Category Archives: Self Care

Self-Love or Self-Care

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Is there a difference?

September is Self-Care Awareness month. The observance was added to the national calendar in 2017. This year, quick internet search turns up numerous 30-day challenges for both self-care and self-love this month, but are the two interchangeable?

Not really. When you approach health and wellness from a mind, body, spirit model, self caring behaviors are more about outward actions and the realm of the physical world and our body. Whereas self loving behaviors are more internal, working in the realm of emotions, or the intersection of our thoughts and feelings and therefore of the mind and spirit.

It’s possible to give yourself excellent self-care without self-love. I’m sure we all know at least one person who fits this description—successful, powerful, well-off, never settling for less than the best of everything—nothing is too good for them, and nothing is ever enough. They are caught in a frantic pursuit of always need to achieve more and have more.

On the other hand, can you love yourself without self-caring behaviors? I don’t believe it’s possible, not if you truly love yourself.

As adults, we often we often equate self-care and self-love to parenting ourselves. A parent can certainly provide for all the physical care and comforts a child needs, while still being emotionally distant or cold—but not necessarily cruel or hurtful.

Yet, it’s impossible for an emotionally loving parent to neglect their child’s need for care and happiness. So much so that some parents indulge their children, finding it hard to set limits (possibly setting the stage for the adult described above).

Certainly, when talking about the human mind and emotions, there are as many variations of the so-called norm, as their are people. For the sake of argument, and disregarding aberrant behaviors, I think it’s safe to say that self-care, without self-love is only half the equation.

Decades ago, when I first began writing as the MAD Goddess, focusing on self-care in midlife and beyond, my pet peeve was the market driven push to equate self-care, especially for women, with high-priced self-indulgence (it was one reason my alter ego manifested a MAD Goddess—another that it was shorthand for Middle AgeD).

The U.S. marketing machine is a powerful influencer. Mention self-care today and it conjures the image of pampering and indulgence of every kind, whether high-cost or do-it-yourself. While these treats might be a well-deserved gift to yourself, they tend to be more of a bandaid, or a glamour, than any kind of true self-care.

Image by Kai Miano from Pixabay 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that women (at least of my generation and those previous) struggle with true self-care more so than their male counterparts. Men tend to put a higher priority on claiming time for their leisure pursuits, whether it’s an entire morning for a golfing foursome, or just 20-minutes of solitude to read the news.

There’s no arguing that a massage, a mani-pedi, a facial, a warm bubble bath, or slathering on a luxury skin serum, are all enjoyable, relaxing experiences, and help reduce stress. But this kind of self-care is short term at best, not to mention cost prohibitive for many. Further, the popular marketing hook, “because you’re worth it,” sends the toxic message that those who can’t pay the high price point, are not worth it—undeserving of even self-worth.

True self-care begins with self-love. It begins with asking yourself what you need for a more balanced, satisfying and healthy life, and then listening to the answers. It requires attentive care to your, physical, financial, intellectual and emotional health and wellness. It’s about doing what’s best for you even if, or especially when, others won’t.

I think one mistake we make is expecting self-love to be easy. Being loved feels great, right? What could be so hard about giving that to yourself? One reason is believing that love doesn’t count if it comes from yourself. Think about that for a moment. If the loving care you give to others is good for them, why isn’t it just as good for you?

Another reason is that love isn’t just something you say, or feel. Love is what you do, it requires actions that are sometimes an effort. In fact, there are times that loving somebody can be downright hard work.

How much of your loving behavior for family and friends requires effort? A good deal of it, I bet. How much are you requiring from them? If you find yourself thinking or saying it’s easier to just do it myself, to go without, or to put up with it, eventually you’ll be doing it all, getting nothing, and putting up with everything.

Is it really easier to do all the housework yourself because your spouse, or roommate, or kid doesn’t do it right? Hell yes – for them! And don’t think they don’t know that.

When you fall into bed, exhausted every night, does it really feel easier on you to let your kids’ bedtimes slide, rather than setting expectations and doing the work of establishing routines and enforcing boundaries so that you could have an hour or so of quiet time every evening?

Are you making and taking opportunities to love your self, or are you always putting others needs ahead of yours? We frown on the selfish narcissist always putting themselves first, but honestly, is it any worse than the opposite extreme—the self anointed martyr perpetually sacrificing themselves on the altar of service to others?

With the exception of your own parents (maybe, if you were lucky to get good ones), given normal life circumstances, nobody is going to make your needs a priority if you don’t.


Self-Care*Self-Love 30 Day Challenge

September is national Self-Care month. See my thoughts on the intersection of Self-Care and Self-Love and then join in the challenge. In what ways can you give yourself at least as much love as you give to others, and honor your need for self-care?

Follow along here for a new challenge posted each day.
Or follow me on Instagram @mad_goddess1 &
On Twitter @SimpleWitchery

Share your responses on social media using #SimpleSelfCare and #MADGoddess

September 1 ~ In what ways do you claim time and space for your #selfcare

September 2 ~ We aren’t what we eat, but food fuels our function. In what simple way can you incorporate healthy eating into your daily meals?

September 3 ~ Toot your own horn, bang your own drum, throw yourself a parade. Celebrate your awesome self! Share your favorite song to pump you up!

September 4 ~ Water is Life. Show us how you love your healthy body by staying hydrated. Share a pic of your favorite water, water bottle, etc.

September 5 ~ Feed your soul. Bring the beauty of the outdoors in. Do you have a green thumb for house plants? Do you gather fresh flowers to fill vases? Do you have a jar of pretty rocks or seas shells? Show us how you incorporate nature elements into your indoor space.

September 6 ~ Engage in your chosen community. TGIF. Fridays and Fall mean one thing – high school football. Take in a game, cheer on your home team, enjoy a cup of steaming cocoa on a crisp night under the lights.

Crowds aren’t exactly your cup of tea? Seek out smaller, safer community connections, like a book or hobby club, Invite your friends for a pot luck, or just beverages and conversation. If mobility, social anxiety or other concerns are in play, spend some time with your trusted online communities.

September 7 ~ Feed your mind. Learn something new today, work a crossword puzzle, or solve a Suduko. Visit your local public library, they offer so much more than books, like vents, classes, visual art exhibits and more. Or take in a local museum.

September 8 ~ The Holy No. How often to you find yourself talked into something you really didn’t want to do? Don’t offer lame excuses, just say no like you mean it. Explanations not necessary.

September 9 ~ Feed your spirit. Visit an art museum, a botanical garden, a planetarium or other place of beauty and inspiration.

September 10 ~ It’s okay to make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. You likely forgive your loved ones without being asked. Forgive yourself in the same measure.

September 11 ~ Your self worth does not depend on how much you do for others.

September 12 ~ Give yourself time out when you need it. Take a short break to do absolutely nothing. You might find it difficult at first, with everything that needs to be done running through your mind. Send it to voice mail, listen later.

September 13 ~ Move your body. Regular physical movement is maybe the most important factor in overall health. Even for those immobilized by injury or disease, physical therapy is considered vital. So move your can, or what you can, while you can.

Septemer 14 ~ Believe in yourself. Be your own cheerleader. Give yourself a pep talk. A little encouragement goes a long way.

September 15 ~ Get the sleep your body, mind and psyche need. You might think that’s 8-hours a night, but you’d be wrong. Turns out there is no research to support that number; it’s become part of the American culture because of . . . you guessed it, marketing. For most adults, anywhere from 6 up to 9 hours of sleep supports good health, while the average falls at 6.5 to 7 hours.

If you are or have raised children, you are well aware of how too little sleep affects their behaviors; they can be cranky, whiny, argumentative, inattentive, unable to concentrate and just plain difficult. Lack of sleep has the same effects on adults, though perhaps less noticeable to observers because we have developed impulse control. Whether you mask the effects of poor sleep or not, you still feel them, and they are telling you . . . get more sleep!

September16 ~ Do the things you enjoy, alone or with others.

September 17 ~ Just listen. We live in the age of opinion. Everybody has always had one, but not everybody always shared them. The 24/7 “so called news” networks have made an art of forming opinions on everything, and we’re following suit, maybe even feeling obligated to weigh in lest we appear apathetic. Whether giving or getting, it’s exhausting! You don’t have to have an opinion on everything—give it rest.

September 18 ~ Feed Your Spirit. Take a moment morning and evening for grounding and centering. There are numerous methods for doing this, including mundane, magical, and religious. Each evening, recall at least one thing your are grateful for. Before bed, imagine yourself disconnecting from activities and events of the day. Visualize a thread or cord connecting you to each, feel your relaxation deepen as you see the connections going dark, knowing you can turn them back on when you wake.

September 19 ~ A Breath of Fresh Air. Give your house or apartment of breath of fresh air on a breezy day. Open all the windows and doors and let the wind blow through your space. My mother used to do this every Saturday, even during the sub-zero winters in northern Wisconsin. Science now indicates this is the best way to rid your hom e of winter cold and flu viruses.

September 20 ~ Go soak yourself! True self care is about so much more than warm baths, wine and candles, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still indulge. Give your bath a detoxing boost by with Epsom’s salt, lavender and (or) mint essential oil, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide—for amounts and details read Ritual Bath for Purification. This combo is believed to help draw out toxins (skip the wine and drink and glass of water with lemon), and balance pH levels. When you’re done, wrap yourself in a robe and lie down (bed, sofa, recliner); feel what it means to be totally relaxed.

September 21 ~ Give yourself a day off. Life can be pretty hectic. With everything that has to be done, you can end up working, at you job, at home, taking care of family and meeting other obligations, all the time. For working adults, days off often mean catching up at home. Your mind and body need to rest. Schedule regular time, once a day, once a week, or one weekend a month, for nothing but leisure.

September 22 ~Something’s Gotta Give. If taking that day off leaves you thinking you’ll just have twice as much to do the next day, chances are you’re doing too much. Take inventory of everything you’re doing. Are there things that can be simplified? Are there ways to be more efficient? Is there anything you can let go?

September 23 ~ Just stop doing it all! How much are you doing for others that they could be doing for themselves? Are you a pleaser, a fixer . . . a door mat? Let’s face it, very few people are going to turn down an offer to lighten their load. And very few will return the favor. Generosity, kindness and a willingness to help others are all admirable qualities, but if you’re feeling stretched too thin, hoping and waiting for others to step in and help you, or just step up and help themselves, you’re probably doing too much for others and not enough for yourself.

September 24 ~ Ask for help. Sometimes there are just too many responsibilities one person can handle. Single parent, going to school, working full or part-time? Long commute taking up several hours of your day? Having to work more than one job? It’s okay to accept help. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

September 25~ Energetic Cord Cutting. We have energetic ties to all the people in our lives. The energy flows to and from, like the broadband connection we use for downloading and uploading through internet. Our connection to family and loved ones carries a heavier load back and forth. When the energy is good, it’s good for us. When the energy becomes negative, distressing, hurtful, it’s not so good for us. But we can control the bandwidth—we can open it wide, narrow it down, or cut it off, completely.

September 26 ~ Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish. Speaking of bandwidth—pull the plug on social media that’s causing you to stress out. Clean up your feed, cut your online time in half, or disconnect completely for regular periods of time. Your stress levels will go down.

September 27 ~ Indulge. Give yourself a treat, take yourself on a special date (or arrange one with a friend or loved one), buy that book you’ve been dying to read (and you’re 200 back on the library reserve list), or the certain art supply you’ve been drooling over. Eat dessert, take the trip, buy the shoes. Every now and then, break your rules.

September 28 ~ Volunteer. So many charities, service agencies, and community events require the help of volunteers. Do a good deed by lending your expertise, skill or helping hands. You’ll make social and/or professional connections while improving your community.

September 29 ~ Grow. Make a commitment to personal development. Take up a hobby, learn a new language, take dancing lessons, polish your public presentation skills (Toastmaster is a great way to master public speaking and it’s free!). If your live near a university, check out their community ed programs. Learn something new for a better you.

September 30 ~ Celebrate Your Accomplishments! You’v completed a month of self care, that’s cause for celebration. When you fail to celebrate accomplishments, you train your brain to diminish your efforts. Make a habit of celebrating — milestones, accomplishments, and small victories—especially the small victories.


I’m Picking Up Good Vibrations

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Even in 1966, when The Beach Boys were extolling the virtues of good vibrations, the power of positive thought was nothing new.

“Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’”

Beach Boys

Dale Carnegie wrote How To Win Friends and Influence People in 1936. It later became a course of personal improvement based on positive behaviors, hailed by business executives the world over. And it was Benjamin Franklin who wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac, “Tart Words make no Friends: spoonful of honey will catch more flies than gallon of vinegar.”

More recently The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne (2006), took the premise of the law of attraction and ran with it, selling the idea (by way of 30 million copies of the book) that the vibrational frequencies of our thoughts go forth into the universe and fetch back like vibrations—positive thoughts attract positive results. 

It seems positivity also attracts nay-sayers. Lately my social media feeds are full of chatter decrying the scourge of toxic positivity and the harm it causes in the spiritual community. In my opinion, it’s fast becoming a one sided conversation driven by those who feel they are being pressured to mask behavior or personality traits seen as negative, in order to be accepted.

In polite society, there are certain conventions regarding behaviors generally thought to be offensive. Let’s face it, you probably don’t burp, fart, or pick your nose in public regardless of how pleasurable it may be for you, or because you do it at home all the time and shouldn’t have to change who you are to be accepted. You know good and well such behaviors will draw criticism and avoidance.

Where does your right to act or speak as you feel, come up against my right to not be offended—or even feel uncomfortable? How does your comfort level, trump mine? Frankly, if your attitude is bumming me out, what compels me to engage with you?

If I see one meme a day, I see twenty, declaring that the poster is not a phony or fake and if you can’t take them as they are it’s your problem not theirs. But it’s not my problem at all. I can walk or click away, and maybe you don’t care if I do. Great, we’re both getting what we want. If it’s my page or my group, I can ask you to get with the program or leave. That’s when you cry foul.

Own Your Own Crap

Everybody certainly has the right to act and speak as they feel. However, there is no protected right to impose your true self on those who choose not to participate in the exchange, in real life or on social media.

I’m married to a man who sees his world through a lens of negativity—he points out everything that he sees as wrong, somehow lacking, below standard, or otherwise irritating to him. Whether or not his constant negative commentary is justified (by chronic pain, life threatening illness, profound grief over the loss of his only son, and probably complicated PTSD) is irrelevant. He chooses to focus on these things, and by verbalizing it in an endless stream of complaining, he imposes it on me. It’s exhausting, sometimes maddening, sometimes unbearable. I’m constantly shielding and deflecting his behaviors. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what the stress levels are doing to my own health.

I married him, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. More importantly I love him and have compassion for his struggles. I’m no saint, he tolerates a lot too—probably not the least of which is my incessant positivity. I’m not walking away. I choose to put up with his crap, which is one reason I won’t tolerate yours—I’m already fulfilling my quota, thank you.

We live in expanding rings of community, with self at the center, surrounded by family, then friends, work groups, social groups, and so forth. The further you move from the center, the more you have to moderate your behavior to get along in a crowd.

Being told that you are a buzz kill, a kill joy, a Debbie downer, a gloomy Gus, a drain, an energy vampire, a pessimist, or any other epithet denoting negativity is not toxic positivity. At the other end of the scale are the Chatty Cathy’s, the Pollyanna’s, those accused of being naive, sticking their head in the sand, being in denial, wearing rose colored glasses, too loud, too hyper, told to tone it down, take it down a notch . . . all for being too optimistic. 

I have heard every one of those at times in my life. Does it sting? Oh my, yes. Could it be said with more tact, maybe compassion? Yes, certainly. Does it cause me to moderate how I act? With some people, in some places, yes. I’m pretty sure that’s a lesson in social awareness. 

Accusations of toxic positivity as I most often see them, are a misnomer at best. It’s an umbrella term covering the new age, love and light, power of attraction schools of thought that abound in personal development, healing arts, and spiritual practice from witchcraft to evangelical Christianity. A few recognized thought leaders include Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, and Joel Osteen, minister of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

I mention these three because all have drawn criticism from their detractors and contemporaries both. Williamson is being called a whacka-doodle, Robinson has been held up as a snake oil salesman of the worst kind, and Osteen is accused of bypassing the scripture of fire and brimstone to preach a false gospel of prosperity and positivity—despite heading up the fastest growing non-denominational Christian congregation in the United States. 

I’m not here to debate the validity or value of these self appointed gurus’ offerings. I don’t necessarily subscribe to their pitches. For all the followers, there are as many haters. It boils down to a cup of tea—maybe it’s your cup of tea, or maybe it’s not. Offering you a sip is not the same as forcing it down your throat. If it feels that way, maybe you should reconsider hanging out with people who think it’s the nectar of the gods.

This is not to say that toxic positivity does not exist. At its core, toxic positivity is a problem of insensitivity and lack of compassion. Telling a clinically depressed person to cheer up, or suggesting they wouldn’t need medication if they just tried to be more positive is not only insensitive, it’s just plain ignorant. As is telling members of marginalized and minority communities, where systemic discrimination blocks upward mobility and success, that they need to stay positive and try harder.

Equally toxic is the implied (or direct) suggestion that if positive thought brings positive results negative thoughts attract negative results. Of course, that’s utter nonsense. As Rabbi Harold Kushner put fort in his best selling book, bad things happen to good people all the time. It’s nobody’s fault, it is not some divine punishment, it is not the action of a vengeful God or gods, or the powers that be.

  • Fact #1: Good and bad things happen all the time.
  • Fact #2: These things happen as a result of our decisions and actions.
  • Fact #3 These things happen through indirect forces we have no control over.
  • Fact#4 All three of the above facts can co-exist; no one is no more true than the other.

What About The Exceptions

Does positive thought have any efficacy at all, then? I choose to believe it does. 

There’s this funny little quirk of our brain and how it processes information—it’s not so good at distinguishing between real and make-believe. For example, watch a scary movie and you’ll feel your pulse quickening and your heart racing. Your body systems are also being flooded with stress hormones preparing the body to flee or stand and fight. All of this happens even as you repeat to yourself, “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”

The same glitch has been used by competitive athletes for decades, under the headings of self fulfilled prophesy and mental conditioning. An olympic skater might go over their routine a thousand or more times in their mind, imagining each glide, spin, jump and landing, envisioning perfection in every detail, willing it to happen just that way.

Even the practice of making vision boards, providing a constant visual reminder of what you want to manifest, fools your mind into thinking it’s already a reality. Though you may not be consciously aware of it, you begin to make choices and act in ways that facilitate your goals. Or even more simply, the familiarity of the images compels you to have those things in real time. Whichever it is, I’ve manifested a good many material things in my life by first attracting them with thought.

Diversity in personality and behavior is one of the things that makes us all unique. Fly your freak flag, or your grump flag, or your love and light, positive attraction, unicorn pooping rainbows flag, and allow others to do the same. Maybe don’t join a camp if you don’t feel allegiance to its flag.


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