Self-Care Is Not An Indulgence, It's a Discipline

by tami forman

photography by military wife maria brown

The way self-care is portrayed today is completely and utterly backward. The not-so-subtle suggestion is that women need to be reminded to care for themselves because, after all, they are so busy taking care of everyone else. And the even less subtle suggestion is that while we should be taking care of ourselves, that doesn't absolve us from taking care of everyone else.

Which brings me to the second way that the current portrayal of self-care is backwards - it's characterized as an indulgence. This means both that the practice of self-care is something we are occasionally allowed to indulge in and that self-care should feel like an indulgence.

Think expensive bath products and luxurious chocolates. When we spend more time talking about self-care power of high thread count sheets than we do about getting enough sleep, we've wandered pretty far from anything that can be remotely considered healthy for either mind or body.

Self-care is not an indulgence. Self-care is discipline. It requires tough-mindedness, a deep and personal understanding of your priorities, and a respect for both yourself and the people you choose to spend your life with.



For example self-care is...

  • saying "no" to the thing you don't want to do even if someone is going to be angry

  • maintaining financial independence

  • doing work that matters

  • letting other people take care of themselves

If we are being honest, self-care is actually kind of boring, which is why it's a discipline. It takes discipline to do the things that are good for us instead of what feels good in the moment.


It takes even more discipline to refuse to take responsibility for other people's emotional well-being. And it takes discipline to take full and complete responsibility for your own well-being.


Self-care is also a discipline because it's not something you do once in a while when the world gets crazy. It's what you do every day, every week, month in and out.


It's taking care of yourself in a way that doesn't require you to "indulge" in order to restore balance. It's making the commitment to stay healthy and balanced as a regular practice.


Ironically when you truly care for yourself, exercising all the discipline that requires, you are actually in a much stronger place to give of yourself to those around you. 

You will be a happier parent, a more grateful spouse, a fully engaged colleague. Those who take care of themselves have the energy to take care of others joyfully because that caregiving doesn't come at their own expense.

And those who take care of themselves also have the energy to work with meaning and purpose toward a worthy goal. Which means they are also the people most likely to make the world a better place for all of us.

Tami Forman is the executive director of PATH FORWARD, a nonprofit on a mission to empower women to start their careers after a break for caregiving.

Are you looking to restart your career after time spent caregiving? Check out the PATH FORWARD CAREER RESTART KIT, a four-part series with webcasts, blog posts and checklists.  


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