What I Tell People Who Are Worried About "Overindulging" In Self-Care
People love to ask me some variation of this question: If I practice self-care the way you describe it, if I listen within and respond in the most loving way possible, won't I just overindulge in it all the time?
It's a valid question, one that highlights the need for this approach to self-care. My knee-jerk reaction is to want to respond with another question: Do you trust yourself?
In reality, I've never actually responded with that question, but I'd guess that, for many people, the answer is no. We're so used to implementing outside recommendations and fitting ourselves into formulas that prioritizing our inner knowing is understandably intimidating. Listening within and responding with love requires you to trust yourself and to know yourself with a level of intimacy that isn't often modeled. Building up that trust takes time, especially if you've been taught that you can't be trusted with things that feel good.
I guess that one way I could answer the question about overindulgence is that, yes, you might overindulge. Not as a norm but more as a temporary circumstance as you deepen your relationship with yourself. For example, it's common for people who transition into intuitive eating after following restrictive diets to have a bit of a wild-child phase with food. Diet culture fed them lie after lie, telling them that some foods were bad and others were good, encouraging them not to trust their own hunger cues. It takes a while to sort through those lies and return to their own truth. They have to relearn how to listen to themselves and lovingly respond. Eventually, the bouts of overindulgence turn into a rhythm of perpetual care.
While I think that self-trust is the core issue behind the fear of overindulging, there's also a dimensional approach to answering this question. Once I got into the habit of listening within and responding with love, I noticed that some of my loving responses didn't give me the desired outcome. Was my definition of self-care broken? Nope. It's just that all loving responses are not created equal.
A massage could be exactly what I need if my body tells me it's tight. But, if I'm feeling disconnected from my friend group, a massage is an act of care that doesn't get to the root issue.
It might feel amazing in the short term, but I'll still be craving care when the post-massage euphoria fades. And that's where the feeling of overindulgence can arise. More often than not, it's not truly overindulgence—it's misdirection. You're not taking too much loving action. You're taking action that doesn't meet your needs in the present moment.
Questions to reflect on:
- Can you relate to the fear of overindulging? How does that fear show up in your life?
- Can you think of a situation where you misdirected your self-care? What was that experience like?
Adapted from Inner Workout: Strengthening Self-Care Practices for Healing Body, Soul, and Mind © 2023 by Taylor Elyse Morrison. Published with permission from Chronicle Books.
Taylor Elyse Morrison is the author of Inner Workout: Strengthening Self-Care Practices for Healing Body, Soul, and Mind and the founder and CEO of a popular wellness brand of the same name, where she works toward a world without burnout.