Self-Care = Self Care

The Universe forced me to learn some hard lessons about self-care. Shortly before my twins were born two and a half years ago, my mom died of heart failure. She had always been my number one fan. I don’t know how else to explain it, but losing her was like losing a huge chunk of my self-esteem.

A few months later, my twins came into the world. Having two newborns at the same time was hard. Really hard. I got little sleep, barely ate, showered or brushed my teeth.

A few months after the babies were born, I happened upon an article by Master Coach Susan Hyatt titled The Mother of All Mothers. In this post, Susan reminded me of how exhausting it can be to expect other people to give you what you need. We give away much of our own power to be happy, she explains, when we allow external circumstances to dictate our happiness.

The major “aha” was that I didn’t have to give anything up. Sure my circumstances had changed in a major way, but I could mother myself, so to speak. I could be my own number one fan. I could figure out how to get my basic needs met. The formula goes something like this:

Self Care = Self Care


It seems obvious to me now but I don’t think I would have “gotten” this lesson if mom would have been around to provide emotional support or if there had only been one baby…

I notice that a lot of women, especially moms, equate “self-care” with “self-ish.” A commitment to self-care, according to this line of thinking, is selfish because it’s all about putting one’s needs over the needs of others.

But this is classic black or white thinking. Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project calls it making False Choices. In her post, Rubin shares some examples of false choices. When it comes to self-care, for example, a typical false choice might look something like:

“I think it’s more important to worry about other people’s happiness, instead of thinking only about myself and my own happiness.”

But why does it have to be either/or? Thinking it has to be one way or the other, tends to limit our ability to find creative ways to live life. I mean, think of all the options that would open up, if we didn’t always give ourselves two choices! In If I’m So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight?, Brooke Castillo suggests asking a great question everyday. With high quality, empowering questions, she says, we get creative and inspiring answers. So when it comes to self-care, I started asking myself:

“How can I be an amazing mom and take ridiculously good care of myself?”

My world dramatically improved once I shifted my perspective about self-care. The unexpected benefit: I become a much better mom when a) I stopped feeling guilty for having my own needs and b) started figuring out how to get those needs met and (gasp) have a little fun.

As a result, I found I had a lot more energy and a much better attitude. This made me a lot more fun to be around (just ask my kids, my cats and my husband). I had more free time because I was saying no to things I didn’t want to do. I was learning, expanding and evolving because I was doing things that truly interested me. I lost weight because I was eating better and exercising. And I found new ways to involve my kids in the things I enjoyed.

Now that number three is on the way, I’m not ready to close the book on self-care. In fact, I suspect there is much more to self-care than I’ve laid out above. This is what I want to explore in more detail through my upcoming self-care series. In the meantime, I few questions:

  • What is self-care to you?
  • Do you think self-care is controversial?
  • Do you know of any ways you fall into the habit of making false choices when it comes to self-care or anything else?
  • What are some great questions you could be asking yourself?

Share your thoughts! I’d love to see your comments here!

Want More?

To see more from Amy’s Self-Care series, click here. To sign-up for her free e-course titled I Don’t Need Your Approval! How to Overcome Your Inner Approval Addict, click here!

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4 Responses

  1. Jen says:

    Great post Amy! I am at a crossroads with this specific issue myself! As a mom of 4 great kids (who are involved in MULTIPLE activities) and a wife of a very busy man (coaching most of those activities), I have a tendency to think of them first when planning things. For example, I am the only one in my family that needs to lose weight. They are all naturally thin and fit. They all have incredibly high metabolisms (always hungry!) and I seem to be making food all the time… aka… tasting food with them! I am on a mission to lose weight and get back to my fit state but I worry that they all will have to “suffer” with me as I start to cook differently, choose different foods, etc.
    On the other hand, I know that they all support my decision to lose weight and get healthy. I know they would much prefer me be around longer.
    Self care to me hasnt totally be defined yet though. I am working on it.

    Thanks for the thought provoking.

    Blessings on the new arrival!

  2. Elton B. says:

    Self care to me is making sure that I strive for FIRST a balance
    between work and play. When I clock out at work…I CLOCK OUT.
    I don’t take work home with me, I don’t think about it when I am
    not in the office. It does not exist to me.

    When I am not at work I keep in mind my personal priorities and
    work towards giving them equal attention. All to often people
    (consciously or sub-consciously) forget to “clock out” and bring
    their work home with them. They don’t get that much needed time
    away from the office and then run behind on tending to their own
    personal matters which of course follows them to work and just
    adds fuel to the already raging fire.

    While I strive to eat as healthy and balanced a diet as possible
    I do make sure I allow myself the little indulgences (like dark
    chocolate etc) without beating myself up.

    Self care for me is also getting into the habit of several times
    per day, everyday…taking note of all the blessings I do have in
    my life and sending out a vibe of gratitude for those blessings.
    People are frequently mistaken when they think of blessings. They
    picture in their head, being cured from disease, winning the
    lottery etc; taking for granted the roof they have over their head,
    the food they are eating, the job they have (whether they enjoy it
    or not), their own personalities and various creative energies.
    THESE are blessings too. Expressing gratitude for them is the only
    way to bring about more blessings in life.

    Many people have it far worse than we do.

    This is a highly controversial subject, one that must be discussed
    and debated carefully for it is very polarized. Self care often
    equates to some form of conceit or believing onself to be “holier
    than thou”. As a society we are trained, taught from birth to make
    poor choices. Fast food, soft drinks, video games, television…
    these lead to poor health, lower intelligence, dis-ease. Anyone
    who pays correct attention to a well balanced life(style); in
    comparison to those that surround them that are making poor choices
    , will often be seen as snoby, elitist or pretentious.

    False choices on my part….whew. LOL. I am notorious for them,
    though I am really settling into a place of truth in my life…in
    all facets. It goes back to my reference of a balanced life. Again,
    we are trained to subjugate our personal lives, our own needs for
    the “greater good” of our job. I was profoundly unhappy in my life
    because I couldn’t “clock out”. Now that I have learned how to do
    so, my life is calmer and richer. I am teetering on the edge of
    some false choice making in my life right now and I know this, I am
    aware of the process and am keeping those false choices at bay for
    the moment…

    Some questions I could ask myself would be….

    Why do I continue to engage old habits; ones that I know are not
    serving me, ones that are holding me back, ones that I know I can
    change but won’t….yet?

    What do I have to lose by cutting a few more things out of my life
    and replacing them with the things/activities that are going to
    push me further down the path I want to go?

    Thanks Amy….you Rock!

  3. Amy says:

    Jen – thanks for the comments. I love what you have to say about your
    own self care vis a vis your family. I know many women struggle with
    the same issue. BTW – I think you would really love my weight loss
    product. Let me know if you want to preview it for free!

    Elton – Thank you for your insights. It is so cool to get your perspective. I Those
    Those are some great self coaching questions by the way.

  4. Hi Amy,

    This post was so spot on – how can we care for others if we cannot care for ourselves? If we don’t refill the well, there will be nothing left for others.

    It’s taken me quite a while to truly “get” this piece. It’s a tough one. As you said, many people equate self-care with selfish-care and it’s not the same at all.

    (Bookmarking your blog – there’s some goooood stuff here!)


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