 

Pleasure and well-being belong together like masturbation and a relaxing massage you just indulged in, like a transcendental pleasure experience and the cool sea breeze on a late summer day. It’s taking a deep breath and letting it go again, accepting the moment. Those who don’t touch themselves don’t know themselves, lose understanding of their own being, or have never experienced it. How one goes on this ego-discovery journey is up to each person. What is significant is that one takes this time. The ego is good, the ego is important to free yourself from social ideas and expectations and create an individual identity.

“In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues.” – Joan Didion on self-respect in 1961

In this context, realize that no one is better suited to take care of you than yourself, and some differentiation of moral virtues is healthy, as is the differentiation of attributes such as beautiful or ugly.

Self-care needs self-pleasuring 

Let’s internalize again three terms that are directly related to self-care: healthy lifestyle, exercise, and mindfulness. These are all terms that I think are only part of self-care but don’t reflect the content, meaning: I can eat as healthy as I want, give up alcohol and an excessive lifestyle, exercise and meditate every day, but if I don’t start getting in touch with myself and my body emotionally and with caress, then I’m only caring half, right? When you know how to pleasure yourself, it makes you incredibly free, not to mention that orgasms positively affect your health and boost your self-esteem. Then you become your own lover and get to know yourself from a whole new perspective that transfers to those around you, who perceive you as a confident, brave, strong, independent, and extraordinary person. Or, to put it in Joan Didion’s words:

“That kind of self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth.”

Everything in balance is my philosophy, which radiates health and care the most—keeping stress to a minimum, making independent decisions, separating yourself from societal ideas, going deep within yourself, and asking: what do I need most right now? Knowing that masturbation is a release instead of taboo, internalizing that your body is an instrument that makes itself known when something is wrong and demands rest and more quality time, but also to be hungry for life without forbidding yourself anything. To feel, listen, observe, and to be wild and free simultaneously so that our self-made bed always demands a pleasant snort; to say: I have arrived. I am at home … here within me.

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