If you were to ask your friends and family about self-care, what do you think the response would be? Treat yourself and YOLO?
In over 15 years of mentoring women, I hear a common theme. Self-indulgence mislabeled as self-care with Netflix binges and eating whole cartons of Ben & Jerry’s or emotional shopping sprees to feel good. OR Women are neck deep in self-neglect because they have repeatedly tried to meet the WANTS of others to the exclusion of their own NEEDS.
Let’s define that for a second. A want is a desire like, I want to go to the football game, I want to sky dive, I want the latest and trendiest shoes. I want a new car. Now, these are extreme examples, but you get the point. A WANT is a desire, it’s something that IS NOT necessary and essential for life. A need is something that is required because it is essential for life. Needs are things that are essential for your Spiritual, Physical, Mental and Emotional well-being. In a healthy life, these are non-negotiable.
Let me put it into perspective: You can drive a Mercedes, get weekly car washes and waxes, make sure it is sparkling on the outside; yet never deal with things under the hood. 2 years down the road and you’ve never had an oil change, you end up with the best looking broken down car. You can’t drive it, the motor is locked up and you scratch your head thinking, “I can’t believe it broke down? I took that thing every week to get washed and waxed and kept it looking so perfect!” A clean car is awesome, but a clean WORKING car is what you need. This is how so many women are with self-care. When I poll women about self-care, the majority confuse self-care with self-indulgence or grooming; which explains why so many women are walking around out of balance and overwhelmed.
What is it? The dictionary defines self-indulgence as excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s own appetites, desires, or whims. Note the words unrestrained and excessive. Most things in excess and unrestrained are out of balance. Too much is not always better.
Self-indulgence would be classified as an unhealthy coping skill. It is actually a form of idolatry because we turn to those things for fulfillment and happiness instead of God. But, the temporary euphoria we may feel from self-indulgence, never lasts and leaves us wanting more. Self-indulgence is not healthy or beneficial. When you are overwhelmed, it’s easy to see how choosing indulgence would be appealing. You just want quick relief from the stress. Self-indulgence bears no good fruit.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 5.3 million women in the US, drink in a way that threatens their health and well-being. Women are turning to alcohol to self-medicate their stress.
4 Signs that your choices may be self-indulgent and not self-care:
You don’t feel refreshed
You end up creating bigger issues like debt, health issues or addiction
You are ignoring an issue or stress instead of dealing with it
You feel a sense of shame or guilt
An often cited definition of self-neglect is “the inability (intentional or non-intentional) to maintain a socially and culturally accepted standard of self-care with the potential for serious consequences to the health and well-being of the self-neglecter and perhaps even to their community” (Gibbons, Lauder, & Ludwick, 2006, p. 16)
In 15 years of mentoring women, the type of self-neglect I see most often is false martyrdom. Women will continually believe that they need (or have to) meet the needs of everyone around them to the exclusion of themselves.
Dr. Caroline Leaf says, “People tend to believe lies that reinforce their own personal beliefs.” Look at some lies we believe: lies about self-care, wrong ideas about sacrifice, self-denial vs. self-neglect….the list goes on. Romans 1:25 tells us “they traded the truth of God for a lie.” Taking care of others to the exclusion of yourself is unhealthy behavior.
Let’s look at some examples of self-neglect:
Women have no problem making sure their kids get to doctor appointments, playdates and extra curricular activities. But, when it comes to investing in themselves, they often put themselves on the back burner. They delay or even forgo doctor appointments and regular check-ups for themselves.
What about personal care? Moms with little ones will say they haven’t got a shower in a week and can’t remember if they brushed their teeth in the last couple days. Meals are lacking in nutrition. Women will snack and grab quick fixes instead of having a nutritious meal.
The forbidden R word…REST! Women trapped in self-neglecting behaviors will not rest. They will go go go and do do do and the lack of adequate rest will catch up to them soon. Proper rest is a necessity of life.
What about social interaction or as we like to call it community? When we get stuck in the cycle of meeting other peoples wants to the exclusion of our needs, we have no time or energy for social interaction. I hear women say all the time that they would just like to sleep. They are exhausted and want to crash.
5 signs you may be in the cycle of self-neglect:
You have unaddressed mental, physical, emotional and/or spiritual needs
You are not taking time to re-charge and rest
You struggle with personal hygiene
You lack social interaction and community
You can’t remember when you last had a check-up at the doctor
Self-Care is essential to thriving. Many women live in survival, but that’s not God’s best. He created you to thrive. It is essential that we recharge and care for ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Self-care is mostly internal application with external fruit. Let me put it into perspective, remember in the introduction I used the analogy of a car: You can drive a Mercedes, get weekly car washes and waxes, make sure it is sparkling on the outside; yet never deal with things under the hood. 2 years down the road and you’ve never had an oil change, you end up with the best looking broken down car. You can’t drive it, the motor is locked up and you scratch your head thinking, “I can’t believe it broke down? I took that thing every week to get washed and waxed and kept it looking so perfect!” A clean car is awesome, but a clean WORKING car is what you need. This is how so many women are with self-care. When I poll women about self-care, the majority confuse self-care with self-indulgence or grooming; which explains why so many women are walking around out of balance and in survival mode. The false belief about self-care creates a dependence on the flesh.
When I look at the wrong things as a means of self-care, I’m putting my faith of restoration in the flesh and not in Jesus.
Click the link below to download a print a list of 13 Strategies For Mom Self-Care