Self-care vs self-indulgence

Thursday, November 30, 2017 Permalink

I was talking to someone earlier this week about last week’s post. The one about self-care…. the fact that it looks different for everyone and that sometimes it’s about doing the stuff we don’t want to do in the short term to make life easier, in the long term.

My devoted listener (aka the therapist I pay to listen to me) commented that she’d recently been involved in a similar discussion. One which took a slightly different turn. It was she said, about self-care vs self-indulgence.

“Oh. My. God!” I exclaimed and demanded a pen so I might write it down. “It’s perfect overthinking blog fodder,” I told her.

I’d been talking about the amount of frivolous spending I’d been doing lately. Not only have I bought shoes since returning to full time work, I booked the Italy trip and had airconditioning installed (last week, finally) and I also bought a dress I might not really need.

“I. Must. Stop. Spending. Money.” I told her.

I talked about my perception of myself being irresponsible / frivolous and flighty and not spending money RESPONSIBLY (on house-y stuff, like repairing the rotting verandah balustrade or rebuilding the patio and dodgy side stairs)… rather than wantonly spending it on doona covers and dresses.

self indulgence 2

We circled the topic of priorities and I said it was pretty easy to keep my spending in line with my values and priorities when not working or working part time. There were no new clothes for years. No new doona cover, few meals out and definitely no holidays. I didn’t skimp completely however, buying nice wine, decent steak and so forth.

But now I’m earning a full-time wage again and have a teensy bit of play money I’m kinda torn. Is it okay I bought the dress? Should that money have gone towards my verandah?

I said I wasn’t sure I was being as responsible as I should be in my spending. I know the full-time thing (and having play-money again) is new, but… where will I draw the line.

Which led to this next step in the navel-gazing puzzle.

When does self-care become self-indulgence?

My shrink suggested that ‘some’ people would think of a massage as self-indulgence rather than self-care.

“Ahem,” I spluttered. “That would be me.” And it’s true. For me that goes beyond self-care. It’s a non-essential. It’s a treat. Says me.

And I was again reminded of last week’s post. Just as self-care looks different for everyone, the self-care / self-indulgence continuum does as well.

self care vs self indulgence

Then of course there’s the bigger question… is self-indulgence necessarily a bad thing? It certainly sounds like it. But where do we draw the line between the two? And who decides?

And part of me – tired of life and overthinking everything – feels compelled to note that they’re just words anyway, #FFS.

Do you believe there’s a difference between self-care and self-indulgence? Is the latter a bad thing? Do you wish I’d just stop harping on about crap and get the fuck on with life?

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

26 Comments
  • Jo
    November 30, 2017

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this since you posted last week – it’s a topic that has come up again & again – as these things do when you’re thinking a lot about things. I went to an ayurvedic practitioner the other day to try & get some digestive stuff fixed up & his solution (& attitude) was so unpalatable to me that I began to wonder whether I should do it because I didn’t want to so much. I’m pondering it so much I might just blog it…

    • Debbish
      December 1, 2017

      Oh I’d love to hear about it Jo. (Am also wondering what he suggested!!!) But I think there’s also a point at which doing stuff we SHOULD becomes so unpalatable it renders our life not-worth-living (though I realise that sounds dramatic.) It’s too long since I studied (several decades at least) but sure there some economic law of diminishing returns or something and I think of that when I think about my ‘ideal’ weight. I’m keen to get to something sustainable. I know it’ll be more than my official goal weight but I’m not prepared to live on salads and not drink alcohol etc… to weigh 10-15kg less than my own goal.

  • Vanessa
    November 30, 2017

    I think it becomes self-indulgence when it is going to, is likely to, or is impacting other parts of your life negatively. Until then, you’re an adult who can spend money generally however she pleases. And when you’ve lived feast or famine with work, it’s easy to spend more when you’re back in a more money position.

    • Debbish
      December 1, 2017

      The shrink found it interesting I was struggling with guilt over my spending. After all, she said, I’m accountable to no one but myself in reality. No kids, partner and so forth. Sure I have a mortgage, but that’s it. Naturally we discussed my sense of responsibility endlessly and my own perception that I’m not a responsible person when – it could be said (or others perceive) that I am very much so. *sigh*

  • leannelc
    November 30, 2017

    I’m not good at treating myself – we’ve always had a fluctuating income (and not a particularly large one) so mortgage payments and food for the family always won out over indulgences. I think there’s a balance somewhere – you can’t waste all your money on “fripperies” but if they help to brighten your world – and make going to a full-time job more bearable – then I think a little treat now and then is worth it. The patio steps can be on the list too – you’ve got plenty of time to save up for them!

    • Debbish
      December 1, 2017

      My parents gave my brother and I everything they could and everything we could have needed growing up but we weren’t at all well off. We didn’t holiday in motels or hotels or travel and my parents sacrificed a lot for us – sending us both away to University and supporting us during that time. We didn’t go without but I think it instilled a sense of responsibility re spending. My parents weren’t risk-takers financially and paid off their mortgage as soon as they could and my mum still pays off her credit card each month. (And I’m fairly sure they NEVER let the car get below 1/4 tank of petrol… let alone driving around with the fuel light on!) :-/

  • kathymarris
    November 30, 2017

    I think as long as you don’t self-indulge too much it’s not a bad thing. What’s the point of life if you don’t reward yourself once in a while? It sounds as though you needed to treat yourself after going without for so long. I absolutely adore that doona cover! #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      December 1, 2017

      True Kathy, re the treats. I think I just need to find that balance. I am thinking though, that some of my spending at the moment is more about going back into full time work and actually needing clothes plus that ‘suddenly having money again’ feeling, as much as it is any long-term frivolity!

  • Jo Castro
    November 30, 2017

    It’s a tough one, and for everyone it is different. I think it depends a lot on income, after all, if there’s no money for essentials it’s not really a good idea to splurge on an expensive dress rather than pay the electricity bill. Although my cousin once told me (when she was just 18 mind you) If I had money for bread or a rose, I’d buy the rose! I’ve remembered this over the years, and when I really want a massage I think, F the bread this month/year – it’s not good for me anyway!

    • Debbish
      December 1, 2017

      Jo, the conversation my shrink and I had came back down to priorities and values. I said – travel has never been a priority for me, but comfort and security has. I get a lot of joy out of my place and being at home. I was ridiculously comforted by my winter flamingo flannelette sheets and felt a spark of happiness every time I looked at them. I’d been looking around for bright summer sheets but couldn’t find any, so decided on the doona cover instead. Over the past decade or so I’ve preferred to spend money on stuff for my house (rugs, pictures for the wall etc) than clothes as that’s where I find my joy. I had second thoughts about getting airconditioning in my bedroom recently as I realised that $1500 could be spent elsewhere or go towards my o/s trip, but reminded myself that comfort and a good night’s sleep as summer comes was probably worth the money!)

  • unclutteryouruniverse
    November 30, 2017

    It’s your money Deb, spend it as you wish. Only you can decide what are the right things to spend your money on.

    • Debbish
      December 1, 2017

      True and it comes down to that doesn’t it Jenni?! I’m paying my bills (and have already scheduled payments for my water bill, private health insurance and car registration for December) AND budgeted to shout a small group of friends on a sunset boat cruise for my birthday in late December… so I needn’t feel as bad as I do. But still….

  • writeofthemiddle
    November 30, 2017

    What an interesting topic! I agree that what is self care vs what is self indulgence would differ for everyone. I believe that whatever makes you feel good is self care. If you have overstepped into self indulgence, you’ll know it and feel it. Personally, I think you more than deserve the new dress and the new doona cover! You’ve got yourself full-time work and you’ve shown such restraint with your spending for ages. It all looks like lovely feel good self care to me! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      December 1, 2017

      I couldn’t decide whether to confess this or not…. but one of the reasons I bought the dress was because I had hoped to go to a cocktail event / ball this coming weekend. It’s not a cocktail dress (would do for work) but could be dressed up and is practical in that sense, so not entirely frivolous and it was on sale for Black Friday (30% off). As it happens I’m not going to the ball as I didn’t know anyone who was going, but at least I have the dress on hand and it’s a VERY different dress for me.

  • Emma
    November 30, 2017

    I don’t think self-indulgence is a bad thing if you can afford it. I’m the opposite end to you in that I’ve just finished with a full-time, permanent, wage and I am questioning each spend but I wouldn’t feel guilty if I decide to spend money – I think it is self-care if it helps your mental health (more than a quick fix though if that makes sense). I wouldn’t feel guilty x

    • Debbish
      December 1, 2017

      I got a redundancy payout when I finished full-time work last time Emma so kept ‘spending’ for a few months – lunch / breakfast out and bought stuff for my (then) new flat. But 6mths in I had to pull my head in and stop the spending. It was probably good that I got to remember what that was like as it’d been a while since I lived from pay to pay and I really had to prioritise for a while. Meals out become a rarity for a few years as did takeaway, new clothes etc… I’ve not ‘allowed’ myself a facial or massage since I finished full time work in 2012 for example and still not viewing either as a priority though my shoulders and back are often bloody sore and my skin is terrible and some advice on that front would be useful!

  • Jodie
    December 1, 2017

    Wow—I think you can argue this point either way with success, Deborah!
    Self care makes such a difference to feeling good and being healthy. But it’s hard to know when to draw the line at times.
    We always say we are helping out the economy when we start spending more than we think we should—talk about rationalization! ha ha!!
    XOXO
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Debbish
      December 1, 2017

      Ha! Very true, I’m helping the economy Jodie. And even more so if I buy locally!

      Also Jodie, I can’t help but be conscious that I’m overthinking this anyway!!!

  • seizetheday20
    December 1, 2017

    A little self indulgence is good for you. If you still have all the money you need to pay the bills, then why not spend some on yourself? So excited to hear you’ve booked the Italy trip!! When (and where) are you going? 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      December 2, 2017

      I haven’t booked the flights or anything yet Lyndall, but have paid my deposit for a writing retreat in Tuscany in mid September. Looking at flight prices I think I’ll need to be back in Oz by early October as prices seem to increase by then. I’m thinking of about a month around that date….

  • Denyse Whelan
    December 2, 2017

    Oh yes, I nodded as I read through this…yep and more! I have had a hard time adjusting to a very limited income. That there is NO money for little treats without having to own up to what I have done. OK, I lie slightly. I am now having a coffee (no food) out each day and that is it. When I was earning it did not feel like that. However, at 68 it is, apparently time to grow up and take joint fiscal responsibility. I think in my case, for FAR too long I indulged myself in some unnecessary spending to ‘justify the unhappy load I had in life’. Interestingly this is something I have been working on for the past few years and I need, from time to time, to take a good hard look at myself and realised that we (I) have all we need and want for now.
    I could see and hear myself saying a lot of what you are too Deb. You are not alone, if that helps!! Denyse x

    • Debbish
      December 4, 2017

      Thanks Denyse. It’s one of the things I like most about blogging and the online community – realising we aren’t alone in some of our thinking!

  • Corrine
    December 4, 2017

    Just to be a REAL pain the butt (sorry!), sometimes, I think self-indulgence *is* self-care.

    In my day-to-day life, I’m pretty conservative with my spending. I buy things on special, I (attempt to!) grow my own vegetables, I do little things like complete surveys online to earn some extra $ or vouchers, I pay any unexpected work bonuses/salary increases straight towards loans (so damn boring and responsible of me, ha).. but then every few months, I’ll purchase plane tickets to a new country, spend $500 on dresses, or decide to (like you) splash out on a new donna cover, just because. And I absolutely know at the time that these purchases are trivial and unnecessary and self-indulgent, but I also know how hard I work 90% of the time to stick to a reasonably small budget… and allow myself to enjoy the frivolity 🙂

    • Debbish
      December 4, 2017

      Oh I completely understand Corrine and that’s exactly the point I’ve been pondering. My shrink asked me why I feel guilty about spending IF I’ve met all of my other commitments and it was kind of refreshing… having someone (objective) remind you that you’re capable of making those kinds of decisions without needing to feel guilty. She asked what I thought I ‘should’ have done instead of spending money on the dress / doona cover. And of course there’s stuff needing to be done at home, but it isn’t like anything is falling down or dire. It just comes back to me juggling my own values and priorities I guess.

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    December 6, 2017

    Oh wow, this is a great post. Now you’ve got me thinking!
    PS LOL re “devoted listener”
    PPS Massage is definitely self care for me as it’s the only way I keep on top of my migraines and fibro pain,

    #teamlovinlife

    • Debbish
      December 6, 2017

      Yes, I’ve been having some shoulder and neck pain recently and probably need to consider a massage.

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