When we talk about self-care, we spend most of our time talking about what we should be doing. We talk about what we should be eating or drinking. We talk about how we should be making more time for ourselves, or seeing the doctor regularly, or pampering ourselves with bubble baths and truffles.
Sometimes, though, the most important self-care we can do actually comes from what we don’t do. Sometimes the best way to take care of ourselves, to love ourselves, and to make life both better and easier, is to avoid or stop doing certain things.
These are six of the things I think you shouldn’t do for some of the best self-care there is.
Don’t care what other people think
We can waste a lot of our lives worrying what other people think of our clothing, our body, our relationships, and every other aspect of our lives. But why do we do that? Does their opinion really matter that much to us? Does it change anything?
Stop caring what other people think of you and what you do. You’re not living your life for them. You’re living your life for you and that means your opinion is the only one that really counts. Do what you want to do, what makes you happy.
And when they offer up their thoughts and opinions unsolicited? Ignore it. Change the subject.
We all want to be liked. And it’s easy to start questioning yourself. When you don’t hear from a friend for a while, you start wondering if something you said or did upset them. You hold back on expressing your needs for fear of appearing selfish or needy.
But when we worry about making others like us and caring what they think, we put them ahead of ourselves. Not only does that lead to not getting what you need, it’s also something most others don’t do in return.
Stop caring what other people think. Do what you need to do to be happy.
Don’t let your inner bitch run the show
We all have an inner narrator. And most of the time, she’s not very nice. She likes to try to tear us down, tell us how awful we are, how unliked we are, how inept we are. And it’s all too easy for her voice to become the loudest voice in your head.
Don’t let that inner bitch run the show. Don’t let her be in charge. That’s a straight road to feeling like crap and having no self-esteem or confidence in yourself at all.
Learn to shut her down when she pipes up. Learn to stand up for yourself and remind your inner bitch that there are plenty of things you’re good at and all the good qualities you have. Start countering her claims that you’re awful, unliked, or inept with evidence of the opposite.
Fight back every time you notice she’s talking. Do it enough and eventually she’ll speak up less and less often.
You may never get rid of your negative inner narrator, but you can eventually reach a point where the negativity is overwhelmed by more positive thinking.
Don’t punish yourself
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all fail at things. And many of us like to punish ourselves for those mistakes and failures.
We relive the mistake or failure over and over again. We use hindsight to find a dozen different ways we could have avoided what happened. We beat ourselves up and tell ourselves we’re pathetic, stupid, lazy, or any of another thousand horrible things.
Punishing yourself for being human won’t change what happened. And it probably won’t prevent you from making more mistakes or failing in the future. What is will do is make you second-guess yourself, question your decisions, and maybe even give you decision paralysis.
Use mistakes and failures as learning tools. Go over them to learn the lesson, then let them go. Accept them as part of the growth process, knowing that when you learn the lesson and let them go, you’ll have more resilience and more knowledge to avoid the same mistakes and failures in the future.
Don’t spend time with energy vampires
We all know those people who make everyone around them feel good, vibrant, and alive. And we also know those people who seem to suck the life out of a room, who exhaust you after just five minutes together, and make you feel down and even angry.
That second group is made up of energy vampires, and they’re the people you want to skip spending time with. They don’t add any value to your life and, in fact, they actively take something away from you: your energy and happiness.
Fill your life with more people from the first group and eliminate the energy vampires. And don’t make excuses for them, saying they’re family or going through a rough time or don’t realize what they’re doing. This is not about protecting someone else — it’s about protecting yourself.
In those instances where you truly can’t completely remove an energy vampire from your life, take radical action to limit them as much as possible. And take control of your interactions with them.
Don’t take their calls or respond to their texts or emails if it’s not a good time for you. Don’t agree to meet with them when you don’t want to. Keep interactions short and to the point and stand firm when you’re ready to end the interaction.
Don’t live with an “all or nothing” approach to life
We often equate the idea of giving our best with an all or nothing mentality, that giving our best means giving it our all and if we can’t do that, then we shouldn’t do it at all. This is an excellent way to get yourself caught in a cycle of exhausting yourself seeking perfection or procrastinating on big tasks and projects — or life in general.
Your best is not a finite thing. Some days, your best will be out of this world amazing, knocking out everything you need to do and then some. Other days, your best might be getting out of bed and brushing your teeth. So giving your best won’t always look the same.
An all or nothing approach to life is far too black and white for the variations of our abilities, emotions, energy levels, and other things that contribute to our best.
Instead of thinking everything must be right or wrong, black or white, good or bad, remember that everything is on a spectrum. And that spectrum has a whole range where things can rest. We can be anywhere on that spectrum — and it’s not a bad thing.
This approach also gives you room for growth. It allows you to see times when you’ve failed, fallen short, or missed the mark in some way, as a stepping stone to improvement. Instead of seeing yourself as a failure (because if it’s all or nothing, anything less than all is nothing), you can give yourself credit for the positive in what happened and learn from the negative in what happened.
Don’t give in to FOMO
We can easily overextend ourselves, and thus exhaust ourselves, by giving in to fear of missing out (FOMO). We don’t want to miss out on fun experiences, conversations with friends, a promotion at work, a life experience that others cherish, and so we agree to things without even thinking about them.
We run ourselves ragged trying to keep up the pace, experience and do everything, and never miss out on a thing. Eventually, we get so rundown we get sick and we have to sideline ourselves. Or we start forgetting things we agreed to and let people down by not showing up when we said we would. Or we’re never fully present for anything and we don’t create the memories we wanted.
FOMO is especially easy to feel thanks to social media. But we need to remember that we’re living our own life. And not everything that others do is a good fit for our life — just like everything we do isn’t a good fit for others.
Instead of being afraid of missing out on something, try asking yourself what you really want to experience in life. Instead of the scarcity mindset of “I don’t want to lose out,” try approaching it with an abundance mindset of “I can pick and choose from everything in the world, so what do I really want to do?”
When we remember that it’s all up to us, we can choose to skip something like a night out with friends in favor of staying at home with a good book and a cup of tea — because we not only know we’re doing what we really want to do, but we also know the opportunity we skip will come around again. We didn’t really miss out on anything.
Self-care is for you
The most important thing to remember is that self-care is for you. You don’t have to justify what you do or don’t do. You don’t have to explain it to anyone. And you don’t have to change it to please someone else.
Whatever you choose in the pursuit of self-care, choose it for yourself. Choose it for what it does for you. Choose it for how it benefits you. Choose it because it’s what you want, not because it’s what someone else suggested or thinks you should do.
If authenticity matters anywhere, it perhaps matters the most in self-care.
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
You might also enjoy:
SOS Self-Care: Self-Care When You’re Barely Surviving
When you’re barely able to keep your head above water, how can you possibly find time for self-care?
Stress-Free Self-Care for Single Parents
If the thought of engaging in self-care is causing you stress, read on to learn why it shouldn’t.