Self-Care or Self-Indulgence?

It’s Sunday and I have the luxury of staying home in my pajamas until I feel good and ready to get out of them, or not.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  In another life, Sunday was Sunday Funday and usually involved drinking with friends, watching a game or playing cards.  Fun times were had, no doubt.  And as I’ve gotten older and maybe even a little wiser, Sunday has turned in to my Self-Care-Sunday.  And occasionally, my Sunday may look like getting together with friends for a cider in the afternoon.  Or, like today, it looks like hot water and lemon, followed by an hour of yoga and listening to John Coltrane with my coffee.

I’ve heard some people stress the importance of Self-Care Over Self-Indulgence.  What I take this to mean is that self-care is better than self-indulgence i.e. people who practice self-care are better than those who self-indulge.  Now, I’m not hear to argue with what I imagine to be at the heart of this kind of thinking.  I’ve known, and hell I’ve been one, to kid myself in to thinking sharing a bottle of tequila with a girlfriend while going through a breakup is Self-Care.  Really, it wasn’t.  Main reason, that wasn’t me taking care of myself.  That was me avoiding my self; the uncomfortable parts at least. There really wasn’t an intentional choice in my misery-loves-company-cocktail.  It was, to put it in to therapy terms, a Flight Defense.  Flight as in run away, avoid, etc. Which inevitably turned in to a Freeze Response of feeling numb, disconnected and very checked out.  Did I get some good laughs and tears out in the process? Sure.  But, at the end of it all, did that experience really nurture me? Maybe and probably not.

And I think one of the biggest keys to this whole Self-Care vs Self-Indulgence thing is this. . .it all comes down to choice.  Really Making a Choice with intention and thought and consideration.  And, does this thing that I’m choosing Nurture me beyond that first minute or two of pleasure? Does it Nourish Me?  Does what I’m doing Satisfy Me Deeply? Self-Indulgence has a fleeting quality to it; feels good in the moment and sometimes feels really bad afterwards.  And sometimes, that is exactly what we need.  I need to Feel Better Right Now!

Self-Care, on the other hand, takes a little more work. And sometimes, when things feel like work, we’d rather not.  Because it’s work.  It takes thought and planning and discipline and patience.  Self-Care will sometimes make me feel good in the moment; like really enjoying my cup of coffee and doing nothing else.  Self-Care will also take a while to start feeling really good.  Like me and yoga for instance.  At first, I did it to add another movement activity in to my week.  And yeah, sometimes it felt like work.  Getting up (out of my pajamas no less), putting myself in a room with strangers and getting sweaty.  But over time, sticking to it and giving my body a chance to really integrate and feel all the goodness that I was building in my body through the yoga practice, that started to feel really good. I started to notice how nourishing it felt to get quiet and let someone lead me through movement.  It became Deeply Satisfying.  Now, it’s something I look forward too and actually plan for in my week.

So, what’s the bottom line in this here Self-Care vs Self-Indulgence conversation?  It’s about choice.  When you decide to do something in the spirit of taking care of You, consider this: Am I really choosing this or am I reacting and playing out an old pattern of behavior? Will this make me feel better Beyond Right Now?  Or is this a sustainable Loving Me Choice?

Remember, there is no right or wrong.  Again, this is just another opportunity to get really curious about you! How do you take care of you? What comes up for you even thinking about doing something really nice for yourself?  It might be as foreign as speaking Martian (as in Mars:) Or maybe it’s as familiar as sitting down. Either way, get curious about how you feel before, during and after anything you do.  And when it comes to Self-Care, Self-Love, Self-Compassion, (whatever suits you best right now), really take a minute or three to listen to yourself and what would feel really good for you to do right now.  And when you’re done doing your thing, see if that feeling of goodness stays with you during the rest of your day.

And whatever you decide to do with your Sunday, may it Feel Good from the Inside-Out!

With kindness and love, Amber


Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda?!

I’m not a big fan of advice giving; ask anyone who knows me well that’s tried to give me, “Maybe you should. . .” line.  But, there are times that even I, a self-proclaimed hater of advice giving, have run across a little gem that I could listen to and even heed.

Back in school, I briefly studied the work of a well known psychologist, Dr. Albert Ellis.  Look him up on-line and you’ll find he is rich with inspirational one liners and quotes.  One of my favorite quotes by Dr. Albert Ellis,”Stop shoulding on yourself”.  I love this. Stop should-ing on yourself.  So, what is Dr. Ellis really asking us to do?

“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”, is usually said in response to remembering a past experience where we regret what happened or what action we took or what the consequences were.  “I wish I could have done this, or would have done that, or I Should have done (fill in the blank)”.  The message I really hear in these words, is “I am not happy with what I did or didn’t do and I Regret”. The action that usually follows that message, I am kind-of, or really harshly, beating myself up and making myself feel bad for it. Helpful?  No.  Are we all guilty of it?  Probably, definitely yes.

I think the easiest way for me to understand the Why behind his advice; “shoulding on myself” is not nice.  It’s not coming from a place of kindness or compassion.  It’s coming from a place of judgement and self-criticism. I’m not saying that there isn’t something to be learned from our past experiences and thinking about how we would do them differently next time.  What I’m saying is, the action of making ourselves feel bad for the past, a.k.a. “shoulding on ourselves”, is not going to get us to a place of understanding.  Should-ing is a place of blame. It’s a place where we’re focused on feeling bad about what we “coulda, woulda, shoulda” done.  So, can we just stop it already?!

And How do we do this, you say?  For some of us, who have grown up in a House of Shoulds, I really get that this practice of “stopping the should” is going to be a big change/process/experience.  And the first step is noticing. When you start should-ing on yourself: What does it sound like? What does it feel like when you do it? How often does it happen and is there a pattern to it? For example, I do a lot of should-ing in the morning, or right before bed, or right after I talk to (fill in the blank). And if it feels right and you have a minute or two, write about it and try to dig a little deeper in to your shoulds. What is your should trying to say?  How is it trying to help you?  And eventually, after doing this practice of looking deeply at your Should for a while, see if you can give your inner Should some kindness.

Last piece of advice, and this very important, that kindness needs to be believable to you in This Moment. You can’t give an inner-shoulding-voice that’s been around for a lifetime,  a line of rainbow, glittery B.S. But, you can practice a step towards genuine and heartfelt self-directed kindness.  Maybe today it sounds like, “I see you should and I hear you.  I am doing the best I can”.  Because at the end of the day, I really truly, deep down believe, that You and I are doing the best that we can.

Think of this practice as an invitation to get curious about your Self. To try and dig a little deeper in to your inner world and gain a different perspective.  Because as one of my favorite poets Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better”.