Why is Self-Care So Hard?


We know we’re supposed to make time for it. Heck, most of us say we want to make MORE time for it. Why then does “self care” get pushed to the bottom of our to-do list over and over again?

First of all, let’s look at this buzzword: SELF CARE. What does it really mean? 

Most of us do the self care basics — we shower, brush our teeth, fix our hair and put make-up on. If we’re feeling luxurious, we might even indulge in a bubble bath or a dead sea mud mask once in a while. 

Maybe we think of self care as the time after the kids go to bed, when we curl up on the couch with a glass of Chardonnay and the latest episode of Stranger Things. Or it’s the Girl’s Night we’ve been planning for a month, and the 2 hours of kid-free shopping at Target. 

As women, we are conditioned from a very young age that our worth is tied to our ability to care for others.

We watch the women we love—our mothers, grandmothers, teachers—give and give, and we grow up to emulate this behavior. We self-identify as “fixers,” attracting romantic partners who require codependent attention. We take on extra responsibilities in service of others—PTO, volunteer, board member, room mother. We take care of others. We find our value in our ability to serve—selflessly, productively, tirelessly. We are strong, and we know this because we can do it all! We can be wives, daughters, mothers, teachers, bosses, leaders, advocates. So what if all the self-care we fit in this week was a drive-through Pumpkin Spice Latte and an 10 minute nap in carline. We are superwomen, and everyone’s lunch is always packed. 

Not that serving others is a bad thing…far from it! I loved my years of teaching. I get huge amounts of joy caring for my children, and helping my clients rediscover their inner fire is immensely rewarding. But, if I’m not intentionally dedicating time to also tend to my own emotional and physical needs, I wind up drained, depleted and stressed-out.

Self portrait of me feeling overwhelmed and burned out 😅

We often confuse self care with numbing out from all the stress and anxiety.

We zone out watching Netflix, drinking wine, reading novels, and scrolling Pinterest. And while these things are not necessarily ‘bad’ (in small quantities), they aren’t refueling our energy reserves or replenishing our rapidly depleting bucket of empathy. 

Real self care is taking some of that nurturing, giving energy that you constantly dole out to everyone else in your life and turning it back towards you.

Real self-care means doing things that recharge you, wake you up, and allow the stress of the day to transform, not just numb it away or push it aside. 

Real self care looks different for everyone. Why? Because caring for your unique self means allowing time for the things that truly fill your cup.

For me, these activities are yoga, riding my bike, hiking, laying in the grass, venting to my best friend, and singing loudly in the car with all the windows down. When I’m feeling stressed or drained from o-so-much attending to everyone else’s needs, these are the things that bring me back to myself. 

But these aren’t the things I always WANT to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed and depleted. I spent years drinking away my fatigue, drowning my stress at the bottom of a wineglass and muting my anxiety with episode after episode of nighttime TV. Some days I still find myself staring at my iPhone looking for cat videos. 

Unfortunately these avoidance tactics we fall back on don’t do the job of actually relieving our stress. The stress is still there, in our bodies, just shoved a bit farther down. (Pack it down good, because we gotta make room for more coming tomorrow!) If we continue to neglect REAL SELF CARE, we just pile up more and more inner garbage, which can begin to manifest in physical problems and eventually total burnout. 

Real self care, on the other hand, allows that stress to leave our bodies! Real self care includes activities that complete the stress cycle and free us from the build up of all that shoved-down crap.

Real self care energizes us, so that we may rise up and continue to be the caring, nurturing, supportive women that we are. 

Self portrait of me remembering to do REAL self care! 🚴🏼‍♀️

So, why is it so hard to put into practice?

Why do I still argue with myself about carving out time for an afternoon walk? Even with all the intentional work I’ve done, I still want to reach for the ice cream sandwich instead of the yoga mat sometimes.

When I dig into my beliefs around “taking time for myself,” I notice that little alarm that lights up letting me know I’m entering into “selfish” territory. Using precious minutes of my day to spend ONLY ON MYSELF must mean that I am spending LESS time serving others (my kids, my job, my partner, my causes, etc, etc). 

Sound familiar to anyone?? 🙄

But, ask yourself: Is that really true? If I take time to care for myself in ways that replenish me and make me happier and more energized, how can that possibly take anything away from someone else? In fact, it really does the opposite—if I have refilled my cup, I now have that much more to give! 

You know the whole You-can’t-pour-from-an-empty-cup adage? Yep, it’s pretty true. The turnaround to that antiquated lie I’ve been telling myself for years is: When I take time to attend to my own self-care, I am better equipped to care for others (as a parent, a spouse, a coach, etc). 

I invite you today to do two things:

First, identify what do you do for self-care. Ask yourself, Are these things offering you REAL care, or are they primarily avoidant or numbing?

And second, dig deep and see if you can determine your underlying beliefs about taking time out for yourself. Investigate these beliefs and ask yourself if they are true and beneficial, or are they in need of a fresh turnaround?

Drop a comment below and share your self-discoveries!

Skye Nicholson is a certified Empowerment Coach and founder of Soul’s Truth Coaching LLC, life coaching services for women. If you are a women in need of self-care, visit soulstruthcoaching.com and find out how empowerment coaching might help you with stress management, work-life balance, or reducing burnout!

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