Man, do we love self-care. And not just because it feels good (at least sometimes…. more on that later), but because it actually helps us live better lives. Self-care is the lens through which we think about our health, and we encourage our Foundations and Freedom clients to develop a strong self-care practice.
But there’s also a lot that people get wrong when it comes to self-care and we think it’s time to set the record straight about several important aspects.
Self-care shouldn’t come last.
In fact, self-care should be the prerequisite for taking on your day. You can’t pour from a cup that’s empty and whether you’re a mom, a teacher, a boss, employee, friend, or sibling, you’re probably going to spend some part of your day pourin’.
Spend some time coming up with your full self-care toolbox. Seriously, take 15 minutes to write down everything that feels good to you. Long walks, podcasts, calling your mom, not calling your mom, eating a healthy meal, watching Bachelor in Paradise, napping, eating a cupcake, WHATEVER!
Then write down your most minimal self-care morning routine, incorporating the most essential items in your toolbox. What do you need to do at a bare minimum every single day to feel taken care of? Maybe it’s washing your face, stretching for 5 minutes, and eating a healthy breakfast before your kids get up. It could be planning out your day and drinking 16 ounces of water before you have any coffee. The activities themselves don’t matter as much as the feeling they generate.
Self-care is not self-indulgent.
Maybe you’ve heard that self care isn’t selfish. But did you actually believe it? Did you internalize it and let it show through your actions? Or did you hear it, nod your head, and then continue to put the needs of others before your own?
Yeah, we thought so.
One more time for the people in the back: YOU CAN’T POUR FROM A CUP THAT’S EMPTY. We know you love being a cup! We know you love giving to others. We know it brings value to your life and that it’s important to you. But to be the best cup you can be… To be the least bitter or resentful cup… You have to be filled up first. And that is never something to feel guilty about.
Self-care, not self-sabotage.
Here’s where self-awareness comes into play. Whether a behavior is self-care or self-sabotage has less to do with the behavior itself, and more to do with the thoughts that motivate that behavior. Let’s take a very common behavior: skipping a workout.
Skipping a workout is self-care when you wake up and say: “Wow. I’m extremely sore from the gym yesterday and I feel like I might even be catching a cold. I’d be better served by getting an extra hour or two of sleep than pushing myself to go to the gym when I’m really not up for it.”
Skipping a workout is self-sabotage when you wake up and say: “Eh, I know I said I was going to go to the gym when I went to bed early yesterday, but I just don’t feel like going right now. **Hits snooze.**” This is especially true if one skipped workout tends to be the gateway drug to letting your gym membership go idle for months.
So when it comes to distinguishing self-care from self-sabotage, it’s important to tune into your thoughts first. Self-sabotaging behaviors are usually motivated by our fear of negative emotions. Self-care behaviors are motivated by self-respect, self-compassion, and at times, self-discipline.
Self-care for the future.
Like we alluded to earlier, self-care doesn’t always feel good. This is especially true when it comes to the practice of self-care for our future selves.
Sure, it feels better today to buy luxury handbags than it does to save for retirement. But we save anyway. That’s self-care for the future.
Yeah, I’d rather book a facial than a dentist appointment to get a cavity filled, but that’s self-care for the future.
And sometimes the future we’re caring for isn’t even that far away. I could stay up all night refreshing my Instagram page and getting a little dopamine hit with every “like” I receive, but that wouldn’t be very good for my future self, who has to wake up and help clients. Putting my phone away at a reasonable time and going to sleep is self-care for the future too.
Now’s the time to check in with yourself.
How’s your self-care practice going this year?
Have you made good on the promise to show up for yourself? Have you been prioritizing what you need before bending to the needs of others? Have you been letting yourself off the hook too easily, succumbing to self-sabotage in disguise as self-care?
How can you make your self-care practice be something that works for you right now and sets you up for a stronger future?