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What Does Self Care Mean?
Self care is when you practise various things that help to support both your mental and physical wellbeing.
It can be anything from going to bed early, going to therapy, regularly meditating or having a regular massage.
Anything that helps to support and improve your wellbeing can be classed as self care.
Self Care Or Self Indulgence?
It can be difficult to know the difference these days.
The term “self care” has been thrown around so much over the years.
It’s been overused, misplaced and confused with other behaviours.
So much so, that it can now be difficult to actually distinguish between the two.
Modern Marketing Strategies
We are bombarded with messaging from advertisers on a daily basis.
Phrases like “treat yourself”, “because you’re worth it”, all play into the idea of spending money and self gifting in the name of self care.
This approach tries to teach us that we have earned the right to self indulge, regardless of whether it actually benefits us or not.
Sadly this messaging is simply a marketing strategy for consumerism and actually only benefits company’s profits, not us.
Self care has become hugely exploited and has shape shifted into something entirely different to it’s true meaning.
Consumerism and over consumption is now often cleverly masked with a “self care” charade.
More than ever, I think it’s important to know what self care really looks like. When to use it, and how to make it work for you.
What Does Self Care Really Look Like?
As much as marketers would have you believe that self care means buying expensive things, and having champagne bubble baths everyday… it simply isn’t the case.
Acts of self care look different for everyone.
What works for me and my circumstances won’t necessarily work the same for you.
For example I lean more towards being an introverted person as opposed to extroverted.
If I’ve had a busy day of socialising, I will naturally crave alone time to rest and recharge my energy.
So my self care practise might be spending my evening relaxing alone in a quiet room reading a book.
Whereas an extrovert who gains their energy from social interactions, might need to meet up with some friends/family.
They might even decide to spend their day visiting multiple people.
This would be their act of self care.
Although self care practises are different for everyone, what should remain the same is how they make us feel.
Have you ever considered how your acts of self care make you feel?
This is a great way to help you figure out if what you are doing is really self care, or if it’s self indulgence.
Self care is meant to be simple acts of kindness that you give to yourself.
It should make you feel better not only in the moment but also afterwards.
It’s something that we can often overlook but can easily start to integrate in our daily lives.
What Does Self Indulgence Look Like?
As I have mentioned previously, self indulgence can often be masked as self care.
I’ve fallen for this a few times in the past.
Not long ago I went through a phase of staying up late watching Netflix and telling myself it was “self care” because I needed more time to relax in the evening.
In the moment it felt good, but fast forward to getting up for work the next day and I instantly regretted the late night.
Not only that but I felt so tired all day long and had very low energy to get anything done or muster any motivation.
I realised that actually by staying up late I was sabotaging myself for the next day and having a negative impact on my health.
Did my future self thank me the next day for having a late night?
Instead I decided to start going to bed a little earlier and either listening to a meditation app or writing a gratitude list from the day.
(more tips for better sleep here)
This served me so much better both in the moment AND the next day when waking up feeling much more refreshed.
7 Questions To Ask Yourself
- Does this benefit my future self?
- Will I feel worse afterwards?
- Does this align with my goals?
- Is there something else that would benefit me better?
- Does this make me feel good in the moment AND afterwards?
- Will I feel regret or guilt?
- How is this serving me?
Let’s take a closer look at these questions in a little more detail…
1. Does This Benefit My Future Self?
Self care should be something that benefits the future you. Whether that is you tomorrow or you in a year’s time.
Self care acts should be used to benefit you in whatever way you desire for both short and long term.
It could even be that your small acts of daily self care become the building blocks for a solid foundation of your future wellbeing.
2. Will I Feel Worse Afterwards?
I’m going to use fast food and takeaways as an example here.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve almost ordered a takeaway (in the name of self care) because I’m too tired to cook.
But is that really self care?
Of course ordering the odd takeaway is not a bad thing.
However that doesn’t mean to say that it can be classed as an act of self care.
Whenever I’m in this situation I stop and ask myself. Will I feel worse after eating this?
The answer is generally yes.
I know that I’m probably not going to feel my best after eating it (hello fellow ibs sufferers).
And when I check my bank balance I know I’ll feel bad about the money I’ve just spent on something that’s made me feel pretty rubbish.
It’s at this point I empty the Deliveroo basket, put down my phone and whip up something quick in the kitchen instead.
Also just to add, I can honestly say I’ve never regretted NOT ordering a takeaway but I have regretted getting one.
3. Does This Align With My Goals?
Remember when I spoke about self care benefitting our future selves?
Well this is very similar.
Acts of self care can feel extra yummy when they align with a particular goal we have.
Let’s say for example your goal is to eat healthier.
Your simple daily act of self care could be to add in just 1 extra vegetable or fruit into your meals each day.
Over time this can build into more nutritional meals overall resulting in a much healthier and well balanced diet.
Acts of self care don’t always need to have a direct link to our goals.
However, it’s a really great way to help determine if what you are doing is self care or self indulgence.
4. Is There Something Else That Would Benefit Me Better?
A perfect example of this is when I noticed and changed my late night self indulgence for early night self care.
Being able to recognise when something is self indulgence becomes a great opportunity to think of an alternative.
Make sure that whatever it is that you decide to do instead will benefit your future self as well as feel good in the moment.
Sometimes it helps to say out loud “I could do this…. but what would be even better is…”
It’s important to give yourself a moment to really consider what you are going to do to help you decide if there is a better alternative.
A moment of pause is in fact a small act of self care in itself.
You are giving yourself the opportunity to consider your options and make the decision that is best for you.
5. Does this Make Me Feel Good In The Moment AND Afterwards?
There are plenty of things that can make us feel good in the moment but feel worse afterwards.
The key with self care is to make sure that what you’re doing makes you feel good in both situations.
The whole point of self care is to practise little things regularly that help to boost and support your wellbeing.
Keeping your future self in mind will help you decide on what acts of self care to practise and what acts of self indulgence to avoid.
6. Will I Feel Regret Or Guilt?
Nobody likes to feel guilty or feel as though you have done yourself a disservice.
The best way to avoid this is to ensure your self care practise is really supporting both your mental and physical wellbeing.
If however you have acted upon the odd act of self indulgence, don’t worry!
This can actually be helpful as regret and guilt are both super helpful emotions to feel.
By feeling these emotions we know we have done something that didn’t really align with us.
We can learn from this and use it to encourage better decisions in the future.
It’s important for us to honour all our feelings and emotions regardless if they are positive or negative.
Make sure that you allow yourself time to sit with and really feel your emotions before letting them go and moving on from them.
This is the best way to motivate and support ourselves going forward.
7. How Is This Serving Me?
Sometimes it’s good to think about HOW your self care practise is serving you.
It can be really helpful to reflect on this from time to time.
As our lives can change over time it’s important to tweak your self care practise to make sure it is still supporting you in the best way.
A well tailored self care practise is one that will continue to serve you well for an extended time.
Make any changes or tweaks as often as you need to and reap the benefits!
How Do I Start Self Care?
To start practising self care it helps take some time to look at the different areas of your life and how well they are working.
This should help you to notice any areas that you could be lacking and need a little extra support.
Have a think about what kinds of things you could do that would give you a little boost of wellbeing to help support those lacking areas.
An example of this could be if you feel you are lacking connection in your relationships.
An act of self care to help you with this could be to aim for a few more meaningful or longer conversations with the people you are closest to.
Another example could be if you are lacking self confidence.
An act of self care for this could be practising positive and self empowering affirmations in the mirror each day.
The idea of self care is to help maintain your wellbeing and improve it where possible.
The more you practise your acts of self care the more your wellbeing will improve and become more resilient.
Dos And Don’ts Of Self Care?
- Choose your practises wisely making sure they are really supporting your wellbeing.
- Try using a self care list as a reminder of practises that work well for you. You can refer to this list anytime you are feeling a little lost or overwhelmed.
- Ask yourself “will my future self thank me for this?”
- Take your time when practising self care and be gentle with yourself.
- Try to practise your self care regularly, making it a frequent part of your routine.
- Don’t feel pressured to spend money on products in the name of self care.
- Don’t be hard on yourself if you forget to do your practises.
- Don’t be afraid to set boundaries in order to prioritise your self care.
- Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks about your practises. They are personal to you and help to support your wellbeing.
Why Do I Struggle With Self Care?
Some people my find they struggle with the concept of self care at first.
This is usually when someone has been conditioned to think that doing something for themselves is selfish.
For help with this it’s important to work on your mindset and understand that looking after our wellbeing is never selfish.
One of my favourite sayings is “you can’t pour from any empty cup”.
Meaning that we can’t help anyone else until we have helped ourselves first.
Deanna | Life By Deanna says
Love this. It’s so true that we mix up those two things from time to time. Love the questions. They really get you thinking 🙂
It can be easily done can’t it, but so important to remember the true meaning and value 🙂
Another great post from you! I love what you write about! Self-care is part of a healthy, balanced life. And you outlined it perfectly!
Thank you so much Susan I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it
Great post! Self-care brings self-love, which is an important element of happy living.
Thank you and yes I couldn’t agree! 🙂
COURTNEY YOUNG says
This is such an interesting post! I had so many take-aways! Love it!
Thank you Courtney, I’m so glad you’ve found it helpful
Really great ideas on what self care really is. I certainly have found myself regretting a late night Netflix the next day. Great idea to meditate or do a gratitude journal instead.
It’s very easily done isn’t it. But yes I think staying mindful and choosing something more truly beneficial is key.
Whitney Stewart says
This post is awesome! I’m very much an advocate for mental health and self care. I’m fact, that’s the foundation for my personal blog. What I like about your blog though is that it takes it a step further and talks in depth about what self care is and how it differs from self indulgence. I never realized that those could get mixed up. Thank you so much for posting!
Thank you so much Whitney I’m glad you enjoyed it
The Curious Dig says
I really like how you’ve broken things down here to help us work out whether something is serving us or not, Very useful post.
Thank you I’m so glad it’s been useful!
Amanda Newbery says
This is such an interesting conversation and it really made me think! Great topic to talk about…
Thank you Amanda I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂
I love that you make the distinction between self-care and self-indulgence. There is sometimes a thin line between the two, and it’s easy to allow ourselves to fall into the trap of self-indulgence when trying to institute self-care practices. Thank you for sharing!
It’s definitely an easy trap to fall into but if we are able to practise self awareness it’s easier to pull ourselves out and make decisions that are more aligned with us and more beneficial 🙂
Really interesting read; I agree the lines between self-care and self-indulgence often get blurred. I love the seven questions you have. Really gets you thinking about what self-care is and how it helps you in the long run (not just in the moment!).
Thank you Katie. I think the questions really help to dig a little deeper than the surface level that is often promoted to us as ‘self care’
Krystian | With Love, Me says
I feel this with my soul. Sometimes we think bigger is better when what we need is simple. Today I got a dollar toy to play with as a stress ball. Simple effective.
Exactly, often the more simple the more effective. Self care never needs to be fancy or look good, what matters is how it really makes us feel
This is so good! I never thought about it this way, but you’ve got really great points in here that got me thinking. I’m also a very introverted person and crave my alone time, often I find that my more extroverted friends can’t seem to understand it.
Yeees I can totally relate to this. I think it’s important to stay true to yourself and your needs. If you need that alone time to re-energise it’s important to allow yourself the time and space 🙂
This is very helpful i have been trying this year to focus on my self care and this post is perfect for me
Ah that’s amazing Tianna I’m so glad it’s been helpful for you!
Daphne Reznik says
I love this post on so many levels! As a blogger encouraging the “time freedom” lifestyle, I am going with “unapologetic” as my 2023 word of the year. Self-care is the foundation of ditching the 9-5 life for time freedom in my opinion and I applaud your comments on what self-care truly means, because it really is necessary and totally unselfish!
Thank you so much Daphne. I completely agree it is a necessity for us all x
Excellent questions! I think I’ve fallen for this a few times myself. The key one that I like to ask, will this benefit me afterward. Becuase if it doesn’t it’s an activity that’s a time-waster and self-indulgent. My time is limited, so I need to make it count!
Yeees I couldn’t agree more, our time is so precious and needs to be used to benefit us as much as possible 🙂
Lauren Brock says
I love this post! It’s so refreshing to see another perspective showing how self care doesn’t have to look like the standard of “self care” – I like to use the term “Caring for myself well” for acts of self care that genuinely improve my wellbeing. This posts touches on a lot of what I consider to be under this umbrella term. Thank you for shedding some light on this topic. I hope others will read this and feel inspired about their self care in ways they haven’t before.
Ah thank you Lauren, I love the phrase “caring for myself” it really is so important.
Whitney Stewart says
Had to come back for a second look. After rereading this post, it makes me wonder if I do more ‘self indulgence’ then I do self care. I mean, I go to therapy and I do stretches in the morning when I’m able. But I didn’t realize how close These two concepts were. So close that it’s hard to distinguish one or the other. Thanks again for clearing that up!
Skye Sauchelli says
This was such a helpful and insightful post! I really agree with your perspective on how consumerism and marketing have impacted and skewed the meaning of self-care. I think it’s wonderful that there’s conversation about this now so that we can get back to the root of self-care. A great distinction you made was that you regretted the action later on that you thought was self-care, and that showed you that it was really self-indulgence. Wonderful post, friend!
I’m so glad this landed with you Skye! Thank you for your lovely words x
It’s such a good read! I totally relate with you about binge-watching on Netflix because “It’s a form of self-care”. Now, I’ve set boundaries with it: so I still allow myself to watch my fav show (because I enjoy it), but I set a timer. In that way, I make sure that I don’t sacrifice sleep – while still enjoying a sweet end of the day 🙂 Great tips!
That’s such a great idea Giada! I love the self awareness you’re bringing to your self care 🙂