Preventing self-care from backfiring

Preventing self-care from backfiring

by Eunice Chua 29 Nov 2018

Self-love has been the topic of many a social media movement and campaign in recent years, flooding our feed with empowering messages that tell us to treat ourselves right because we deserve it. We tend to love these self-love messages because we’re more than aware of how stressful modern life is, so we lap up the encouragement and occasionally bask in the joy of making ourselves feel good. However, there’s a point where caring for yourself becomes something more harmful instead – overindulgence.


According to social media posts that preach self-love, caring for ourselves typically means allowing ourselves to do things we want to do, at the expense of what we should do. This could mean eating unhealthy snacks rather than health foods or taking a day off from being productivity. Now, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself in ways like these once in a while. The trouble arises when our self-care causes us to procrastinate, building our pile of responsibilities to landfill proportions and causing stress and worry to build up to unhealthy levels.


What’s the difference between true self-care and unhealthy self-indulgence?

Psychotherapist Emily Roberts says that self-care is when you do things that benefit the overall well-being of your body and mind. The best way to tell if you’re caring for yourself the right way is by considering the objective of your action. Perhaps you’re trying to shake off a post-lunch food coma. Taking a quick walk or a power nap is a great way of fulfilling your needs. Scrolling mindlessly through social media without fixing time restrictions on the other hand, could cause you to lose focus and exacerbate those feelings of laziness.


The objective of what you’re doing has to be a meaningful one too. If you’re truly caring for yourself, contrast your needs against your wants. These are two different ways of getting to your objective and choosing to do what you want all the time usually leads to self-destructive behaviour.


I’m guilty of self-sabotage, now what?

  • Identify the unhealthy habits that you always gravitate towards and cut them out of your life.
  • Don’t be too harsh on yourself either. Emily Roberts believes in abolishing the word “should” from your dictionary – this word hints that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to, and that’s not healthy.
  • Find the right balance! The self-love campaigns are on the right track because you really should treat yourself right. The secret is to think long-term benefits. Most self-sabotaging behaviour aims at optimising short-term happiness but jeopardises long-term wellness.


The final and most important thing to bear in mind as you embark on the journey of self-care is to have patience. Finding the right balance and successfully eliminating unhealthy habits out of your life is going to take time. Like Emily Roberts said, don’t do this because you should – do it because it’s what you need, with the knowledge that it’s only going to benefit you in the long run.