Self Care In An Age Of “Fuck It, I’m Fine”

I’m going to write some phrases and I want you to ask yourself if you relate to them.

“So much of my energy goes on thinking about the next thing; what’s on the horizon and how to get there.”

“I spend so much time working that I find it hard to make time for non-work socialising, and daily tasks like laundry fall off the end of my to do list.”

“I feel like I’m spinning plates; I can never switch off or I’ll drop them.”

“I constantly put pressure on myself to be better. Spend less time on my phone, focus on my personal project in the evenings instead of watching Netflix, prove myself in my career so I can become a 30 under 30, call my family more.”

“When I don’t achieve these things, I feel like I’m failing and I beat myself up about it.”

Did one or two catch your eye? Maybe all of them? These are things my friends and I say to each other all the time, and reflect a lot of the things I say to my therapist too. I suspect that these feelings are pretty common in most of our day-to-day lives, as new graduates and twentysomethings who have high expectations for ourselves to be functioning on full, 24/7. We don’t seem to permit ourselves to slip up, and as a result, to use my mum’s phrase, burn the candle at both ends. We say “fuck it, I’m fine” and carry on.

And of course, this has a knock on effect on our mental stability. We get anxious. We run on coffee and shit food. Things slip through the net and we feel guilty. We feel like failures for not even being able to manage the base level necessities in our lives, and ultimately that makes us feel like shit.

I feel like I’m beyond the basic tenets of not comparing myself to others and practising self care, so why do I continually fall for the narrative that if I push myself to breaking point, I will succeed? If I know logically that I can’t achieve everything, why do I still hold myself to unattainable standards? When people’s jobs actually started at nine and ended at five, perhaps these expectations could be fulfilled. I like the idea that there was a time where work ended at five and you could go home, make dinner and call your nan instead of coming in at eight or nine and having just enough time to make dinner and watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy before passing out. And in a world where our jobs involve us attending evening events, flying across the world and going to breakfast meetings, it becomes increasingly difficult to even find time to switch off. We prioritise the things that help us space out, like seeing friends and investing in a series, and then everything else falls to the side.

We talk about self care as a solution or relief from the everyday pressures, but is having a bath or buying a new lipstick the key to the monumental mental to do list sitting at the front of your head 24/7? I think we need to reframe the way we think about self care, from the arguably rudimentary understanding we have at the moment to a more practical methodology.

A lot of it is about changing the way we talk to ourselves about achievement and failure. My therapist suggested having a system in place to support yourself when things begin to go badly, or your mental health takes a turn for the worst. Retraining your inner narrative to be kinder is a good survival tactic. As she said to me, “Nobody ever comes out of being beaten up any stronger than they were when the fight started.” If we put active effort into regularly reminding ourselves that we’re doing the best we can with the cards we’ve been dealt, we should start to cut ourselves some slack without even realising. So what if I can’t get up before eleven on weekends? It’s not the end of the world if I spend a couple of years of Saturdays in bed. Fuck it, I’m sure that we’ll be grateful for all those mornings in bed once we have children who jump on us at six every morning.

It’s about changing the “fuck it, I’ll just power on,” to, “fuck it, I’ll just take a break.” We need to cut ourselves some slack because being real, we’ve got enough on our plates and we don’t need to add our own unrealistic expectations to that. We need to be kinder to ourselves, acknowledge our achievements – even if it’s just remembering to take the bins out – and maybe even meditate a bit. Throw the “fuck it, I’m fine” narrative in the bin. Stop pressuring yourself to be Wonderwoman and let yourself live.

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19 Comments

  1. Niamh
    January 30, 2018 / 1:26 pm

    I’m on placement without a bursary, and working either in a hospital or a pub on my days off. Last week I worked 62 hours and will get paid for 15 of them. Thankfully I live with my boyfriend who keeps on top of the cleaning and laundry. He is worried about me

  2. January 30, 2018 / 1:28 pm

    The last paragraph was just great! Totally agree with you Lucy! Sometimes we just need to take a break and stop for a little. We need to learn that taking a break is not the end of the world and can be in itself a form of self care, maybe even the best one, if you ask me.

    • April 12, 2018 / 2:14 pm

      It is not only about taking the break though, but also not feeling guilty the whole time one isn’t working..

  3. January 30, 2018 / 2:21 pm

    I relate to this a lot! In the past couple months I’ve started freelancing on top of my full-time job, which felt like a Win at first, but now it’s become a kind of hamster wheel. The work keeps coming and I don’t want to say no to anything because a) what if it stops coming and b) it’s good money so it feels dumb to turn it down. But with each new project I find myself with less and less time to relax and recharge, and as a result I have this fried brain that isn’t doing my best work when I’m working but also isn’t letting me just chill out. I don’t know how to get off the hamster wheel anymore without feeling like I’m Not Doing Enough.

  4. January 30, 2018 / 2:28 pm

    Wow this post came at the exact time I needed it! I’ve been being really hard on myself about “not living up to my potential” that it’s been making me do things that don’t make me happy just for the sake of doing _something_ and progressing _somewhere_. I definitely agree with you that a lot of us just need to give ourselves breaks, and not always be so worried about everything coming out perfectly, me 100% included.

  5. January 30, 2018 / 4:09 pm

    i cant love this more. i always get caught in the spin of expecting myself ‘to do everything and do it excellently’, breaking down within strenuous effort, and then wondering why im not good enough to ‘just do this’. then self care becomes a “oh fuck i didnt put in my retainers and moisturize” while laying in bed at midnight.
    i have recently gained the habit of writing “No llores porque soy muy bien a aprender y tiempo es necesario” on my arm and textbooks which is mediocre spanish reads ” dont cry i am very good at learning and time is necessary.”
    which at first i wrote to keep me from crying in korean class, but now just reminds me to be nice to me.

    • January 30, 2018 / 5:13 pm

      This reminds me of the Korean language courses I took! We all were so anxious (as one of the girls said, “when the teacher comes up to me, I forget all the languages.”) and thought we had to get everything right on the first time… and forgot that that’s not always how learning works! Some were considering leaving because of how stressed they were… and then we found out that the other group were way more chill about how fast they moved through the course and asked a loooot of questions.

  6. January 30, 2018 / 4:46 pm

    UGH. So true. We continuously prioritise success over our own mental health and it’s just unproductive.

    Success takes time and missing an event or putting your personal relationships over your professional ones every now and then isn’t going to ruin all of your hard work.

  7. January 30, 2018 / 5:10 pm

    “Did one or two catch your eye? Maybe all of them?” Guilty as charged, haha.
    This blog post arrived right when I needed it. Burned out as all hell. Thank you for writing this!!

  8. January 30, 2018 / 8:46 pm

    I can’t tell you enough how important this blog post is. The line “It’s about changing the “fuck it, I’ll just power on,” to, “fuck it, I’ll just take a break.”” especially; I wish more people understood the importance of taking a break. So many of those that I care about, myself included, work til they drop. They work ridiculously long hours, clearly exhausted at the end of the day. When they’re asked if they’re okay, they respond with “I’m fine” or “I’ll be okay”, only to fall into the same draining routine for several days in a row sometimes. More people need to see this post. It can help so many people who work until they physically can’t anymore due to exhaustion realize that taking a break can make a huuuuge difference in their lives. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this.

  9. January 31, 2018 / 10:34 am

    Yep, living by the kinder narrative rule! Self compassion is much needed and honestly taking a break is necessary. Love your post x

  10. January 31, 2018 / 2:24 pm

    Thank you dearly for this, Lucy. It’s such an important message. I’m absolutely over the moon that you’re using your platforms for such good, positive and helpful messages; acknowledging that the world, growing up and our brains can be shit sometimes and what to do about it. The determination to keep powering on is so often a drain on us, weighing us down and stressing us out. We need to admit those scary words: “I’m not okay”. We need to stop hiding behind “I’m fine”s because those aren’t working! 🙂 Brilliant post, well written as always! Thank you for this. It’s a refreshing read.

    – lots of love, Marie (https://www.bloglovin.com/@writteninthesepages)

  11. Elly
    January 31, 2018 / 10:01 pm

    I love the way this is written, its so relatable and interesting to read!! I will definitely be taking the ‘fuck it, I’ll just take a break’ mantra every now and then, to soothe my last few months of caffeine fuelled days at university.

  12. February 1, 2018 / 4:56 pm

    I think it would be wonderful if people could see that no matter what happens you’ll take some kind of path. Like, we should let life do what it does and stop trying to be on top of everything at every turn. if you failed your exams, hurt yourself again, worked so hard you forgot to eat and got sick, anything like that, it’s okay. You can always try again, or trajectory, or do it next time. The most important thing in life is to take care of yourself.

    Lilly xoxo

  13. February 6, 2018 / 7:02 pm

    Daamn ! Feels good to hear that !

  14. February 17, 2018 / 11:14 pm

    I really relate to this post, it actually reminds me of this quote: “Nothing makes your 20’s worse than thinking you should have your shit together already” (not sure if I quoted that correctly).
    I constantly have to remind myself to take time to enjoy my life and achievements, no matter how small.
    Do you think that there’s a way that the community we create around ourselves could help foster this self-care mentality? I only ask because sometimes I have a really good ‘self-care’ day where my inner monologue is kind to me, but then I see someone else and I can’t help but compare myself to them.

  15. March 17, 2018 / 5:32 am

    This is not a recent post, but I just read it and it was exactly what I needed to read now. Thank you, thank you, Lucy. I’m always harsh on myself. People often say to me, “Why are you standing and working all the time? Why don’t you take a seat and a rest?” I sort of feel relieved that others have the same pressure on themselves and someone has written about it in a relatable manner.

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