Self-care vs Self-indulgence

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Self-care vs Self-indulgence

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The concept of ‘self-care’ has enjoyed its spotlight ever since the rise in social media wellness trends. It was initially introduced to encourage healthy habits to preserve our overall well-being. However, some of us may have swung the self-care message to the wrong side of the pendulum. With hashtags like #yolo and #treatyourself, social media has blurred the lines between self-care and a mentality of self-indulgence. Hence, we must discern the differences between the two concepts as well as practice true self-care to reap its long-term benefi

What is the difference between self-care vs. self-indulgence?

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Self-care: engaging in activities that benefit our wellbeing in the long run. It involves making responsible choices with conscious intentions. For example, excusing yourself early from a party to ensure you get enough sleep.

Self-indulgence: engaging in behaviors that are temporarily gratifying but have negative outcomes. For example, staying late at a party and ending up being tired and irritable the next day.

1) Self-care is proactive, self-indulgence is passive

True self-care requires us to be proactive so that we can cultivate meaningful mental and physical outcomes. This includes unfabulous activities like getting in a morning run and creating a spreadsheet for our finances. Essentially, it’s about taking active control over our health and our responsibilities.

Self-care becomes indulgent when we engage in activities that distract us from our problems. These passive #treatyourself behaviors need to be kept at bay before they manifest into unhealthy coping methods. For instance, resorting to an extra can of beer or an impulse purchase to deal with stress.

2) Self-care creates contentment, self-indulgence creates discontentment

Genuine self-care includes practices that positively influence our well-being. Its essence lies in cultivating a sense of long-term purpose and meaning. Eventually, it allows us to be more content and appreciative with our lives.

However, self-indulgence is rooted in hedonism, where we chase trends just to get that instant gratification or to post that selfie. This approach to wellness can lead us to feel discontented with our lives as we’re always chasing the next insta-worthy thing.

3) Self-care is self-enriching, self-indulgence is self-centered

Self-care nourishes and strengthens our minds, body, and souls. The purpose of this is so that we can enrich ourselves to better show up for our responsibilities and our community.

If we come from a place of self-indulgence, it's easy to get swept away by our egos and our emotions. As a result, we do more harm to ourselves and others. For example, instead of taking a proactive approach to mend a relationship, you indulge in your anger and end up burning a bridge that could’ve been saved.

How to practice true self-care

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1) Think critically about your future

First, we need to assess the outcomes and consequences of our current self-care activities. Are they benefiting us only now? Or do they bring us benefits in the long run?

With the convenience of technology, this can be a challenging practice. As everything we could possibly want, from pizza to a date, can be attained by a few swipes. So, here’s a good guiding reference: If the long-term cost is greater than the positive feelings you get in the moment, you’ll know it’s not self-care.

2) Establish an intentional self-care routine

Instead of going on indulgent whims, create a schedule you can fall back on when life gets overwhelming. Avoidance and “letting ourselves off the hook” can be tempting when we’re stressed. Therefore, a go-to ritual that includes consistent bedtimes and mealtimes helps you stay disciplined even in times of chaos.

3) Seek feedback and accountability

If you’re contemplating a self-care decision, it’s helpful to bounce off ideas with loved ones who are known to keep you grounded. You can also include them in your healthy self-care routines to help you stay accountable. Doing so not only drives your commitment levels up but it fosters quality relationships too.


While the indulgent side of self-care is fine once in a while, we mustn’t neglect what truly benefits us in the long run. We want to be more intentional with our self-care practices to effectively cope with our all-encompassing addiction to busyness. Ultimately, consciously nurturing our minds, body, and souls ensures that we can better show up for our passions and our loved ones.

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