“The name of the game is taking care of yourself, because you’re going to live long enough to wish you had.”
One of the things we write about here is self-care and how it is important for well being. Self-care is a concept that is supposed to help people take care of themselves in stressful times (and hopefully in non-stressful times) so that they may better face all that life offers or throws at them.
Every once in a while I see cases where someone is doing something in the name of self-care that is not actually helpful. The core of the mistake being that what they are doing in the name of self-care helps them feel good in the moment and specifically adds to their stress and impacts long term well being.
I see this most often in spending money. The example I will use is a mixture of men and women with the same problem, written as if it were one person to help obscure identity. In my younger years I knew a divorced mother of two daughters. At some point during our acquaintanceship half of her income was lost. I watched this woman struggle and succeed at keeping her kids in private schools and living in a safe neighborhood.
I was often baffled by her complaints about lack of money, and her propensity to buy things at Anne Taylor and get her monthly facials. If money had not been an issue for her, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind that shopping or getting a regular facial was a problem. She said that these things made her feel better, that she was taking care of herself in getting these things done. However, she often didn’t have money to buy her children new clothes (they refused to wear thrift store clothing), or to pay the cable bill.
She was evicted several times for failure to pay rent, yet would always manage to find some place else. She was unwilling to forgo cable, and her household’s cellphone bills despite having both turned off at various points in time. On one hand she was resourceful she kept this up for over ten years, and on the other hand obsequiously irresponsible.
Falling behind on her bills, not having any savings and in the meantime maintaining her monthly facial habit.At some point, she confessed to me that she was over 25K in credit card debt, in addition to a car loan for one daughter and on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. She had asked me to be a cosigner for one of her daughters student loans. I politely declined.
Shortly after, she requested my advice on a purchase of crystal glasses that she might wish to use should potential clients find themselves at her home– which had not happened in at least ten years and although I advised against the $400.00 purchase, she went ahead and did it, because it made her feel good to have nice things.
I can’t imagine any kind of financial stress that is balanced by spending more money. Sometimes self care involves going without, so that you can alleviate your stress long term. This doesn’t mean go without nutritious food or shelter, but without designer clothing, facials, and even cable.
Because this person is a conglomerate of several different people, the end results seem bigger than it may be for some. However, the root of the problem seems to be the same– short term feeling good in exchange for contributing to a stressor: robbing Peter to pay Paul, and oh, by the way, Peter wants his money back.
When self-care involves spending money, the question one needs to ask is: what are the long term effects of this?
If you have batman money, a monthly facial or shopping spree can be good self care, because it doesn’t contribute to something that may be stressful. And if your long term desires include buying a home or some other major purchase, putting non-essentials on hold or being creative helps reach those goals. If these are things you cannot afford, the internet is full of alternatives.
If you are struggling to make ends meet, are actively racking up credit card debt, or are having trouble keeping a roof over your head or food in your mouth or creating an emergency fund, “going without” is a kind of self-care you might want to look into. Going without may not feel good in the moment. It does feel good when unexpected bills come up and you have the funds to pay for them. Not being in debt feels good.