I’ve had a continuous struggle for most of my life with identifying the difference between self-care and self-indulgence (the cupcake addict has decided to finally admit what/who is running the show). I want to take care of myself and a lot of times it shows up in overly indulgent ways, mostly with eating a lot of sugar or ice cream.

I recently reread the Louise Hay classic You Can Heal Your Life and was reminded that the habits or addictions we have are actually serving needs (ugh, there is that word “needs” again) we have within us. In this way discipline has nothing to do with breaking an addiction. I get so angry and disappointed in myself for not having enough willpower not to reach for my cravings that I forget to look for the underlying need it is attempting to fulfill. Being overweight, smoking cigarettes, drinking excessively, spending lots of money, or all the things we want to change about ourselves in many ways actually serve us to some extent. They show us a symptom of a much larger emotional illness.

It feels time that I finally really acknowledge what need sugar represents for me…while the process is still working itself out…it seems something to do with love as a sweetness. With two parents in the dental field it would appear it is some sort of “forbidden fruit” of love that I wanted desperately. Self-indulgent moments are much more pleasure based and provide a “fix” of something we really want. I feel worse after the indulgence to feel better about myself. Oftentimes I’m attempting to fulfill a deep emotional need that isn’t being met and I assume a specific item (ahem sugar) will satiate this desire. It doesn’t and then I continue to crave and want more and more and more ways to fulfill a gap. Most psychology books and spiritual will discern these two parts of pleasure and discipline and becoming more of the woman I want to be involves less indulging and more care.

For David Richo psychological health involves “the ability to handle one’s life and relationship in responsible, joyous, and self-actualizing ways.” On the other, equally important, side is our experience as a soul and spiritual being where spirituality is the “life-affirming responsiveness to the here-and-now without ego attachments.” Both emotional and spiritual health boil down to unconditional love among people who can take care of themselves and still be generous to others.

In a way taking care of ourselves could also be seen as self-parenting – providing needs and support for ourselves that either weren’t met in childhood or we believe weren’t met in childhood. That seems the painstaking part of growing up…finally realizing that it isn’t up to anyone else to meet our needs – not our partners, not our parents, not even sugar. It is up to us to take care of ourselves and this lesson is a hard one and yet also a relief. When caring for ourself we may not always like it – like finishing a paper or eating green beans. In a moment it doesn’t feel so great, but once we accomplish them I know I did something good for myself – I loved myself.

For as long as I can remember I’ve disliked cooking, I was afraid of becoming a wifey who would be stuck in the kitchen while my family watched TV because I knew how to cook and they didn’t. I much prefer going to restaurants and having someone else provide for me. Lately I’ve been preparing more and more of my own meals and there is something very satisfying in knowing I can nourish myself. As children we rely upon our parents to nourish us and as we get older that responsbility falls upon our shoulders. While we need food and water for our bodes, most of the other needs we get from our parents is love. So, it seems the best way to self-parent is to love ourselves unconditionally and know our needs.

For me is about self-worth and an inner wise voice to remind me of what I really need, not necessarily what I want. We all have an inner child inside of us who feels hurt or sad or victimized, as a self-parent you own that part of yourself and begin to notice what he/she actually needs that you can provide for yourself. I is mildly strict and very compassionate with my inner child.  If I loved myself what would I do, which choices would I make? Would I indulge or nurture? Sometimes it’s fun and I need time to indulge (I can find just about any way to celebrate), but it’s always been a slippery slope for me. One that as I get older I find wanting to integrate more fully and really face the ways it has hindered me. Pleasure comes easily for me, I can always find a way to make a situation fit more of what I want with momentary joy. The older I get the more I realize that self-love looks a lot different than I thought it did…it just might even involve finishing my paper over enjoying my Friday night, and even worse…gulp, not eating sugar.

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