Why Is Self Care So Hard?

I have given a lot of thought to what makes self care so hard for so many women I know.  I have noticed a few important common denominators in people who have a hard time with self care.  And while this is not just an issue for women, I see it more commonly in women.  But if you’re not a woman and this applies to you, please take it to heart. 

Self care is talked about so frequently these day.  Let me say a bit about what I mean by self care.  I’m not talking about hedonistic, narcissistic kinds of self focus.  I’m not talking about manicures or spa days or anything like that really.  I’m talking about basic care for ourselves.  The stuff that keeps our bodies functioning well.  Things like sleeping well, healthy food, joy, calm, a sense of safety, connection with others.  For some it’s keeping the house clean enough, getting enough sleep to feel rested, caring for one’s appearance, getting a chance to move our bodies regularly.  It’s keeping connected to friends and romantic partners.  

Though many people struggle with self care, I have noticed that some clients, often men, have a different issue – a low bar for suffering and a high expectation of reward.  They often can’t tolerate the distress that comes with family life and often take more time for themselves, to the dismay of their partners or kids.  These are the people who do not overly focus on others and who are often disappearing to go on a bike ride, take a run, read a book, etc.  They’re often in bed right when they want to be and are less considerate about how their choices effect their family members.  While their self care is admirable, the way their relationships are affected by their self-focus is something else, and probably the topic of a future article.  But for those of us who struggle for self care, they may have something to teach us.  We can learn from their focus on themselves. 

The circumstances of peoples lives make this kind of care easier or harder, depending on their situation.  Single parents, care givers, people juggling multiple jobs, people with chronic mental or physical illness, will all have greater challenges when trying to care for themselves, even in these basic ways.  So, as we think about self care, please don’t compare yourselves to others who have different circumstances and please don’t judge yourselves.  And no matter what your circumstance, I suggest that people who struggle to give them selves care, take some time to focus on this and see what improvements they can make.  

Remember, self care is not extra.  It’s the basis for health and basic enjoyment in life.

Why do some of us struggle to give ourselves self care more than others?  Those of us who didn’t have enough structure, support, boundaries and guidance as we were growing up can struggle a bit more with self care.  Some people grow up with little parental supervision and structure.  Some examples of what households like this might look like are kids watching endless TV, having very little supervision, not having structured expectations and help with homework, staying up till all hours, and falling asleep in class.  Meals not being provided at regular times and kids finding what they can for food.  When parents aren’t able to provide this structure for kids, it’s often not easy to teach it to ourselves later on.  If kids grow up with this as their normal, they don’t know any different and it can be hard to find a different way in adulthood.  This kind of experience is a low bar around care from others.  

Kids who endure a lot of suffering in childhood often have trouble with self care.  People who experience lot of loneliness, sadness, fear, large amounts of daily anxiety, or specific distress around various kinds of abuse (such as emotional, verbal, sexual abuse), and alcoholism and drug abuse, can get used to a lot of internal distress.  Kids get so used to that internal feeling of distress that it becomes the norm and anything more is just a bonus, but not necessarily expected or looked for.  Kids who grow up working a lot or who are athletes, often have issues with this as well.  Athletes are often taught to push past suffering rather than tuning in to it.  

Getting used to suffering is a problem.  Later in life, when young adults have more control over their situations, they don’t always realize when they are pushing through more pain than they need  to.  People don’t always know that there are better feeling options available to them at any given moment.  This is a high threshold for suffering.  

As a child, a low bar of care by parents plus a high threshold for suffering can equal not being very good at self care.  

If either or both of these describe you, please take a few minutes to acknowledge these patterns and where they might have come from.  Be compassionate with yourself about this, knowing it’s not your fault that you struggle with this issue.  But it is you who gets to address it now.  And that’s good news, because what you can control, you can change.  And you deserve all the self care and love you can find.

Be on the look out for my next post, which will have some ideas for improving your self care, little by little.  I’d love to hear about what true self care means to you.  How often to do you feel you’re able to give it to yourself?  When you can’t, what get’s in your way?  When it goes well, what does it give you?

Black Lives Matter

I am a white woman and I want to say something about race to other white people.  I have rewritten this post multiple times because it’s a complicated issue and I’m not an expert by any means.  Anything I say here will be completely inadequate, but silence is complacency and I will not be silent regarding where I stand on the Black Lives Matter movement.  I fully support the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Speaking up, doesn’t mean saying it perfectly, or not making a mistake.  I know that for many reasons, but most especially because I’m white, I have an endless amount to learn.  I will not get to most of it in my lifetime, but my goal is to keep trying, learning and growing and changing my behavior and choices wherever I can.  

I want to share a few things because I know that my silence leaves people who don’t know me  unsure of where I stand.  White silence leaves people of color in a less safe situation.  So here are some of my thoughts, where I’m coming from, what I’m trying to do right now to grow, and a few ideas on places other white people can grow and take action too.  

My first lessons around race came from growing up in Texas, a place with a LOT of racism.  I grew up feeling horrified by the racism I saw, and unaware of the racism that lived within me.  The graduate school I went to, Smith School for Social Work, had a commitment to become an antiracist institution.  One of the things this meant was that we looked at race and racism in every class we took, no matter what the topic.  And we looked at racism within ourselves.  I came to believe something I learned there – that every white person is racist – in some way or another, in one moment or another.  And I came to believe that about myself.  And that was a rough realization for me.  I realized that there were infrequent, almost imperceptibly-out-of-my-conscious-mind thoughts, about people of color that came from things I’d been steeped in growing up.  I learned that instead of going into a shame spiral about that and then pushing the thoughts away, I needed to bring thoughts like that into my conscious awareness, thereby exposing their ignorance and deflating them. 

I share that story for other white people who might think they’re not racist or don’t contribute to the racism we see around us.  I ask them to just consider the idea that racism may live inside of them.  I’ve known white people who say they’re not racist, but are obviously racist.  I’ve known more white people who say they’re not racist and though they don’t seem racist in any way that I can tell, I seriously doubt they are feeling any ownership for the black men and women (and other people of color) who suffer racism every day. 

White people are the only people who can end racism.  Black people didn’t create the problem and can’t end it.  Only we can.  White people created the problem.  It is built into the system, into the way of life in America.  If we want it to end, we need to make racist people uncomfortable.  We need to put ourselves at risk, and stand up for what is right.  We need to work harder and do more to create change.  It is squarely up to each one of us.    

I am more aware than ever of my white privilege and how every single, little, tiny advantage I received because of the color of my skin, created a disadvantage to a some person of color somewhere. 

Here are some of the things I’m committing to do to help this situation, or am doing already:

  • Give money to Black Lives Matter 
  • Give money to scholarship funds that are being developed for black therapists through the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy
  • Start a book club to read How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Confront racism
  • Listen to feedback from people of color, and white people who are further along the path of becoming antiracist than I am
  • Offer a significant discount for black clients who would like it, in addition to my regular sliding scale fee spot

Here are some things all white people can do to help to end racism…


Remember that by not taking a stand for Black Lives Matter – you’re taking a stand for racism.


Every time we as white people don’t speak up against racism we are complicit and we are allowing the status quo of racism and suffering to continue.  And white people have all kinds of reasons that they don’t speak up and none of them are good enough and never have been. Our shutting down racism and educating where we can, can stop the horrific cycle of violence, murder and micro-aggressions that black people live with everyday.  Talk to your families and friends about this issue.  Open a dialogue in your workplace.  Demand change.  I am asking other white people to make your voice known – name the side you’re on, out loud.   


We need to look deep inside ourselves regarding extremely subtle (or not so subtle) racist thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, assumptions, or places of ignorance.  We must question ourselves, our white privilege, how we benefit from it, and how have we subtly or otherwise, participated in racism our lives.


We must keep speaking up to our white families, friends, and co-workers who need to be brought along further down this path.  We can help those of us who are less aware than we are.  And we can be open and learn from those who are more aware than we are.  


We need to read, watch, and listen to educate ourselves.  We must let the movement for equality and respect direct us.  We need to follow, and learn and grow. This is not our time to talk.  Black folks don’t have anything to learn from us about racism.  We have a lot to learn from them.  This is a time to listen to people of color and educate ourselves.  


We need to educate ourselves about reparations and start taking action.  Reparations are something our government promised long ago and never delivered on.  It’s important that we learn about it and make it a reality.  


There are some amazing ideas out there about police reform and alternatives to police.  Learn about them.  Research them and talk about them.  Vote for them.  The complacency for violence and abuse towards black people exists within police departments and must be stoped.


This won’t be right for everyone in the time of COVID.  It’s a personal decision and every single person who is marching is taking on some risk.  But these protests are making a difference.  They are putting the problem in front of the whole world in a clear and important way.  If you’re healthy enough and feel you can protect yourself enough, or you simple don’t care about the risk, go for it.  If you are at greater risk or it’s not right for you for another reason, there are many other ways to help.  Protesters who are white, face less risk from the police.  Let’s use our white privilege to stop racism in all the ways we can.  


Give money to Black Lives Matter, to people supporting the protests, to bail for protestors, to black people in your profession.  Check out the reparations Facebook page:



If you want equality for human beings and if you want human beings treated with respect, you will not vote for Trump or anyone who supports him.  A vote for Trump is a vote for racism.

I’d like to share some of the things I’ve been listening to and reading lately.  I’ve gotten ideas from my own research and other people’s lists of what they’ve been paying attention to.  Let’s share good information with each other.

Reparations:  https://www.reparations.me

There are so many other resources.  Here’s a list that was recently shared publicly.  


In Judaism, we have an idea called Tikkun Olam – To Repair the World.  The idea is that the world is broken and it’s up to each of us to do all we can to heal the world while we are here. 

I’d like to hear from you…  

What are you doing to learn more, do more and think more?  How are you working to repair the world regarding antiracism?  What are the ways in which you can relate to what I’m sharing? 

No Justice, No Peace