Self Care vs. Self Indulgence

Self Care is a buzz word these days so I kind of hate even bringing it up. But I’m going to push through because I keep seeing a misconception come up with my clients that I want to address. So here we go, friends. 

Let me first talk about the 2 ends of the spectrum of what can be labeled as “Self Care” and how they can be a problem. 

At one end, I see Overwhelmed Mom #1 who is busy taking care of the needs of her family and she has a hard time even finding time to eat or take a shower. She are feeling overwhelmed and guilty because she knows that she should find time to go out for a few moments alone, but she genuinely can’t find the time or energy to make it happen. I see this especially with women who have small children. 

On the other end of the scale,Overwhelmed Mom #2 feels defeated with life and so she spends lots of time planning vacations, shopping, getting pedicures, in order to try and avoid feeling the overwhelm of everything going on in their lives that they don’t want to tackle. Because, she believes that if she just takes care of herself enough, she will find the energy and motivation to tackle the things on her list. 

Now hear me say this, my friends. I am passing no judgement because I have spent years as each of these women. Years! Sometimes, at the same time. 

I know exactly what it is like to feel you are going to buckle under the weight of managing a young family and you genuinely can’t seem to find a moment in the day where someone in your family doesn’t need you for something. It can feel crushing. You want to take some time to care for you, but seriously, when and how?

Then when you find yourself wandering Target because your baby fell asleep in the cart and you don’t want to wake him up and you decide to spend a little money on a new shirt for yourself, or buy your favorite kind of chocolate bar. Or you start day dreaming during nap time about what it would be like to go to Hawaii without kids. Then just as fast, you are terrified to do it because that would mean you have to leave your kids. 

I get it. So much.

So here is what I have learned in my own experience and as a life coach. These two extremes are both two sides of the same coin. They are both self indulgence cleverly disguised as self care. 

Overwhelmed Mom #1 is indulging in avoiding the discomfort of putting herself before her children, even if it is just for a moment. Maybe it feels selfish or wrong. Or maybe it is based in fear that if you set down one of the plates you are spinning, it will all come crashing down. 

So here is what I know is true. When God sent us to this earth to have this earthly experience, He first allowed us time to learn how to take care of ourselves. First, we learn to feed ourselves, then dress and clean our bodies, then we learn to manage our emotions and social interactions. Only then, after we have learned to manage ourselves do we have the opportunity to take others into our care. I don’t believe that this is by accident.

I believe that Heavenly Father wanted us to learn to care for ourselves first, because that is our first stewardship. 

Because when we are cared for, we care for others better. Physically spiritually and emotionally. 

I have found that when I manage my mind and thoughts around being intentionally making time to care for myslef, solutions for time management begin to appear. I am able to find a way to make it work. I can find creative solutions. 

When I had a two year old and a newborn, I wanted to start running. I had no gym membership or anyone close by who I trusted to watch my newborn. So after overcoming my fear, I asked my mother in law, who lives 20 minutes away, if we could go to her house after naps so I could run on the treadmill in her basement for 30 mins while she watched my babies. 

It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it worked for at least 2 years. And those treadmill runs were the foundation for my love of running. But in the moment, it gave me 30 mins to zone out and care for me. 

Now Overwhelmed Mom #2 is generally indulging in buffering behaviors to avoid dealing with “adulting.”

The problem here is that the problem is only being compounded. We tend to want to avoid the discomfort of paying bills so we go out and buy a new outfit. It feels great in the moment, but ultimately you are left with the original bills, more charges on the credit card, and a mediocre outfit. 

Or maybe she finally gets the kids in bed and all she wants is a moment to eat a big bowl of ice cream and zone out on Netflix. But when one bowl turns into 2 or the whole carton, and one show turns into a binge fest, the problem is compounded into feeling sick and wasting lots of time when you could have been sleeping, and prepping for the next day. 

Self Care can’t be about escaping when things get hard. Self Care is creating a life you don’t need to escape from. 

Managing your mind around the unpaid bills, paying them, maybe even working a little extra to get them paid is the real self care in this situation. And going to sleep so your body can rest instead of watching Netflix will ultimately create a life you don’t need to continually escape from.

It is being a parent to yourself even when it is uncomfortable. 

When we create that life, where we don’t need to hide from our feelings of fear, overwhelm and discomfort, we can focus on things that really bring us joy, rather than just reacting with cheap substitutions.

It is the best kind of self care. 

If you need some help figuring out how to create this kind of life for yourself, I can help. Click on the button below to set up a free call and we can make a plan.