Real Self-Care, Chap. 4: Taking Back the Reins



(If you missed the first few chapter summaries- there are some links at the bottom of this post)

Chapter 4: Taking Back the Reins
The Four Principles of Real Self-Care

Real Self-care is not a noun- it’s a verb. It’s an ongoing internal process that guides us toward emotional wellness and reimagines how we interact with others. It requires self-examination, compassion, and honesty. It is most closely aligned with the concept called eudaimonic (or eudaemonic) wellbeing.

Well-being is divided into two ideas about how to live a good life: hedonistic or eudainomic wellbeing. Hedonistic well-being focuses on feeling states of happiness and pleasure. Eudainomic well-being focuses on deriving meaning and purpose that is congruent with our values. It emphasizes personal growth and accepting your authentic self.

How do we distinguish real self-care from the Faux self-care that is so common and so enticing? First, we need to take time to align our self-care practice with the following of 4 principles.

Real Self-Care Requires Boundaries and Moving Past Guilt.

It’s about decision making; you must be assertive in prioritizing your own needs and desires. You must learn to say no and to set boundaries. You must also learn how to stop feeling controlled by feelings of guilt. It’s hard to do this, especially when someone with really destructive behaviors is in your circle.

Real Self-care Means treating yourself with compassion.

You need to look honestly and unflinchingly at what your need and want and give yourself permission to have it. This is a hard one for me- I was raised to put myself last in line, even though it was reinforced more internally than by those around me. The Martyr Mode- a very familiar place for those caring for people with SUD, this kind of deferral is not lifting you higher, but creating resentment and comparison, which is the thief of joy and gratitude.

Real self-care Brings you Closer to Yourself

When you feel like your insides are matching your outsides, then you know you’re practicing real self-care. It’s a process of getting to know yourself. If you have been focusing on your loved one with an SUD it’s possible that you’re over-functioning for them, and under-functioning for you.

Real self care is an assertion of power.

It means facing the toxicity and trauma of being a woman (which is where I kind of diverge from the author- insomuch as I don’t find being a woman either toxic nor traumatic) I get it that being a female has been typically a minority space, but I don’t feel it. I feel powerful and effective. I make things happen for myself and others that are congruent with my values and concerns.

Some Caveats

There are a few yellow flags that help you recognize the price of practicing Real Self-Care:

  1. Real Self-Care is Not without Risks- You must be willing to make yourself vulnerable - by having uncomfortable conversations, by having to prioritize between your values and someone else’s values. When you are willing to be uncomfortable your will find yourself aligning more closely with your internal self. The eventual gain is that when you express the authentic ownership of your time and energy, there occur shifts in your relationships that are congruent with your internal compass.
  2. Real Self-Care is Not a Religion- You must be willing to doubt that there is only one answer to wellness. This is similar to the AA slogan- Take what you Like and Leave the Rest. We need to practice and stay open to alternative ways to see things.
  3. Real Self-Care is Not a Destination- Living by your principles is a lifelong process. While your circumstances are constantly changing you will need to see how your principles fit into the new situation. For example, raising young children does not require the same tack as you take with an adult who was your child. You have to be open to changing and realigning as needed.

When you care for yourself you don’t have to strive for perfection- you can walk alongside and try your best to remain consistent internally and externally, i.e., your thoughts, beliefs, and understanding is sympathetic to the way you act toward others and yourself. It isn’t perfect- there will be big fails.

Question: When was the last time you had a big fail with regards to Self-Care? What did it teach you?

I accepted to do a book design and editorial with a friend and colleague. I came to understand that she did not value my time or energy and was singularly focused on getting her book published and I was the only way she could accomplish this. I felt bullied and resentful that I was doing so much work and felt unappreciated and foolish to accepting the project. It was published and made some money and gave her a real boost.

And guess what I did next? I accepted to do another book with her, AGAIN! OMG what a fool! I knew it made me spit tacks when we worked together. I knew I would be curt and crabby, and all these were signs that this was NOT in alignment with how I felt internally about the project.

I realized I was mad and resentful because I was unpaid and unappreciated, and I did it to myself. That was the lousiest part. I know that I will not do a third book with my friend, because I value myself more than to do that again.



Thanks for the great summary here @Thinkstet! Definitely an eye opener in explaining what the author refers to as “real self care” and I do agree with her. Self care is hard work and I think it’s also important to note that even though the term itself “self care” implies doing it yourself, self care requires support from others. I would never have been able to take care of myself without the support of a therapist, my family, and a community of people who gave me courage and hope.

So while the author’s principles of self care may sound kind of scary or intimidating, just remember that you don’t have to go it alone.