Self-care is definitely a vital part of living a happy and healthy life, but it’s damn near useless without self-love.
Uh oh… wait a second… what’s the difference?
Well, self-care is comprised of things like healthy eating, exercise, meditation, rest, hygiene, boundary setting, etc. — essentially anything you do that’s good for your physical and emotional health. Although, for those who survive their childhood by sheer self-preservation, it may take a long time to discover what self-care even is or that they have a right to do it.
Often, when individuals begin their healing journey (from trauma, addiction, abuse, neglect, depression, or whatever), they start off in the “fake it til you make it” camp. They go through the motions of self-care because someone informed them that it’s a thing healthy people do. So they play along.
However, if you’re recovering from literally anything, there’s a strong possibility that you’ve got some toxic shame around whatever that thing is. And trying to build self-care on top of shame is like building a condo on a landfill.
So, what can develop is a mechanistic process of executing self-care-like activities without believing you deserve any of it, thereby disallowing yourself the enjoyment it would otherwise bring. If you can’t allow yourself to delight in kind gestures toward yourself, they’re almost a waste of time.
Self-care without self-love is like buying yourself an ice cream cone and letting the whole damn thing melt down your elbow without cherishing a single lick.
What the fuck?
Self-Care Is Not Enough
I get it. Trauma and shame are bone-deep. And for most people, recovery is a long and arduous journey from self-loathing to self-love. So I’m certainly not implying that self-love should come easily to anyone.
What I am saying, though, is that self-care is not enough.
A child who only receives food, clothes, and shelter but never a shred of love or affection is likely to become an axe murderer or a sociopath. So what makes you think you can “check the self-care boxes” while depriving yourself of love without eventually wanting to suck-start a shotgun?
Maybe you do everything for everyone else, and your self-care is non-existent. Maybe you attempt a bit of self-care but only begrudgingly. And maybe your self-care is a well-oiled machine. Wherever you are on your journey to not treating yourself like a second-class citizen, I challenge you to infuse these activities with a love and tenderness that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Make self-care feel like premium snuggles.
If someone gave you a thoughtful gift and you refused it and said, “I don’t deserve nice things,” that shit would be rude as hell. I want your self-care to be a gift you give yourself and receive gracefully.
Make it enjoyable. Pleasureful. Something you can relish and be grateful for. Allow yourself to really feel that goodness in your body. Marinate in it. Savor it. Know deep down that you are worthy and deserving of any amount of love and nurturing you give yourself. It is your birthright.