I’ve seen various comparisons between self-indulgence and self-care. The distinction can blur in our minds. In my experience–especially when it comes to working with my creativity– I’d say self-care is doing the hard stuff and self-indulgence is deferring it.
I am self-caring when I choose to sit down and tackle a tough writing piece. I’m self-indulging when I eat a giant Skor cookie in one go and feel the sugar granules in my bloodstream to avoid writing said piece.
Self-care is paying attention when you feel bad. Self-care is sitting in the uncomfortable, letting it rise, watching it from a mental distance. You recognize something’s off and try to make sense of that reaction through a non-judgmental lens–and hopefully, neutralize that feeling. Self-care is trying to figure things out with a didactic mind, a mind open to various forms of interpretation. It’s an enormous, often tedious responsibility.
Many of us think the feel-good part is the destination–and sometimes it is. But when we’re self-indulging, it’s simply the tipsy feeling we have before getting bad drunk. It’s not a final destination, but a distraction.
I self-indulged for many years–mainly in the form of food. I ate cookies, ice cream, and bars of chocolate, and I drowned in bottles of chocolate milk pushing it down, obtaining temporary relief from the brewing, inadequate environment I created for my mind. If I was honest with myself, it was a mind that was wounded, perhaps even traumatized, one that I needed a break from on a daily basis.
Not all self-indulgence feels good. It can look like seething anger with the tunnel vision you create for yourself. A tunnel vision can be highly self-destructive when you don’t watch where your thoughts go (meditation helps manage this).
The longer we engage in self-indulgence, the harder it will be to start the journey of self-care (I recommend micro-steps). Self-indulgence can come in the form of feeding procrastination that becomes more difficult to overcome (procrastination can serve a useful purpose, but only to a certain point).
Accompanying this feeling–this mental stagnation of avoidance–is its’ sister, anxiety. Anxiety-feeding can be a result of chronic self-indulgence. There is much truth to the cliched saying of what we resist will persist.
While self-indulgence involves pushing down feelings of pain, when untamed and lacking in maturity, it’s an act of defiance. Those who are self-indulgent with a rebellious streak desire not wanting to be told what to do by their own mind and intuition. The result is a twin of battling voices; one defies, the other tries to correct, resulting in a busy place that could prevent a soul from going forward. It can prevent a soul from healing, or doing what it needs to do to come out on the other, better side. Essentially, it’s preventing oneself from facing the need to take the tough first step in the growing-pain journey of self-care.
Nuts and Bolts of Self-Care
A mindset that must accompany self-care is that of compassion. If not monitored or nurtured properly, the journey of self-care, which happens in minuscule increments, can backfire. Many of us who want to heal through self-care want to do too much too soon. I take baby steps forward, which can easily go backwards on occasion. I try not to see it as a failure, but simply as part of the process.
Trial, error, error, one more error, another trial, error, error, error, trial, success. For example, if a healing person voices an injustice, and nothing is done to correct it, the healing person should not see it as a failure–for the micro-lesson in that lesson of self-care is simply voicing the injustice. This micro-lesson is a step towards the next time, when the voice will be part of the permanent part of the tapestry of a new transformed soul, and having the will to keep pushing at the next battle, which will transcend one into the next realm of inner power.
A second companion in the self-care process is patience. Patience is one of the most underrated virtues in a world of instant gratification. Patience, is the banana that people forget when baking a mental banana cream pie of self-care. Patience, a metaphorical hand you’d have to hold to control your emotionally-charged inner toddler; the toddler that wasn’t heard for years, perhaps even decades. The toddler that forgot it had its’ own voice because it was put on mute for a quick second, but forgot to return to the normal volume in order to be heard.
How many times did I forget to unmute my own voice, but kept the inner voice going? The inner voice, which started to believe the fake stories it told itself to the point that they were believed to be true (they weren’t). Constantly questioning one’s beliefs can become exhausting, so once it’s a habit, it’s easy to believe untruths. An aging brain starts to enjoy the comforts of the deadly auto-pilot of mental dialogue.
In order to break the dialogue of destructive self-indulgence, we must change the narrative of our introspections. My self-awareness first begins when I realize I am in my own whirlpool of a vortex and second when I actually believe I can get out of it.
I begin to wake up when I realize I am asleep. Lucid dreams are underrated. That Skor cookie isn’t going to make the task of my writing go away. The tough task of writing will still be there after I eat it. So I might as well just write.
When you start to let yourself feel like shit, or when you start to feel angry, or sad, or even a happy feeling that feels a little off because it doesn’t align with the depth of your perception. That’s a sign that you are on the right track, because it means you’re letting the feelings sit. It means you’re removing self-indulgence from the equation and moving towards proper healing. You no longer need physical aids or external validation to realize your inner power. It’s a step towards self-actualization that can truly change both your inner and outer world without borrowed emotional props.
Self-indulge by eating that cupcake. It’s ok to eat it, but self-care by putting it down when you’re done. Don’t keep eating mindlessly.