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The Reality of Self-Care: It’s a Process, Not a Quick Fix

Self-care is really self-improvement, and self-improvement is challenging. Here’s how to know what self-care really looks like.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

Self-care is important because people are primarily self-interested.

Outside of their immediate family, most people don’t have the time or energy to worry about you or your problems. Therefore, you have to make sure that you take care of yourself.

If other people go out of their way to check on you or make sure that you’re ok, consider that a pleasant surprise. If you assume that people are self-interested, then you will never slip up and stop taking care of yourself because you think that someone is going to come to your rescue.

An added bonus to this perspective is that it makes it more likely that you’ll be able to go out of your way to care for other people.

It’s difficult to care for others if you haven’t taken the time to properly care for yourself. You have to selfishly strengthen your position so that you can give freely of your time and resources to those less fortunate.

Self-care makes you strong and capable of functioning in the world. It also gives you the ability to help others who have not taken care of themselves. This act of charity may not appeal to you, but the strength required to do it hopefully does.

This means prioritizing self-care.

What Self-Care ISN’T

A lot of what is touted as self-care is the complete opposite. Or, at the very least, it does not actively contribute to helping you move past problems or prevent more from happening in the future.

It is, at best, mindless self-indulgence and, at worst, avoidance as a coping strategy.

Self-care isn’t drinking, smoking, partying, and sleeping around. Some people believe this. Those seem extreme and it’s easy to argue that these aren’t actually making you better, but what about some of the less conspicuous ideas touted as self-care?

Self-care isn’t venting, vacationing, or going to therapy. Those things will help you feel better, but they don’t force you to grow or accept the responsibility for the situation that led you to requiring self-care in the first place.

And that’s key. You already touched the hot stove. The self-care ritual doesn’t only involve treating the wound. You also have to understand that touching the stove was a bad idea and take responsibility for touching it.

Otherwise, you might end up touching it again after you’ve healed from the wound.

The root of self-care is responsibility

It may not be your fault but if it happened to you or it involves you, then it becomes your responsibility to deal with. This means you have to confront the weaknesses, biases, and delusions that put you in a position to require self-care.

Self-care stems from high personal standards and emotional boundaries. When you have high personal standards for how you behave and conduct yourself, you make it easy to respect yourself. When you respect yourself, you will have a higher opinion of yourself and this leads to more confidence.

When you have strong personal boundaries, you keep people from taking advantage of you or treating you in a way that will erode that self-respect.

This doesn’t mean that you close yourself off from interacting and connecting with other people. It just means that you have a firm standard for the behavior and treatment that you’ll tolerate from others.

If they don’t abide by those rules then you have to remove them from your life. If you do this on a consistent basis, then your emotional state and self-esteem will always be optimal.

The crux of self-care

Nothing happens to you without you, in some way, making it possible. I don’t write that last sentence to shift blame or absolve responsibility. I write it so you understand that, in the long run, the only way to make things better is to stop making them worse.

This requires considering every decision you make and relationship that you entertain.

Now, even if you do that, bad things happen. That’s just part of living in the universe.

You’ll get hurt and need to nurse your wounds, but not seeing how you can prevent these wounds in the future won’t help you. And the ONLY way to do that is to see how your actions (or lack thereof) contributed to your calamity.

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of self-care.

The rest is up to you.

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I’m a former heavyweight pro-boxer (13-1-1) and alcoholic (Sobriety date 12/23/13), current writer, and aspiring chess master. I was raised in the projects by a single mom and failed high school, but I eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics.

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Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

Follow me on Twitter.

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