A way to practice self-care without feeling guilty.

Self-care, in my mind anyway, can be a difficult practice to feel good about. I end up feeling like I’m indulging myself. I do think self-care can become self-centered. If in every situation I put my needs above the needs of others, I’m overstepping the purview of self-care. Self-care does not justify the elevation or magnification of my needs, goals, wishes above other people’s, somehow making mine more urgent and important. Instead, I think self-care is acknowledging those needs, goals, wishes in the different areas of our lives: spiritual, mental, physical, social, and from there, figuring out how we should go about pursuing them in a way that’s life-giving.20180102_164435.jpgSelf-care does not have to be a practice that makes us feel guilty or self-centered. It is a good thing to do. It keeps us sane, and when we’re sane and doing well, we’re better able to help others and feel fulfilled, not drained.

A metaphor to help better understand self-care, and hopefully detach from it feelings of guilt and ‘wasted’ time, is to think of self-care through the lens of an ideal parent-child relationship.

What do parents do with their kiddos? They check in often. They ask probing questions and are genuinely sympathetic to the response. They want their child to feel safe, healthy, secure, and happy. They go to great ends to foster a healthy, supportive relationship with their child.

So for this metaphor for self-care, think of your body as the child, and try to take on the mental role of a devoted, caring parent.

Check in with your body like a parent would check in with a little one, questioning yourself without judgement.

Ask yourself questions like:

How are you feeling today?

Are you resting enough?

Are you eating enough? Is it food that makes you feel good?

Have you spent enough time with other people? Too much time?

What’s worrying you?

What are you learning? (from work, school, relationships, in your spiritual life)

Are the things you’re doing, thinking about, listening to life-giving ? Why or why not?

Then from there, answers in tow, we can explore the areas that need extra attention and make adjustments. Self-care can be challenging when it means changing habits we’ve grown accustomed to, but we get to ‘play the adult’ and choose what is in our best interest. Not the easiest. Not the most comfortable. Not always what feels good.

That can mean delaying instant gratification for long-term satisfaction.

Admitting that staying up late every night makes you feel hungover and working to get more sleep.

Letting go of food rules or aspirations for a certain body-type and accepting the body you have right now.

Choosing family time instead of a workout.

Self-care can also be simple. Soaking in the tub is my current favorite way to unwind before bed. I also started crocheting, and even though my current project looks more like a ski mask than a pot holder, it’s a way to spend my free time doing something other than scrolling my phone, which I do too often. Things like the tub soak and the crochet project are part of a personal self-care goal to unplug a night. I noticed that when I’m in front of a screen before going to bed, it takes longer to fall asleep, and I don’t feel as rested.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on self-care. What does it mean to you? How do you practice it in your own life?

Linking up with Amanda for thinking out loud.


20 thoughts on “A way to practice self-care without feeling guilty.

  1. Great thoughts! I think it’s especially important to remember these things as a busy parent and something I’m trying to do daily for myself in 2018. I can’t take care of others when I can’t care for myself. It’s like putting on your oxygen mask before helping the person next to you!


  2. It’s been interesting for me to learn that a form of self care I find very powerful is doing something for someone else – making a card or a little gift and delivering it to a friend. In this way I do not feel selfish, and yet it is also something that makes me personally happy and grounded. So kind of a win win. I think spending time with others is also a win win. You are offering company to someone else, as well as for yourself. But when those solitary actions of self care are needed, I am a firm believer it cannot be selfish, because as you said, if you are taking care of yourself you will be your best, kindest, most generous self to those around you. And they will reap the benefits.


    1. I like the idea of practicing self-care by blessing someone else. It makes sense, but I often overlook it. I also agree that self-directed acts of self-care are not something to feel guilty about, especially for those of us who frequently need time to recharge in solitude and quiet.


  3. I love the idea of instituting regular check-ins to remind yourself to keep practicing self-care. I feel like it’s something I lose sight of way too often during a full day! Unplugging is one of my favorite ways to practice self-care, though. Just doing anything that doesn’t involve the computer or my phone: reading, cooking, baking, taking a nice long bath. 🙂:)


    1. It is definitely easy to forget about self-care during a long day. Even if self-care doesn’t happen until later in the day, hopefully it’s enough to help you wind down and catch your breath. Unplugging is one of my favorites too. And baths 🙂


  4. That child-parent analogy is a great way to put it actually; I never really looked at it in that way before but that makes so much sense. Definitely will share this on my next must-reads post. 🙂
    Throughout the past couple of years (mostly due to my ED recovery), self-care has taken on a new focus in my life and trying to figure out what works for me in that realm. I really enjoy the cliche things like coloring and painting my nails but have also recognized the self-care aspects to preparing my breakfast the night before or doing laundry. On a semi-related note, I’ve been meaning to get back into crocheting too! Do you have any other projects lined up?


    1. Now I have a new appreciation for doing laundry. I guess it is self-care…even other semi-menial tasks, like organizing or decluttering, can be self-care too. Thanks for the new perspective.

      Crocheting has been fun! It’s surprising how satisfying it is to hand make something that’s useful. I want to try to make a headband and a blanket.


  5. Love the analogy with the child; so true! We are often so much less kind to ourselves than we are to loved ones. My favorite methods of self-care lately have been treating myself to almond milk lattes, reading, taking long walks with my favorite podcasts in my ears, and brunching with friends 🙂


  6. I love these questions; I think the thing that has really helped me is that if I don’t care for my spiritual state by being in God’s Word, care for my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, I’m usually less helpful and less joyful towards others. So I think it is important to take that time for refreshment!!!


  7. “That can mean delaying instant gratification for long-term satisfaction.”–this is such a good point. The whole idea of self-care is something I sometimes grapple with–am I being selfish? Or taking care of needs I actually have? I already know I’ll be referring to your list of questions many times. And the child/parent analogy is so helpful! Thanks for this.


    1. It’s difficult to discern what our true motives are. I find that especially true as someone who struggled with an ED. It’s a process of relearning to trust that taking time for self-care is beneficial and important, while differentiating between what is and isn’t self-care. Definitely not an easy thing!


  8. I really like your metaphor that self-care is like an ideal parent-child relationship. I made a banner for myself once that says “Care for yourself with the same love you show when you care for others”–but in truth, I’m not very good about following it. I also think it’s really wise that self-care is sometimes about the long baths and the coloring books and the comfort foods, but it’s also sometimes about delaying the gratification. I often find that if I take a few hours to get work done, I feel really satisfied and content, even if I’m not super-enthused going in. But that also can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. Thanks for these thoughts.


    1. I like that quote. And I agree it’s a difficult one to live out. Delaying gratification can definitely be taken to an extreme and no longer be an act of self-care. I think finding middle ground, moderation is maybe a better word, is best.


  9. love this, and the comparison to the parent-child relationship… so so true. self-care is vital to my well being. i need to remind myself that even if i’m busy, there’s always a little bit of time to check in with myself and see what i need.


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