Somewhere along the way I learned that taking care of myself wasn’t simple.  I was only well cared for if my self-care took the form of indulgence. Even a small indulgence wasn’t enough. I was only satisfied if I’d had a massage or a prolonged bath with candles and bells and whistles or a long, probably drunken “girls night out”. Whatever it was, it required big chunks of time and often money to the extent that taking care of myself became prohibitively difficult.

A couple of weeks ago I was facilitating a women’s healing group and introduced the discussion topic of “what is the difference between self-care and self-indulgence?” I was met with some puzzled faces. While I meant for this to be a lively discussion on a topic I thought universal to the members, instead everyone was looking to me for the answer. My friend and colleague Amy Chaffee bailed me out by suggesting:

It’s the difference between having a scoop of ice cream and eating the whole container.

It is that simple. Ice cream is a delicious, soul soothing comfort food (dairy free folks, there are options for you too!). Having a sweet treat is a great reminder of the sweetness of life and can arguably be an act of self-care. Self-indulgence in this example rounds the bend from self-care and heads towards self-abuse. In this way, we relate to ourselves in such an extreme manner, as harsh inner-disciplinarians. Scolding ourselves to only eat a little (thus taking away our joy from that small amount), or punishing ourselves for over-indulging, not to mention the negative health effects. Where is the self-care now? Similar to the complicated and expensive indulgences described above, we end up worse off than when we initially had the impulse to take care of ourselves.

This has me wondering about how and where other obstacles to pleasure, joy, and satisfaction we put in our own way. I’m very interested in hearing more about how you experience this pattern in your life. What factors contribute to or are impacted by this pattern? I’d love to hear from you!

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