What Getting a Massage Taught Me About Self Love

About a month ago my sisters and I redeemed our Christmas gifts of professional massages at a spa in town. Knowing I was in need of an hour’s worth of relaxation, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty that I was spending that much time and money on myself. OK, I’m not completely selfless, but in my mind massages were something wealthy suburban mothers did while their kids were at school. I was looking forward to the experience, but didn’t peg myself as a massage girl: I rarely got pedicures and wouldn’t know an exfoliant if it bit me in the nose. Self-indulgence wasn’t something I was used to, but this massage taught me more than how to pamper myself.

 Sometimes loving yourself requires the occasional splurge.

As you may have guessed, this massage was my first and for good reason: That shit is expensive. But worth it. As mine was a gift (thanks, Mom), I definitely would have more qualms over canceling my appointment than I would over paying the almost $80 fee myself; however, after having had the experience, I’d pay to have it again in a heartbeat (albeit in a few months’ time). Recognizing the expense of the experience I was willing to commit to it 100 percent. I turned off my phone as soon as I entered the waiting room, allowed the rain forest-esque soundtrack transport me to that watery paradise in the ceiling speakers, and went with it. Yes, I even stripped down all the way.

Sharing is caring. Really.

I ended up sharing a room with one of my sisters while the other had a room to herself. After we were introduced to our masseuses, my younger sister and I spent a cold minute or two removing our clothes and climbing into the heated massage beds, discussing our expectations for the massage amidst nervous giggles. It was comforting to have someone to talk to about the experience before it happened. Our masseuses had given us several minutes to ourselves to get comfortable and in that time my sister and I revealed our concerns: Is it bad that I’m scared for her to touch my feet? What do you think a butt massage feels like? Is she going to see our boobs? What if this makes me have to pee? Sure, they were minor concerns, but concerns nonetheless and each of us assured the other that this was not a time for worrying, but for release. We could share these worries in the moment, but they were only to exist as long as the conversation and it was our jobs to make sure that was the case for the other.

Let others help you, not define you.

As soon as I felt the weight of my masseuse’s hands on my back they felt familiar, as if they’d been there forever. If I thought about it, it was a little weird having a woman knead her fingers into my flesh; if I didn’t think about it, it wasn’t strange at all. After all, this was my body and her hands were just reminding me that it was. Her motions lulled me into a daze but I was far from sleepy; instead, I felt as if I could think clearly for the first time in a long time. I contemplated why it was that this exercise felt so liberating—physically and spiritually—and I came to realize that it was because for the first time, I recognized my body as just what it is: mine. I had skin, muscle, bone, mass and for an hour that was my sole focus. The masseuse’s hands were releasing toxins (or so she told me) and slackening tension, but it was my body that was able to produce such wonderful sensations and I had to give my body credit.

Practicing self love shouldn’t give way to a guilt trip. 

The great thing about self love is that it can be practiced anywhere at any time on any scale. Maybe getting a professional massage isn’t the most practical thing at the beginning of a busy week, but that doesn’t mean you can’t—or shouldn’t—reap the benefits of healthy self-indulgence in other ways. Instead of an hour on a massage bed, spend five or ten minutes in quiet meditation on the floor of your apartment, behind your desk at work, or on the couch in the study lounge. And, darlings, don’t feel guilty about it! Taking the time every day to recognize your own needs is extremely beneficial and ultimately more productive than powering through a stressful day.

When I left the spa a month ago, my body felt the effects of the massage for a day or two afterwards, but my brain has yet to forget the peace of mind that the experience gave me. Since then I’ve tried to replicate that state of mind every day—when I wake up, in the shower, on my walks home, or before bed—and I can honestly tell you that I’m happier with myself when I take the time to do so.

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