The Downside of Self Care and How to Overcome It

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Self-care is a critical part of a healthy life. It means regular upkeep of our physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational needs.

Our article What Does Self Care Actually Mean dives deep into what self care is, why it’s necessary and how to do it.

And while it’s highly beneficial, it does have its drawbacks.

Today we explore the downside of self care and what to do about it.

It Can be Hard to Know Where to Start

If we’re new to self care, we may have no clue what we need, or how to do it. Uncertainty can be overwhelming, which may cause us to quit before we even start.

As mentioned, self care applies to the physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational parts of our lives. Some areas may need more attention than others.

To get started with self care:

  • Write down the four categories mentioned above.
  • Under each one, list three areas for improvement that can be made. E.g.
    • Physical: Exercise, diet, hygiene
    • Emotional: Mental health, anger management, stress levels
    • Spiritual: Meditation, time in nature, creative hobbies
    • Relational: Boundaries, community involvement, communication skills
      • For each category, rank each area for improvement from one (most important) to three (least important). E.g., Physical: Exercise (1), diet (2), hygiene (3). Complete for all four categories
    • Select one category that feels most important. E.g., Physical
    • Commit to working on area for improvement number one. E.g., Exercise (1)

When starting out, it’s helpful to focus on improving one thing at a time. This way, we don’t become overloaded with unrealistic goals.

If this happens, we may feel defeated when we don’t accomplish them. Focusing on one thing protects against this.

Once we successfully make the first improvement, we can move on to another one.

Self Care Requires Us to Ditch Bad Habits

Self care requires us to break old habits and build healthier ones in their place. Because habits are deeply engrained – sometime lifelong – behaviors, they become our default.

We may do them automatically without thinking. Even if we’re aware of our unhealthy actions, (like using alcohol to cope with stress), we may do them anyways.

This is particularly true if those habits are part of our everyday routine (like drinking a six-pack after work).

Bad habits can make us feel like we’re trapped in an unbreakable cycle. And while habits are hard to break, it’s entirely doable.

Read our article Why is Self Care So Hard (and What to Do About It)? to discover helpful tips for breaking bad habits.

We Have to Remove Our Rose-Colored Glasses  

Genuine self-care requires that we take a true look at ourselves. To figure out how best to care for ourselves, we need to look closely at how we’re currently not doing that.

When we begin exploring self care, we must assess our behaviors, emotions, thoughts, and relationships.

This can be extremely uncomfortable. For many of us, it’s easier to live in denial than face Honest self-assessment can leave us feeling shame and vulnerability.

But addressing these things is the only way to deal with them. So, it’s important to practice self-compassion while we do.

Self-compassion is our ability to show ourselves love and gentleness, regardless of the situation. It means embracing our humanity, flaws included.

To practice self-compassion while remaining enthusiastic about self-care:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, while maintaining good posture.
  2. Focus on the area of self care in question.
  3. Take note of the feelings that come with the thought, without trying to change them.
  4. Practice common humanity. This means reminding ourselves that our circumstances are normal. We can repeat (aloud or internally) a phrase the feels natural to us. E.g., “Everyone has things they could improve, including me.” or “It’s okay that I feel this way right now. Life is a learning opportunity.”
  5. Practice kind motivation. E.g., “I am capable of self-care.” or “I promise to take care of myself, no matter what.”
  6. Lastly, we can affirm our self worth by saying, ‘I am valuable simply because I exist. I don’t need to be perfect.”

Other People May Not Understand

When we start taking care of ourselves, not everyone will be onboard. Over time, people start to expect certain patterns from us; change may be jarring.

Perhaps we’ve chosen to eat healthier and workout after a long period of a poor diet and no exercise.

As such, our eating habits change during traditional family holidays meals. And we trade tv time with our partner for weightlifting.

Our family may feel insulted when we don’t eat the food they made. And our partner might feel rejected/left behind.

We may feel guilty for the emotions of others. However, it’s not our job to make everyone happy. We don’t owe anyone the version of ourselves they want us to be.

If we’re not harming anyone, we’re allowed to do what’s best for us.

We can gently let others know that we understand change is difficult, but their support would be appreciated. Maybe they’ll be receptive, maybe not.

Either way, we should practice affirming ourselves:

  • Practice self-affirmation statements like “I’m proud of myself.” Or “I know what’s best for me, and I am confident I’ll achieve it.”
  • Celebrate wins, no matter how small.
  • Build self-trust. This means sticking to our self-care, even when it’s hard. Accomplishing our self-care goals will help us gain confidence in our abilities and choices.

Practicing self care allows us to thrive, but it also comes with challenges. Along the way, we may experience uncertainty, vulnerability, and resistance.

Fortunately, there are solutions. When we overcome barriers to self care, we reinforce healthy habits and confidence in our abilities.

Don’t give up on self-care. The benefits outshine the difficulties every time.


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