When Self-Care is Really Self-Sabotage
"Just imagine how much you'd get done if you stopped actively self-sabotaging your work." -Seth Godin
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Ever wander into a swanky store to "browse" and before you know it, you're handing over your credit card for something you didn't even know you wanted?
"I deserve it," you justify to yourself as you walk out of the store buzzing from the endorphin high your splurge just created.
Or what about that sugary dessert you "earned" after eating clean all week...or that day-long, snooze fest you called "recharging" but meant you missed a deadline (like that blog post you swore you'd write)?
Any of these ring a familiar bell?
If so, you're not alone. I've definitely pulled the self-care card as an excuse and so have many of my private coaching clients.
Self-care is a tricky one because, well, it's so important. We need to prioritize self-care. Without adequate self-care we risk running on fumes, burning out, and creating mindless drivel.
When we're not taking care of ourselves, our outside world tends to mirror our inner chaos.
Self-care is so incredibly important because as the saying goes, "We can't pour from an empty cup."
But this blog isn't about the virtues of self-care.
At this point, it's hard not to hear about the benefits of self-care with every other post on social media boasting #selfcare.
This is about those times we think we're practicing self-care but are really self-sabotaging in disguise.
When self-care goes wrong...
Like so many things, when done without clarity and intention, self-care can easily become self-sabotage tied up in a pretty bow.
We get ourselves into hot water when we choose "self-care" behaviors that are in direct opposition to our greater goals and purpose and then affix the label "self-care" to them to make ourselves feel better.
We might be coming from a good place, but then comes the wash of guilt when we realize our self-care has actually taken us a step away from what we really want.
What am I talking about?
These are often actions that feel good in the moment, like hanging out with your friends instead of going on that long run you promised yourself. They're also actions that with sleight of hand could stand alone as "self-care"....i.e., on its own, seeing friends can fill your tank.
Since self-care is so good for us, these behaviors become permissible, and we believe they're beneficial instead of holding ourselves accountable.
The other quality these masquerading self-sabotagers have in common? They all cause us to take a step away from what we really want.
Blame it on fear of failure, fear of success, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, fear of being seen, or our very human tendency to seek pleasure and avoid pain, these "self-care" actions are more like self-setbacks.
Take my shopping example. There's nothing wrong with buying ourselves something we want as a treat, and this can, on its own, be a form of self-care. But when we have a bigger goal of saving money, staying on a budget, or erasing debt; an impulse purchase is really just taking a giant step directly away from what we want.
It sounds so virtuous and makes us feel a hell of a lot better when we call it self-care, though. It can even trick us into doing more of the self-sabotaging behavior because it feels so good in the moment, and, hey, self-care is good for us.
You can see how this might be a giant F-U to our overall happiness and success.
We're driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It's human nature to reach for what feels good when we're in the middle of growth or stretching ourselves toward a new goal (which can feel uncomfortable and painful). We're wired that way.
But, not everything that feels good in the moment is good for us. I know, it's such an unfortunate truth.
So, what to do?
I hate to sound like a broken record, but like so many things, it all starts with awareness and upgrading our mindset.
Check in with yourself the next time your self-care makes you feel less-than. Could you be secretly self-sabotaging yourself? If so, what's up? What might be behind this self-sabotage?
Then, go easy on yourself. Beating up on ourselves never gets us far.
Remind yourself, this is a human response to something that might feel uncomfortable or painful...like quitting sugar, that 10k run, or finishing that daunting email.
Finally, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Choose a new form of self-care or self-love that supports your bigger goals, vision, and purpose. Give yourself a chance to succeed and practice some real self-care and self-love.
Not doing what feels good in the moment or sitting down and doing that task we've been avoiding is sometimes the best form of self-care and self-love. Not all self-care feels amazing and pleasurable in the moment.
Wishing you some real self-care and your version of success!
P.S. Let me know in the comments below if you've ever caught yourself in self-care that's really self-sabotage.