I stretched the wet Skincare face mask as laid it on my bare face one night. It’s been countless months since I used a disposable face mask, and I only decided to put one on because my face was starting to have painful dry cracks because of the coldness of Spring. This happens to me quite a lot, especially during the cold seasons of Japan. This is because I always compromise on my Skin Care. I know I need them, but I don’t use moisturizing creams unless I find a zerowaste or perhaps an organic one. I don’t use moisturizing face masks as much as possible despite the sharp cold of Winter. I don’t use Toner, Face Lotion, or Sunscreen just because I couldn’t find sustainable alternatives here in Nagoya. Because of that, I tend to just suffer in silence; the pains of my dry skin cracks during Winter, my Acne, my uneven skin color, and all the others that I ever so knowingly put myself through. That night, as I finally pampered myself with a single moisturizing face mask, I couldn’t help but ask; Why am I doing this to myself?
Self-care is an alien thing to me. Not that I’ve never pampered myself before, but it was just never my priority growing up. Recently, I’ve been trying to find the courage to allow myself bit by bit of self-care. If you are here because you are in the same journey too, then I am glad to share this with you.
Self-care as a Multidimensional Construct
Just yesterday, I had a video call with my cousin, Patricia. She’s 18, but she’s already the main source of her family’s income. She shared her whole heart to me yesterday as she lamented over her daily struggle of selling home-cooked foods under the stingy heat of the sun just so she can take home a 100 peso profit everyday. I looked at her from the screen and I can see that she has gotten thinner. I told her that she should just rest and take care of herself, but of course I know that she cannot afford that. I know that feeling by heart. I can see myself in her. Underprivileged eldest kids, like us, need to hustle from an early age. Patricia works at McDonald’s when she was in Senior High School, and now in Community Quarantine, she’s selling foods to provide for her family. She doesn’t mind missing sleep, staying under the heat of the sun, or losing weight just so she can continue earning. I cannot help but sympathize with her. Looking back at age 16, choosing my college course was only based on whether it has a scholarship or not. I endured 4 years in a course that I didn’t love just because I cannot afford to study other courses without the help of a scholarship. I had 3 part-time jobs when I was in college, and I remember ending my day at 6am everyday. Now that I already have a good-paying job, 80% of my salary goes to my family. Even the thought of spending JPY1000 for a good meal still scares me a lot.
For me, Self-care is a privilege. Pampering themselves with a good night sleep might be so easy for others but for some, finishing their part-time until 6am is way more important than sleep. It might be easy for others to slip in to their power dresses to boost confidence, but there are others who do not even have a decent dress to slip in to. This is not to lament over social classes. This is only to iterate that Self-care is a multidimensionial construct. Self-care might be easy for some, but there are many who find it hard to take care of themselves. Please know that I wholeheartedly understand, and I am one with you in that.
Find the Courage for Self-care
Up until now, I find it hard to take care of my self. There are always other priorities pulling me back down. It might be my advocacy or my responsibilities to my family. I still have more times of compromise than loosening up. However, I have learned to slowly give myself the care that I deserve. For the first time last year, I allowed myself to spend for an international leisure travel. I’ve always been traveling, but it was for work or for leadership conferences. I was always too scared of spending my money for my own travels. Finding the courage to finally do it last year felt very liberating. I have also allowed myself to have Cheat Days from my Vegan lifestyle. Days when I can just eat whatever I like. Just recently, I also shared how I prioritized taking care of myself over my Zerowaste struggles during this COVID-19 Crisis. Slowly, I was able to get rid of the unnecessary guilt little by little.
Of course, I know that being able to allow myself extra spaces to do self-care is a privilege. I know that there are probably many of you who now thinks of dismissing the thought of self-care because it is just privilege, but I hope you don’t. If there is anything that I have learned living as one of the underprivileged, it is the fact that no matter how small those moments are, we should always allow ourselves to breathe. I hope you find the courage to let yourself off the hook even in the rareness of those moments. When there is even the slightest chance, allow yourself a good night sleep. When there is the smallest opportunity, buy that dress you fancy the most. Put on that red lipstick that you like so much sometimes. Watch that movie or series you like very much. Eat that cake you love. Allow yourself to say “no”. Travel sometimes. Send that salary to your family but also allow yourself some savings sometimes. Find the courage to give some for yourself, too. If you think that others deserve to be nurtured and cared for, you deserve that yourself, too.
I am happy for those who have cemented a lifestyle that is founded in self-care. I am also very proud of those who have gotten over the burden of having the guilt everytime they allow themselves some spaces to breathe. As for those who are like me, those who are still getting there, I know that having the courage to conquer this is difficult but never impossible. Slowly, we can and we will move forward. So let’s hang on.