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Self-Care vs. Self-Indulgence

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

There’s a lot of talk about “self-care” these days. Usually, it’s on social media and accompanied by a pic of a bubble bath, or an extra foamy latte, or a shopping splurge.

But the truth is – that’s not self-care. That’s self-indulgence. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a little self-indulgence from time to time. Treat yourself!

But we should be careful not to confuse self-indulgence with actual, real self-care.

When does “self-care” turn into straight-up “self-indulgence”?

Where do you draw the line between what feels good and what is actually good for you?

You see, unlike self-care, self-indulgence consumes our time, mental focus, finances and health to a degree that robs us of our means of being present and attentive in our lives.

So, while excising is considered “good” for us, for instance, it can become self-indulgent if we do it to the extent that we become exercise fanatics and/or neglect our friends.

Same goes for giving ourselves a night in. It’s “good” to rest both our minds and bodies, but if we do it as an excuse to avoid our responsibilities or as a band-aid to cope with difficult times, then it becomes a problem.

True self-care comes when you think about your long-term happiness and well-being.It’s about understanding your boundaries and not setting yourself back by going beyond what’s essential. 

Real self-care isn’t glamorous. Real self-care can be hard work, especially for those of us with anxiety, depression, or just a general low self-image.

True self-care is not an excuse to escape from our lives, but rather, a means to create a life we don’t feel the need to escape from in the first place.


Real self-care looks like:

  • Going to bed at a decent time so you actually feel good in the morning, instead of staying up all night playing video games or binge watching TV
  • Brushing (AND FLOSSING) your teeth every day, so you don’t need to have expensive and painful dental work
  • Eating clean, healthy foods even if all you want to do is drown your sorrows in ice cream and loaves of bread
  • Taking time for a healthy habit before bed like journaling or meditation instead of scrolling on your phone until you pass out
  • Laying out your clothes for the next day, making the morning that much easier for your future self
  • Going for a walk or going to the gym, even if you just want to hibernate on the couch for the next 6 weeks
  • Forcing yourself to keep a social commitment even though you want to cancel at the last minute and just stay home. Seeing friends and socializing can be so helpful, but the simple act of getting out there can seem so tough if you’ve got anxiety
  • Taking your meds and/or vitamins every day
  • Saving your money even though you really want to splurge, so you can pay bills or pay down your debt

None of this stuff is particularly exciting, or photogenic. And really, it just sounds like basic maintenance.

Because it is.

Self-care is basic maintenance.

It’s something we need to do, each and every day. Self-indulgence is a nice treat from time to time. But please don’t confuse indulgence for self-care.

This is something I’ve only recently realized, and thought it might be helpful for some of you too.

I came to this realization recently when I started to establish a more healthy bedtime routine for myself. The things that I do before bed every day have a much greater impact on how I feel than little indulgences like ice cream or shopping.

So look inward. Notice what you need. Focus on things that will benefit you in the long term, but don’t deny yourself wince and chocolate, when necessary. Make the effort to take care of yourself and foster healthy habits as a regular part of your life. 

What acts of self-care do you do every day?

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