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The Art of Forgetting Yourself

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

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

We’ll smile, experiencing a momentary lift in our mood. These words of encouragement are meant to empower, after all. But soon enough, we’ll begin to overthink. We’ll forget to notice the world that exists outside ourselves. Ironically, 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: are we enough? We curate our identities while 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 the “self-care” out there is attached with a lofty price tag. Luxurious skincare routines, boutique gym memberships, and juice cleanses 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 our personal problems, the more self-absorbed we become — and the emptier we feel. When we expect a detox diet or a yoga session to fulfill us, we’re often left searching for ourselves all over again. 

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? Imagine being able to live a hundred lives, all through the power of personal narrative. 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 pulled the social media plug? 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 really listen.

7. Be randomly kind: Go out of your way to perk up someone else’s day, 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.  That’s the thing about self-care we ought to remember: when we give to ourselves, we gain even more.

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