When Self-Care Feels Futile, Remember This

Trusting myself enough to build habits and build a life and care for myself isn’t easy or simple. It takes resolve and power that you might feel you never had.

You might feel you never earned the right to decide that you matter and deserve to exist.

That’s an impossible argument; there’s no objective way to make someone believe that they matter.

You can point to faith and point to the stars, but at the end of the day in the mess that is “life”, none of it is truly solid.

I read somewhere that depression is a crude defense mechanism against unnattainable goals. That the body shuts down the ability to reach towards a goal in the face of repeated failures. In society, there are structures that not everyone can overcome. Repeated failures do happen and our biology reacts.


The world is not kind to a lot of people.

There are dominant groups and standard formats, based on majorities, history, technology. There’s no rhyme or reason. There’s no consensus on why “you” are “you”. Why “you” were born normal and acceptable, or born an outsider, a misfit, an exception.

We each have no choice but to do the best we can with what we have (and then philosophers debate endlessly what “best” means). People spend their lives searching for meaning and trying to cope, because even if there are no “answers”, it’s what we are wired to do.

We can give each other answers, but it doesn’t mean it will go in. If you are lucky enough to have a supportive partner or friends or family, you might still not believe them when they say you are worthy of love. You can exclude yourself from the positivity posts about how “everyone matters and I love you all so much”, because it’s easier than caring about yourself.

Perhaps you missed out on family support at a crucial age, and the support you get now is too little, too late. Perhaps you are part of a disadvantaged group, not normalised by society, which helps keep you downtrod and against yourself. It might even be the more “logical” approach, to agree with a world that pushes you down.

It isn’t logical that the world pushes some people down.

That society pushes certain traits, groups, or people into the margins. A person crippled by anxiety won’t perform at their best. They won’t have their full strength to solve problems and share their abilities with the world. Humans need positive and meaningful feedback to improve, not wholesale negative judgements. Negative “shaming” tactics can make things worse, as this article about fat shaming notes.

Some traits we have no control over, yet they push our self esteem down. This could be being born marginalised, born to an unhappy, unsafe, un-nurturing home, or being unable to perform how the world expects us to. It isn’t logical and it isn’t fair.

The world is inflicted on you.

You are born and the world reacts, maybe negatively. And if you’re one of the people who the world didn’t like and who got hurt, the damage gets under your skin and affects your life. Sometimes it feels like you weren’t ever meant to be here at all. Even though that was never a decision you made.

It’s a decision we aren’t designed to make. We are designed to live, not to fight our brains for permission to exist. It takes a strange world to push us down hard enough that we begin to doubt our right to be here, when we are designed to fight for life.

It takes an awful lot of courage to make the decision to care about yourself, and only you can make that choice, given what you see around you.

Other people can help you, and believe in you, and that’s important, but it isn’t up to them. You alone can make the choice, and you will have to make it constantly.

Eventually, kindness might become habit. Your choice to take care of yourself might start to work. Your church or your meditation or your therapy or your sports class or your hobby might start to seep into your skin, in the same way the hate seeped in at first. You might start to believe in your own happiness and existence.

Nothing is guaranteed. Everything takes effort. Not everyone has the same struggles, although a lot of us do struggle. Society is constantly changing and the rules are shifting. In a different time, the person that you are might have been fine. You might be better suited to a different time or place. Your external circumstances were arbitrary and don’t reflect on you.

In the end, you didn’t chose this life, but you can still choose yourself.

Hopefully that can be enough.

Note: Thanks for reading! This was a bit of a stream of consciousness writing that I started after thinking about how tough and unfair life and the whole concept of existing can be. That’s an entire meta-physical/religious rabbit-hole but I think it’s an important part of mental health and self care, to begin to realise what you can and cannot control, or else you’ll always be fighting against the tide of the world.

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