The Folly of Failing to Practice Self-Care

Taking care of myself didn’t come easily for me. In fact, I almost ruined my health because I didn’t know just how important it was to practice self-care. I think women fall into the ‘self-care neglect’ category easily. After all, we grow up nurturing things—other things.

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Society glorifies the Supermom who works full time, has a clean house, prepares balanced meals, shows off well-behaved kids, has a model’s figure, and a happy husband. Yeah. That doesn’t (and never has) describe me. And don’t get me started on the Proverbs 31 woman.

Society also glorifies the Supermom who stays at home, lovingly nurtures and homeschools her children, spends half her life playing taxi-driver and go-fer, runs marathons in her spare time, leads a MOPS group and a praise team at church, prepares balanced meals, and has a happy husband. That doesn’t (and never has) described me.

Of course, as a young mom, I thought I had to fit into one of the above categories. I took care of everybody but myself. And when disaster struck, I had no reserves to draw on. Because I didn’t practice self-care (and I thought doing so meant I wasn’t living up to biblical expectations), I suffered the consequences.

How do I Define Self-Care?

A lot of people mistake self-care for self-indulgence, so let me define self-care for you. Self-care is a systematic approach to nourishing yourself as a human being in all areas of your life: mental, academic and artistic, physical, and spiritual.

For years, I used self-indulgence as a miserly substitute for self-care. My husband stayed late at work, so I’d eat an extra serving of Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream. The kids squabbled all day when I really wanted to lose myself in a book, so I’d go shopping and buy myself stuff. My students drove me crazy with their incessant whining, so I’d eat a dark chocolate ice-cream bar. You get the picture. Self-indulgence led to struggles with weight and debt.

I used self-indulgence as a miserly substitute for self-care. #selfcare #indulgence #fmfparty Click To Tweet

The definition of self-care is the opposite of self-indulgence. Self-care won’t make you struggle with negative consequences. But just like any other good habit, you have to practice self-care in order to gain proficiency.

My journey to better self-care started a few years after my husband miraculously recovered from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with central nervous system involvement (the lymphoma went to his brain). It started with giving myself permission to exercise on a regular basis. I then added healthier eating and more time to journal and process.

Saying, ‘yes’ to self-care also means saying, ‘no’ to other things. I learned to say no to one more cookie and reward myself with a walk, instead. Instead of reading magazines that painted a picture of what the world thought I should look like and act like, I spent more reading the Bible. I asked God what HE wanted me to look like and act like.

Change is a Process

Change didn’t happen overnight, but change DID take place. The next time disaster struck, I had the inner reserves to handle it without falling apart. That didn’t mean that disaster felt easy, but because I practiced self-care, I could keep taking care of myself while dealing with trauma.

In Matthew 22:39, Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But if we don’t love ourselves by learning to practice self-care, we won’t have genuine love for others.

If you’d like to know more about self-care, or download a free self-care checklist, click here.

Q4U: Have you ever been guilty of failing to practice self-care? What happened?

This post is part of the Five-Minute Friday quick write hosted by Kate Moutang. Join us each Thursday night on Twitter (#FMFParty) for fun and fellowship, then grab a pen and start writing when the prompt goes live!