The Art of Forgetting Yourself

The self-care we're seeking might have nothing to do with ourselves at all.

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There’s no denying that positive affirmations rule our social media feeds. Mindlessly scroll and you’ll be told — in every possible way — to love yourself.

But our internet culture’s obsession with self-care may be programming us to feel less than our best. The more time we spend behind our screens, the more we wonder if we’re enough. We curate our identities while getting caught in comparison traps. We ruminate over every what if and if only, wishing we had it all. We chase after whatever we’re told will make us happy, with the wellness gurus as our guides.

And sadly, a lot of today’s “self-care” is attached with a lofty price tag. Luxurious skincare routines, juice cleanses, and boutique gym memberships are promises we buy into and believe will make us complete. 

But what if happiness was actually simple to achieve? And what if the self-care we’re seeking had nothing to do with ourselves at all?

The art of forgetting ourselves isn’t an argument against loving who we are. Rather, it’s an attempt at redefining what a life of uncomplicated joy really looks like. If you think about it, there’s a paradox in the concept of self-care: the more we fixate on ourselves, the more self-absorbed we become — and the emptier we feel.

Rather than fighting against the notion of self-care (and canceling that upcoming spa treatment), we can expand its definition. When we redirect our attention outward, our happiness is bound to soar. Here are some ways to start forgetting about yourself:

1. Volunteer: When we dedicate some time to champion a cause and help others who need it most, our problems are swiftly put into perspective. Whether you choose to give your time at a food bank, a tutoring center, or an animal shelter, you’ll notice a weight lifted off your shoulders.

2. Read a memoir: What better way is there to shift our mindset and be immersed in another human’s worldview than by opening a book? After turning the first page of a memoir of your choice, you’ll hopefully feel yourself begin to distance from, well, yourself!

3. Unplug: We’ve heard this tip countless of times, but how many of us have actually gone through with a social media detox? By eliminating a major source of our anxiety, we can give ourselves the freedom to live our lives on our own terms. Delete your social media apps, even just for a weekend, and relish in the notification-free moments.

4. Foster a fluff: Okay, maybe your apartment isn’t dog-friendly, or maybe your roommate’s allergic to cats. But even a bouquet of flowers can train your brain to put another’s needs before your own — sentient or not.

5. People watch with purpose: One morning when you’re not frantically rushing to the office, carve out some time to sip your coffee while observing the people walking by. Pay attention to their interactions, and imagine possible scenarios from a place of empathy. People-watching can be its own form of meditation.

6. Get curious: Next time you meet up with a friend, resist the urge to launch into the latest gossip or workplace woes. Instead, have a few questions to ask them — not only about their day, but how they’re really doing. Then lean in and listen.

7. Give random acts of kindness: Go out of your way to make someone happy and expect nothing in return. Pay an unexpected compliment to your coworker, surprise your partner with a homemade dinner, or send your long-distance college friend a card for no reason other than to say hi. When we give to others, we gain even more.

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