If you’ve ever been on Pinterest or Instagram or if you ever play in the entrepreneurial space, you’ve probably seen this quote somewhere in an inspirational image or a well-intentioned tweet.
I’ve got a new variation of this for you. And before you freak out about how much you love your leggings and your lounge pants, hear me out. This post is not about sweatpants.
It started out innocently enough about six weeks ago. I was in the middle of an adventure down an Amazon rabbit hole. You know, when you go online looking for a new battery for your car key remote and $76 later you’re now the proud owner of a garlic peeler, two of the latest New York Times best-selling novels, and peanut butter organic dog treats, no car key remote battery in sight? Yeah, that.
On this particular day I was perusing skincare reviews. It seemed as of late that 30 was nipping more violently at my heels than before, and the once fine lines that laced the edges of my eyes were deepening with a vengeance. As I scrolled through serums and toners and creams, I kept seeing the words “K Beauty” in the titles. Upon further research, I learned that in recent years, the Korean methodology of skincare has become more and more popular in the western world. I was intrigued. Korean women do, in general, have lovely ageless skin. I was ready to buy whatever product the Internet would prescribe me so that I might reap the same benefits.
Then I read that the Korean methodology of skincare is a 10-step process. To be fair, you don’t have to do all ten steps every day, but there’s probably about 7-8 steps that must be completed each day.
Ain’t nobody got time for that. I mean yes, it’s my face. It’s my calling card to the world, but I couldn’t possibly devote that much time and effort to massaging oils into my cheeks and dabbing toner onto my t-zone.
As I researched further, I found that Korean women view skincare completely differently than Western women; while we in the US look at it as a chore, a part of a necessary routine, Korean women view caring for their skin as a way to treat themselves and to pay gratitude to their bodies. A necessary luxury, if you will.
Well, that just sounds delightful.
But again, I don’t have time for anything delightful. There are emails, so many emails.
I left my shopping cart empty, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had learned. That in other parts of the world, women take care of themselves as a way of thanking their bodies for all they do and as a way of paying them back for their hard work day in and day out. How is it possible that I can find time to open Facebook a million times a day, but when it comes to doing something as seemingly basic as taking care of the vessel that moves me around this crazy world, I’m simply too busy? How can I cram another project into my packed schedule, but I can’t find a moment to let my mind drift into ultra-valuable whitespace and heal itself from all the stress and anxiety I put it under each day?
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve leapt from my desk for a quick bathroom break at 11AM on a Wednesday only to be horrified at what I see in the mirror–tired skin, bags under the eyes, greasy frizzy hair. And hey, if a low maintenance beauty/hygiene routine is your thing, I say go for it. But what scares me is this notion that we can’t take five minutes away from the screen to practice self care because we’re just too inundated. We can shout from the rooftops about how much we need to stop the glorification of busy, but what about our crazy addiction to the glorification of sweatpants—the over-caffeinated, under-showered, bleary-eyed lifestyle that many of us entrepreneurs find ourselves in? The one where we work ourselves dry all of the love of martyrdom and under the guise that killing ourselves to get things done is the best thing for our clients? The hustle till you drop mentality is worn as a badge of honor in the word of entrepreneurship, and honestly, that just sucks.
Here’s a truth I’m reminding myself of a lot these days: if you’re an able-bodied adult who is not incarcerated or otherwise enslaved, particularly in the Western world, there is literally no one else who has more control over your life, your time and how you treat yourself than you.
Yes there are limitations. Yes there are consequences to saying no or cutting back or reevaluating. But entrepreneurship should not be a parasitic relationship where you wake up everyday just to die all day long for the sake of your work. If the work doesn’t fill you up and you can’t find a way to fill yourself up outside of work, your clients are not getting your best. They’re getting some wrung up, chewed up version of you that needs to sleep and use real shampoo more than once a week-and no I don’t mean the dry kind.
This is not a sermon. It’s part memo to myself and part rant against the culture that we as entrepreneurial colleagues have created for ourselves. This is my reminder for the moments when I feel pangs of guilt for stepping out into the yard every morning for 20 minutes to water my garden instead of checking emails. This is my rallying cry that when I work myself to death no one wins, but when I take care, everyone benefits.
This is not an argument against sweat pants. I’m barefoot, sitting on my sofa, wearing my favorite leggings and my most cozy long cardigan as we speak. This isn’t about comfort, it’s about care. It’s about caring enough about the quality of your work and the happiness of your clients to steal some moments for yourself. It’s about giving your head some room to come up with the most creative solution rather than packing in your critical thinking time between spin class and an afternoon of conference calls. It’s about recognizing that you got into this entrepreneurial gig to use your best talents to do your best work; and your best comes at the low low price of a few ounces of self care, a dose of less noise, and a hot shower every day or so. Keep the sweatpants, but don’t forget to keep your health and your sanity too.
Additional recommended reading from The New Yorker: The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death