What is Self-Care?

2020 was quite a year. The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 has had an overwhelming effect on communities and individuals around the globe, and its presence has been infused in every aspect of our daily lives for nearly a year now. Additionally, we have witnessed a fraught and exhausting election process, a violent attack on the capital, and continued outcries against systemic racial injustice. It has been a difficult year, and for many, navigating the fear, fatigue, uncertainty, and isolation of the past several months has made the need for regular self-care starkly apparent.

But what is self-care exactly? The term has become a bit of a buzz word over the past several years, and has been used to promote countless products and activities—workouts, brunch, home decor, crystals, sweatpants, and of course, natural skincare and beauty. As a business squarely in the wellness category, we find ourselves in an industry growing at a dizzying rate. Given this, and the challenging year we've all been through, we wanted to take a moment to pause and consider the meaning of self-care. What is it? And more specifically, what does it mean to us as a company?

Over a series of discussions with the Palermo team, we've come up with some ideas that are helping us better define our perspective on self-care. The points below represent aspects of self-care that we are currently ruminating on as a company. We believe that self-care is an intrinsic part of our existence, and it's important to establish our values surrounding the subject. We're excited to make this an ongoing conversation with you and will continue to add to this understanding as our discussions deepen.

  • Self-care is introspective, and will be different for everyone. We did agree that true self-care requires us to really check in with ourselves and understand what we actually need rather than necessarily what we want. For instance, if I feel anxious and bummed, I might think I need to lay on the couch and eat pizza. ⁠Sometimes, this really means I need to go take a walk or call a friend because those things are actually what I need to feel grounded and centered again.⁠ Other times, it truly means that I need pizza. Whether or not we’re always aware of them, deep down we know our own feelings, vices, habits, and genuine needs better than anyone. In this way, self-care is about paying attention and really listening to ourselves.⁠

  • Self-care isn't always fun. Sometimes it means doing challenging or boring work—like cleaning the apartment, making lunches for the week, finding a therapist, or vocalizing our boundaries and needs. Self-care can be about setting ourselves up well and taking care of our future selves. By doing small tasks like washing the dishes before we go to bed or finally taking care of that annoying little errand, we gift ourselves more breathing room, precious brain space, and peace of mind.

  • Self-care can be flexible. We agreed that, when possible, setting aside time to do something we enjoy is one of the nicest ways to take self-care. Stepping away to do that (virtual) yoga class, sleep in, make art, take a bath, etc. are what we have come to think of as classic self-care, and they are genuinely fabulous. But we also agreed that with busy schedules, responsibilities, and life's surprises, taking extra time isn't always possible for everyone. And if we can't set aside time for these things, have we failed at self-care? Of course not! Our team members shared many ways they fold self-care into their routine that require no extra time: taking deep intentional breaths while commuting, listening to music while working, and of course, using products we love as part of our daily shower and skincare routines (this is Palermo Body after all).

  • Self-care is power. In researching for this post, we found that the most commonly referenced origin of the concept of self-care was Audre Lorde's book Burst of Light: and Other Essays. As a self-described black feminist lesbian mother poet, Lorde frames self-care as a radical, essential act of self-love and fortification amidst oppressive systems, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”. In our discussion, we felt it was important to honor the concept's origins, and remember that it comes from a place of raw, individual power. Valuing ourselves is not selfish or frivolous, it is powerful.

  • Self-care cannot be bought or sold. As a company that sells products, we felt this point was particularly important to discuss. We make facial masks, bath salts, body scrubs, aromatherapy—virtually all Palermo products are referred to as "self-care products". So, what do we mean when we say it cannot be sold?

    We felt it was important to clarify that while we make products that facilitate self-care, we cannot actually sell self-care. No one can. Self-care is deeply personal—everyone defines it for themselves and it can be achieved at any price point. In fact, some our team's favorite self-care practices cost us nothing but a little intention and commitment. As the term "self-care" continues to pop up in social media and marketing campaigns (including our own), we felt it was important to remember that branding and product names can only ever be suggestions. We generate our own self-care.

    At Palermo, we are passionate about crafting natural skincare products, building heathy routines, and encouraging self-care. For us, these things go hand in hand—we love to use our products for daily self-care and of course, we hope you do too. But at the end of the day, we really just want people to take care of themselves in whatever way they need. And if our products help you get there, we couldn't be happier.

  • Self-care is essential. In discussing what self-care means to us, we felt it was also important to note why we take time for self-care. This may seem obvious—of course it helps us balance our mental health and generally makes us feel better. But in our society, prioritizing self-care is not necessarily the norm. It is often pushed aside as non-essential, something to do if we have time. And of course, it seems there is always something more important to take care of first. Over time, this is unsustainable and eventually leads to burnout. If we don't take care of ourselves, our bodies, minds, and emotions will eventually shut down—essentially forcing us to finally take rest. We cannot live our lives fully and show up in the way that we want to if we don't allow ourselves to recharge. Our well-being is truly essential, and it deserves our attention and respect.

  • Self-care helps everyone. We also discussed self-care in terms of being part of a larger community. We felt that part of the reason we take care of ourselves is so we can take care of each other, and be more present for our communities. When we are connected, rested, and balanced, we can be better friends, coworkers, partners, and neighbors, and more considerate citizens of the world. We can take what life throws at us and support those who are hurting more than we are. We can thoughtfully engage with the people and practices that give our lives meaning. We can see our world with more clarity and fight for the things we believe in. We can truly listen to each other and consider the impact of our actions. These efforts require a presence of mind, openness, and generosity that is near impossible if we don’t take care of ourselves.

Wowza! Self-care is obviously a deep subject, and we're excited to be part of an insightful team that is invested in this discussion. This article took months to make, and was built through dozens of discussions with our team. Please feel free to comment below—as part of our community, your perspective is important to us and we would love to hear what you think! And please, take care of yourselves ;)



About the author: Jenna has been a valued member of the Palermo team since 2018, working as a Production Assistant and more recently as a copywriter and contributor to our blog, The Supercritical. With a deep interest in storytelling and building connections, Jenna draws on her production experience working with our natural ingredients as well as a close connection with our founder Jess to create thoughtful articles that bring Palermo's vision and values to life.

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