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How do I look? What am I going to wear? What am I putting into my body? Am I drinking enough water? I need to exercise! What essential oil should I use for a sinus headache agan? Yep, I definitely need to start drinking kale smoothies again. I need a new face cream, my skin is so under-hydrated!
To be sure, we’re called to honor and respect our bodies. But the pressure we get on all sides — be it social media, the news, billboards — says that paying attention to our body is the most important thing we can do in life. And it’s not. Yes, it’s important, but it’s not devote-most-of-your-time-energy-and-money important.
But don’t take my word for it. Here is what the Catechism says:
“If morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value. It rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake, to idolize physical perfection and success at sports. By its selective preference of the strong over the weak, such a conception can lead to the perversion of human relationships.”
Some necessary ways to respect your body include eating intentionally for good health, getting some exercise by doing an activity you enjoy (which helps both your emotional and physical health), and wearing flattering clothes (which helps you be more confident). If you have a hygiene and skincare routine, wonderful. If you’re using essential oils, great. These kind of things are important and usually possible to achieve without spending an inordinate amount of time and money.
But the world around us, from specialty food stores to clothing companies, wants us to spend, spend, spend. Having a perfectly fit body and refined diet is touted as the way to live a successful, fulfilling life. There is so much emphasis on what we should and shouldn’t do to take care of our bodies, and a myriad of ways to spend money to make that happen, that it can easily become the one thing that preoccupies our mind on any given day.
So here are a few questions that I regularly ask myself to make sure that caring for my body is not consuming too much of my life:
How much money do I spend on my body each month? Is there a way to cut those costs? Are all of those costs necessary?
Does the amount of time I spend on my diet, supplements, exercise routine, and driving to specialty stores (not bad things in and of themselves) outweigh the amount of time I spend being present to other people, such as family and friends?
Why am I trying to lose or gain weight? Is it for legitimate health reasons, or is it because I need to fit in, keep up with so and so, or so that I can be loved or admired?
What do I think about when I wake up in the morning? Do I check to see how many new wrinkles I have? Does my morning routine of getting dressed and showered and made up take too long, or maybe not long enough?
How much money do I spend on new clothes? Do I need all the clothes I buy? Could I shop at a less expensive store for what I need?
Are how I look, what I eat, and how comfortable I am the main things that consume my day?
I don’t want to fall into the trap of coddling myself so much that I waste my life doing it. There’s a difference between caring and coddling. Caring involves loving attention and healthy boundaries; coddling involves an over-protective, over-concerned, stifling environment.
At the end of our lives we won’t wish that we spent more time on ourselves. We’ll instead look back and long for the time we spent with other people — loving them, being with them, serving them. Take a stand against the system that tells you that to take care of your body you need to spend a lot more and coddle it more. Find that balance and you’ll find more time for what matters.
This appeared at Aleteia.