Are We Talking About Self-care, or Self-indulgence?
In this article, Registered Provisional Psychologist Lyvia Hughes clears up some misconceptions around the buzzword "self-care." Hint hint- it isn't about bubble baths.
Self-care. We have all heard the term. It’s become a bit of a buzzword. But what is it?
Contrary to the dialogue surrounding the word, self-care is not just bubble baths and
chocolate cake, though that does sound nice. Oftentimes when one says self-care, what
they really mean is self-indulgence.
Self-indulgence is about indulging in your cravings and desires within moderation.
That is the bubble baths, the chocolate cake, staying up late to watch a movie, and
going out with friends when you have a sink full of dishes. While still important,
there is one key difference from self-care. Self-indulgence often results in negative consequences (feeling ill after all the chocolate cake, being tired and irritable the next day, more dishes the next day). It is also a more passive act. Self-indulgence is best done in
Self-care, on the other hand, is ideally a daily practice. It is proactively and intentionally
taking care of yourself, and your environment, daily. Self-care is the act of taking
care of yourself, being kind to yourself, and loving yourself. It is the effort that you put
into meeting your unmet needs.
Sometimes that means doing the hard work. It is establishing - and enforcing
boundaries with that family member who is always telling you what to do. It is doing
the dishes at the end of a long day, so you can wake up to a clean house. It is going to
therapy to work on unhealthy behaviour patterns. It is deconstructing limiting self-
beliefs, and working to replace them with thoughts and beliefs that serve you better.
The work itself is not always easy. Oftentimes it's f#*@ing hard. You may feel overwhelmed,
and like you can’t continue. Meeting your needs, over your wants is not easy.
Especially when the two conflict with each other (think, establishing healthy
boundaries, when you would really rather not speak up). Self-care can be made to be
even more difficult when it is mistaken for self-indulgence.
Have you ever had a growing to-do list that you need to tackle, and a friend tells you
that you “just need to relax?” and to “try some self-care” when what they really mean is
that you should partake in self-indulgence? Have you ever then felt guilty that your to-
do list wasn’t complete? Or maybe you felt ashamed for even thinking about indulging
in your wants when you see everything that needs to get done? You may feel selfish, or
even narcissistic. This may lead you to believe that self-care is not something that you
should, or even have time to partake in.
This is not so, particularly as you shift from a mindset that self-care is about meeting
your unmet needs. At its core, self-care is an ultimate form of self-love. Knowing that
you are worthy of having your needs met, and that you are capable of meeting those
needs yourself can be extremely empowering.
So is there ever a time that self-indulgence is appropriate? As mentioned above, it can
be used in moderation, and when done intentionally. However, to live intentionally,
and to proactively nourish your mind, body and soul, it will benefit your mental well-
being, and your relationships a lot more than self-indulgence would.