Is it procrastination or self-care?
I received an amazing question during a recent, live workshop. To paraphrase: how can you determine if you are using self-care to avoid something (i.e. resistance) as opposed to knowing when it’s really needed?
This question stopped me in my tracks for two reasons:
- I think this is a common self-care myth – that self-care isn’t necessary, rather that it’s an excuse to procrastinate or fall into attachment or aversion. (Hint: it’s not. It’s a necessary part of developing self-compassion and resilience.)
- I relate to this – hard. Though I’ve studied Buddhism for years, I’m all too familiar of the trap of avoidance or attachment (another way of describing resistance or procrastination).
I love thought-provoking questions like these, and so I wanted to dive in deeper.
So what do you do? How do you cultivate discernment for what is self-care and what is simply avoidance, resistance or procrastination?
Opportunity for kindness
First of all, whether what you’re feeling is resistance or whether it’s your intuition telling you that you could use some self-care, this moment is an opportunity for kindness. Every moment is an opportunity for kindness. But whether you’re feeling a “real need” or some level of you is resisting something, you could probably use some compassion.
So rather than judging yourself or trying to change what you feel, remember this. It doesn’t actually matter, at the end of the day, whether the craving for self-care is “genuine” or not.
Some part of you is asking for empathy. Try to offer that empathy without strings attached.
Remember that you don’t need to “earn” self-care
Because you don’t.
You don’t have to have accomplished everything on your to-do list. You do not need to have suffered. And you definitely don’t need to be at full-tilt exhaustion. Maybe you’re just feeling human.
Self-care, the act of being kind and present with yourself and meeting your needs, is a birthright. You don’t need to meet a threshold or any criteria in order to get started.
Sometimes, self-care is doing it anyway
Okay, let’s say that after all of this kindness, you realize that you are procrastinating. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are resisting something. That’s okay.
To that, I would offer this: you already know what you need to do.
You are incredibly wise. You likely know what you are putting off or avoiding. And sometimes, the kindest thing you can possibly do for yourself is to get it over with. Sometimes, self-care means enduring (temporary) discomfort or doing the thing you don’t want to do.
Sometimes, self-care is doing the thing that is in your best interest. That act might be unpleasant. It might not be what you’d choose. But…
Resistance is an unkind thing to carry in your body
Here’s the scoop: you can put it off indefinitely, or until someone turns off your lights – literally or metaphorically – but as long as you do, you’ll be carrying around that feeling of resistance. The trouble is, while avoiding the thing you’re avoiding may feel good in the moment, over the long-term, it kind of sucks.
Avoidance, attachment, resistance, and aversion are not kind things to carry in your body. They don’t feel good. They create tension patterns in the mind, as well as on the physical level. So ultimately, this is not actually doing you much good.
It might feel like freedom at first. But that avoidance will catch up with you. It ultimately must be answered. So why not set it down now?
Unburdening yourself can be the most compassionate act
Instead of carrying around that heavy load, try setting it down.
Doing the thing you’re avoiding is often less work than continuing to avoid it. By reframing the act as a compassionate unburdening, you can change the tenor of it. You can change it into doing something brave and fiercely kind on your own behalf.
By unburdening yourself of something you don’t want in your life, you actually move that energy out of your body, mind and life. Ironically, when we hang on to it (by avoiding it), it hangs on to us.
Instead, let it go. Free yourself from it.
This is beautiful ground on which to cultivate your inner knowing – and build trust with yourself
This is an opportunity to build trust with yourself.
Will you become someone who meets her obligations and life’s challenges head-on? Or will you become someone who hides?
Through our actions, we learn (and teach others) who we are. We gain confidence by taking action in a way that feels aligned and in integrity with who we want to be.
Moments of resistance are a fertile ground for self-discovery and acceptance. On this ground, we can cultivate inner knowing. We can germinate resilience. We can practice our integrity. Ultimately, we can develop a sense of trust, reliability and empathy in the face of difficult moments.
While a strong self-care practice can be a wonderful space for self-healing and recovery, sometimes the actions most aligned with our self-care will be how we meet difficult moments.