Can Self-Care be Toxic?

Feb 22, 2023

Can self-care be toxic?


A while back I came across a post where the author shared a belief that self-care was toxic. The gist of the opinion was that self-care was a blanket excuse for neglecting the responsibilities of adulthood, your marriage, and sometimes even your faith. While I respect every opinion, I don’t agree. 

I don’t think self-care can be toxic. The definition of toxic is very harmful or unpleasant in a pervasive or insidious way.

The definition of self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.


You cannot protect your own well-being and happiness while participating in something harmful. It’s an oxymoron. 


However, it is possible to use the term self-care as an excuse for harmful behaviors. Imagine this scenario: 


“A glass of wine at the end of the day is your self-care… but sometimes that glass of wine becomes three or four and you wake up with a hangover.” 


“An episode of reality TV helps me unwind… but sometimes I stay up until 4 in the morning watching and am late for work the next day.” 


“This cleanse is to help reset my body…. But I obsess over it and end up fighting anorexia for a few weeks.” 


It is not true that self-care is toxic. But using self-care as an excuse for toxic behavior can be true. 


Self-care was never meant to be an excuse for behavior that does not serve your highest good. It was never meant to excuse actions that cause harm to you or your family. So if you have been calling that bottle of wine self-care, despite the headache, it’s time to find new verbiage. If you use self-care as an excuse for your retail therapy and end up with a credit card bill you can’t pay off, it’s time to find new verbiage. If you call mindless scrolling self-care but you end up late for school drop-off in the morning, it’s time to find new verbiage. 


Self-care should not harm your body, your mind, or your soul, it is meant to bring peace and comfort instead. It should not take you away from your responsibilities, it should provide you with the energy to face those responsibilities with passion. Self-care should not create distress, it should help you to de-stress.


Take a minute to reflect on your own life. How often have you used the term, “self-care” to defend a behavior that did not serve your highest good? I am not here to place blame or to bring shame or guilt into your space. Just awareness. If we are unaware, we cannot improve. 


If the behaviors you're calling self-care are actually a little toxic, I would love to help you sort it out and make choices that serve you instead of hurt you. Let’s hop on a call and talk about the strategies I have for you. You can find my calendar here


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