Despite being sadly situated in the doldrums of winter (this particular winter being no exception), February is one of my favourite months of the year.
It’s my birthday month (and yes, I completely milk the concept of birthday MONTH).
I also have a soft spot for Valentine’s Day since it marks the first date I had with my husband 15 years ago. Not to mention that a holiday about loving others can only be a good thing for this world.
In recent years, I’ve taken the theme of “self-care” for the month of February. I use it as motivation (or maybe an excuse) to do some of the things that I usually put off in the name of Mothering or Scheduling or the Crazy Fast Pace of Life. It’s the month I am intentional about making hair appointments, waxing, pedicures, etc.
The idea of “self-care” appeals to me.
I appreciate the encouragement to be intentional about the ways we can//should take care of ourselves in order to be at our best, not only for ourselves, but also for the sake of others in our lives.
As a mother, and straight up, as a human, it’s good to be reminded to put yourself first – make sure you eat and sleep and get dressed (maybe even out of lululemon once in a while) and indulge in things that make you feel special (fresh flowers, pretty nail polish, delicious chocolate, a fancy coffee). It’s important to be given permission to make time for yourself – get out with friends or on a date or just by yourself to read or even just to shower or bathe by yourself.
These are important facets to living a healthy life.
And as much as I believe in, and have experienced the health that comes from such practices it’s come to my attention that I’ve, at times, been blurring the lines between the ideas of self-CARE and self-COMFORT.
Self-Care vs. Self-Comfort
One of my favourite authors and bloggers, Sarah Bessey, describes the difference between these two ideas:
“The way I’ve understood it has been this: Self comfort numbs us, weakens us, and hides us. Self-care awakens us, strengthens us, and emboldens us to rise.
And don’t get me wrong, self-comfort has a place! We all need a bit of emotional or spiritual peace-out-everybody in our lives. But a steady diet of Netflix binges, drinking, eating, sloth, avoidance, shopping, bad habits, selfishness, and self-indulgence does not equal health and wellness. We can’t pedicure our way to resurrection. A bit of self-comfort has its place but it is a false form of self-care. Confusing self-comfort with self-care can be disastrous.
On the other hand, self-care awakens us. It is the care that we would give to someone we love.”
(You can read more of her thoughts and heart around this topic here)
In the simplest terms,
Self-Care = doing the things (actions, intentions, showing up)
Self-comfort = avoiding the things (numbing, ignoring, hiding out)
Doing the things, instead of avoiding them.
Furthermore, I’m learning that self-care can sometimes seem like the opposite of what we’ve assumed it to be; the opposite of self-comforting behaviours and habits of the couch, tub or glass of wine. However, utilized correctly, it can help us face our insecurities//fears//anxieties//problems because it involves doing the things. And in doing the things, our insecurities//fears//anxieties//problems become smaller and more manageable and less intimidating than they would if we simply self-comforted the world into oblivion.
In self-comfort, we find ways to escape. In self-care with face straight-on the things that we would rather escape… and make them shrink a little.
Take for example, going to the dentist. Self-care would be to make the dentist appointment and show up – anxiety medication, podcast and nerves in hand – for that root canal, and then make a payment plan to pay for it over the next four months. Self-comfort, on the other hand, could be to keep delaying that dentist appointment because it’s scary or uncomfortable and staying home just seems safer.
Taking true care of ourselves. First.
We best take care of ourselves (and subsequently those around us) when we deliberately and intentionally DO THE WORK of actually taking care of ourselves. Making that phone call. Booking that appointment. Showing up for that conversation. Following through with that difficult parenting moment.
The other upside-down truth of the matter here, is that sometimes the harder thing is the healthier thing. Doing more work can actually lead to a deeper sense of refreshment and satisfaction. When we are in the habit and lifestyle of making the best choices with intention and consistency, there will be room and space and freedom to enjoy the things that might seem selfish and indulgent without guilt or shame or regret. To self-COMFORT with peace of mind that we have taken true care of ourselves first.
To finish, here are just a few of the examples and juxtapositions I came up with, particularly from my own experiences:
- Getting up early instead of sleeping in (see my last post)
- Reading a book instead of watching (especially binge watching) tv
- Choosing real food over processed food
- Exercising versus finding ANY excuse not to
- Fixing a broken relationship (or at least working on your end) rather than letting it sit
- Stillness versus busyness (not having every second accounted for and every hour planned with activities)
- Giving ourselves wide margins between activities and tasks and obligations
- Finding the quiet instead of surrounding ourselves with noise to distract ourselves from something that likely needs to be faced and dealt with.
- Cleaning a messy house rather than moving around within it, stepping over toys, trying to ignore piles of laundry or dirty dishes
- Volunteering time instead of hoarding it
Self-care is worth it.
Both self-care and self-comfort are necessary and important to our sense of self and well-being. Both are important to model for our children and cultivate in the lives of friends. There will be times (days, seasons, months) where self-comfort is what you need. You might need healing and recovery; rest and rehabilitation. But self-comfort has got nothing on self-care and self-care is WORTH it.
PS – This article was the first “mindblower” for me with the bottom-line message: don’t create a life that you need to escape from.