The self-care word is everywhere these days, and marketers have wasted no time in exploiting this tagline to peddle anything from aromatherapy to underwear.  Treat yourself to a moment of self-care – you deserve it!  It’s the same old song and dance, just with a different name.  And we fall for it, over and over again.

The problem with self-care

Not to say that there is anything wrong with relaxation, there isn’t.  Not to say that there’s anything wrong with being kind to yourself, there isn’t.  I highly recommend both of these things as regular practices.  It’s just that in our culture, where downtime is not rewarded and we tend to associate self-worth with how busy we are, we find “active” ways to initiate self-care.  I’ll get a massage, get my nails done, have a spa day, go out with the girls or guys, go shopping, have a nice meal, drink a fancy bottle of wine.  Even when we’re practicing self-care, we’re not resting.  We’re just ticking it off the list and thinking about the next thing on our to do list.  The moment of relaxation from the massage quickly fades and we go straight back into the fire.  And then we dream of the next massage and resent what we’re doing.  We can’t wait for the next one again, and we are trapped in the never ending cycle yet again.  Stress – quick release – stress – quick release.

But we’re tired, we’re stressed, and we need self-care, right?  And, plus, we deserve it!  We’ve worked hard for it!  We’re burned out.  This self-care thing is the magic potion that is going to reignite our passion and spirit and help us feel human again, right?

Coping versus treating the root cause

Wrong.  For most of us, this type of self-care is a coping mechanism.  It’s the equivalent of slapping a crappy Band-Aid on a huge gaping wound.  We may “practice” these forms of self-care, but we’re never addressing the underlying problem that caused the need for it in the first place.

Now you’re wondering what the underlying problem is, aren’t you?

A lot of people tell me they are overworked, under resourced, have a bad boss, horrible colleagues, the company lacks direction or doesn’t care about their employees, and all these things may be true.  But true burnout, and the stress that leads to burnout, comes from a different place.

It comes from an underlying feeling that you’re not good enough.  I’m not good enough, so I spend more time than is really necessary working on something so that it’s perfect.  I’m not good enough, so I am afraid to say no and then beat myself up for accepting another piece of work that I’m going to have to work day and night to complete.  I’m not good enough, so I over personalize my boss’s bad behavior and think (deep down) the reason they act like such a jerk is my fault.

It’s the constant, “I have to prove myself” that keeps one locked in this cycle.  It’s stressful.  It steals your joy.  It’s painful.  It’s soul destroying.

The reality is you can have joy and peace despite the bad boss, horrible colleagues, misguided company, lack of resources, etc.  It’s available to you at any time, if you choose to tap into it.  What would your life look like if you let go of the need to prove?  What would your life look like if you treated yourself like your best friend?

Did I mention this is free?  It seems like that old adage is true yet again.  The best things in life…

Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!