Is it Self-Care or Self-Sabotage?

Self-care is a topic I don’t think I’ll ever get tired talking about.

Taking care of ourselves is the only way we can show up fully in the world.

If you are perpetually running on empty, or even at half a tank, while you may be getting by and accomplishing quite a bit, you are nowhere near close to what you are truly capable of when you feel nourished, filled up, overflowing with energy and inspiration.

It’s an interesting paradox that many people face every day. Especially if you’ve been programmed to take care of other people before yourself, to nurture and manage the emotions and feelings of those around you, or if you are in a cycle of achieving and accomplishing and running yourself ragged to prove your worth or that you’re needed.

The paradox of- if I take time for myself and take care of myself, I’ll be full and able to create more and show up more fully in the world; however, in order to do that, I have to take that time and not be catering to other people or societal pressures, which doesn’t immediately feel like creating more or showing up.

And then, what does self-care even mean?

It’s not just bubble baths and dark chocolate, though I highly recommend both.

There are many many layers of self-care, and most of what you’ll read out there barely scratches the surface.

There’s what I like to call ‘quick fix’ or ‘band aid’ self-care, which is a lot of what you’ll read about that includes things like drinking green juice, going to yoga class, getting a pedicure, taking a nap, journaling about gratitude, and having a bath.

None of these things are ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, and often end up being things I do to care for myself. The difference is, without the other type of self-care (see below), these activities are just cover ups for the root of what you need to truly feel alive, nourished, fulfilled, and worthy.

That other type of self-care is ‘foundational self-care’ which goes much deeper into the realms of setting boundaries and regularly checking them, energetic hygiene (mastering your own energy and keeping other people’s energy out), understanding the signals your body is sending you, confidently speaking up for yourself, knowing what you need in any given moment, and having the means to get it.

Foundational self-care practices are what allow you to know if the actions you are taking or what you are choosing is truly self-care or if it’s actually self-sabotage.

How do you know if you are doing the things that will truly nourish you and fill your cup, or if you are just avoiding something else?

With foundational self-care practices in place, you will know your boundaries, your energy levels, what energy belongs to you, and how to listen to your body. You won’t be afraid of your emotions, and you’ll have the tools you need to face uncomfortable experiences with confidence and grace.

That way you will KNOW if the activity you are participating in or about to participate in is actually nourishing you and supporting you or is depleting you and affirming your avoidance tactics.

Example:
Binge-watching Netflix.

Last week, my menstrual cycle came early. I spent some time in stillness, connecting with my body and asking what would be most supportive of everything I have going on right now. The message I got was that I needed to completely shut off work, social media, and really my brain in general and just be for awhile, without moving so my body could rest. A great way for me to turn my brain off is to watch TV, so I binge-watched a whole lot of Arrow.

How I could tell this was nourishing:
My body felt relaxed and at ease- no tightness or tension in my shoulders or lower back, my breathing was deep and slow. The next morning, I woke up feeling refreshed and alert, still taking it slow but feeling the freshness of a new day and a clean slate.

Now let’s go to another example of that same activity.

Binge-watching Netflix has definitely been my go-to for avoiding unpleasant tasks or uncomfortable emotions in the past (and, let’s be real, the urge still hits sometimes!). What that looks like if I’m avoiding something- usually I’ll turn it on without even being super conscious of it. I might have a tight feeling in my torso, the same feeling I get when I feel guilty or “am doing something bad”. I scroll through social media and compulsively check my email while watching, trying to distract my mind even more from the thing I’m avoiding.

How I can tell this is NOT nourishing and is not what is true for me:
I tend to get restless and not want to sit still. There may be a headache, my shoulders start to tense up, my breathing is shallow. Neck and lower back pain. I stay up too late, my throat gets scratchy. The next morning I don’t want to get out of bed, my head feels foggy, my jaw is clenching. There is heaviness because I still haven’t dealt with the thing I was avoiding.

See the difference?

Same activity, completely opposite experience.

Without Foundational Self-Care Practices in place, the activities you do for self-care end up being those quick fix or band aid activities- they may make you feel better in the moment (or not, and then there’s the judgement of ‘why isn’t this working?’ to deal with), but don’t actually address what you need on a daily basis.

When you have your self-care foundations in place, choosing your self-care and nourishing activities becomes easeful, fun, and joyful.

The same choice that might have filled you with dread and guilt before (telling your friend you aren’t coming to her house warming party, for example) will be a choice that feels really solid and spacious for you, because you know what you need to really care for yourself and have a practical understanding of how different your life is when you are truly filled up and nourished.

Cultivating foundation self-care includes learning how to set boundaries you will actually stick to, how to understand and master your energy, how to create simple daily practices to support you, and how to know exactly what you need in each moment- mind, body, and soul.

This is a cornerstone of the work I do with my clients. If you know you are ready to set yourself up with these foundational tools and practices that will transform your life and the way you show up in the world, book a consultation below and let’s see what we can create together!