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Internal versus External Self-care

How do you identify someone who has good self-care and high self-esteem? Do you assume that people who dress smartly, are well-groomed, pamper themselves, and always seem as if they know what to do or say must feel great about themselves? Is self-care all about massages and great hair cuts and going to the newest vacation hotspot? How do you identify someone who takes excellent care of themselves?

Along with the self-esteem movement came new ideas about how to feel good about yourself. Do positive things for yourself to love yourself, it said. Tell yourself you’re a success and you’ll feel like one. While there’s some truth to these ideas, it’s only partial. Here’s why. I see many disregulated eaters who don’t take care of their emotional needs focusing on externals which make them feel better in the short run, as they miss the whole point of what excellent self-care is all about in the long run.

I love a great facial or massage as much as the next person, a scrumptious meal at an elegant restaurant, great clothes, or vacations where I get pampered. But I don’t ever mistake these kinds of pleasures for basic self-care. That comes from making choices every moment of every day which enhance your life. It doesn’t matter if you have your nails done weekly and your hair colored at $200 a pop if you return home to a man who puts you down or would rather spend the weekend with his pals than with you. It doesn’t mean a thing if you buy $500 suits and have the choicest seats in the ballpark if your friends use you and you give more to them than they give to you. You’re not taking care of yourself if you look great to everyone from the outside, but are miserable within, filled with anxiety or depression or self-loathing through and through.

Self-care starts with surrounding yourself with people you trust to take care of your heart, who you know love you 100% in spite of all your faults, and who will speak honestly to you as well as put aside their needs for yours. People who take care of themselves make life enhancing decisions most of the time and feel proud of themselves pretty much all the time. Because they richly, deeply value who they are no matter what, they set limits when necessary and always consider consequences.

Are you clear on what excellent self-care is or do you still think it’s about externals? Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but they should never be confused with taking continuous actions to generate positive feelings about the unique and special person you are 24/7. There’s no time off with self-love or self-care.

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