“You can’t get enough of what you didn’t want in the first place.” – Sam Keen.
Somewhere along the way, most of us learned to substitute fake self-care for what we really wanted. Maybe the things that really nurtured us seemed foolish, or selfish, or unimportant to the people whom we were depending on for survival, and we stopped knowing what we really wanted.
Many of us don’t trust that what we desire is okay to desire, and that we have permission to give ourselves what we want.
So we start substituting pale imitations. We eat junk food because we don’t think we deserve the real thing. The real thing takes time, preparation, and discernment. Real self-care, like real food, takes effort.
Last week we looked at what self-care is and what it isn’t, why self-care is our job, and one way to get clarity on what authentic self-care is for us.
This week’s focus is discerning real self-care from the faux self-care we’ve often substituted.
In a nutshell, like junk food, fake self-care offers short-term relief from painful emotions and leaves us feeling worse in the long run. Fake self-care is usually easy, mass-produced and ultimately unsatisfying. Fake self-care often takes the form of an addiction: something we need to do or we feel anxious, and when we do it we still feel anxious.
True self-care, on the other hand, is deeply nourishing, sustaining, and connecting. True self-care connects me to Source/God, empowers me to know what I know, and helps me grow. True self-care sustains me as I feel what I’m feeling. It connects me to my body. It nourishes my ability to let painful emotions move through me. True self-care helps me know I’m loved, no matter what, and that it’s okay to let go of what needs to be let go.
If we’re afraid that knowing what’s really true and real for us will cause all hell to break loose, we usually choose not to know it. When we don’t want to know what we know, we indulge in fake self-care.
So, how to tell the difference?
Simple. Our bodies know the difference. True self-care ultimately feels free, expansive, and authentic. Fake self-care feels caged and tight, small, and in our box.
In Martha Beck world, we refer to these feelings as “shackles on” and “shackles off.” And you always have the tool for discernment with you. It’s your body. Here’s a useful link about the body compass, written by coach Pamela Slim. It’s helpful to have someone lead you through this exercise. Call me and I’ll do it with you. You know the difference, I promise.
Another very helpful aid in rediscovering how to truly care for yourself is meditation. Anything that helps you see that you are not your thoughts is going to aid you on this journey. Meditation in its many forms trains us to find the space between ourselves and our thoughts.
We relearn how to take care of ourselves by paying attention to what we really want, testing our self-care habits with our bodies, and learning to notice what we’re thinking.
My guess is that when you truly care for yourself, you’ll notice some increased friction in your life. Next time, we’ll talk about what’s going on there. Hint: boundaries.