Self-love and self-care are so in. Am I right? But what about when they’re too in—inward that is? What happens when we become too inwardly consumed with our self-care routines that we have trouble relating to those around us? Are we subconsciously self-isolating or just taking time to focus on ourselves? When do our self-care rituals actually disconnect us from healthy socialization and why?
Narcissism, dependence or something else?
We all have “that” friend who when out to lunch talks on incessantly about the same things: her new self-care wellness crusade, the latest plant-based diet she’s trying and how zen her new therapist is, barely catching a breath to ask how we are doing.
Some of us interpret the friend’s report thinking, “She’s just lonely and needs a friend to help validate her self-esteem,” while others of us might peg her for a narcissist, “She always directs the conversation to her own needs.”
So which is it? She’s a narcissistic extrovert craving admiration and approval? Or an introverted friend dependent on external validation? Is it possible that both introverts and extroverts share similar self-sabotaging behaviors that manifest as a need for external validation? And, is something more pervasive and deeper driving this behavior, possibly anxiety, PTSD or unidentified fear? Can all of this really be hiding beneath a self-care routine?
What about beliefs?
Early in my private practice career, in my own earnest attempt to help patients optimize wellness, I was sure to thoroughly explain my treatment plans in great detail. “Take these nutraceuticals like this, eat these foods in this quantity at these times, meditate this way…” Most patients got better and most adapted my suggestions into their self-care routines, but some didn’t. Some plateaued and seemed to lose enthusiasm even while their health continued to improve. I wondered why. My treatments were based on research, how could they waver from patient to patient?
Then I made a discovery about beliefs, self-care and relationships. My friend and colleague, neuro-linguisist and writer, James Cervelloni had recently given a TED talk on the subject of identifying needs and overcoming blocks through our beliefs. I decided to put this idea into action with my patients who were so dedicated to self-care.
I chose to try a different way of asking questions with a relatively new patient who was exceptionally compliant with her self-care routine, yet continually reported fatigue and a lack of friends. I said, “I don’t think I have your full story, I don’t think I’ve spent enough time getting to know who you are. Can you tell me more about who Jill is out there in the world and can you tell me what you hope to achieve through your self-care goals? I know everyone’s goals are unique and an extension of their belief systems.”
She responded, and instead of listing health concerns, she told me about her life, how she was shy, how she experienced authority issues and why her particular wellness goals were important. In doing so, I completely understood how her self-care routine was sabotaging and limiting her social experiences. She revealed she was so dependent on the idea that becoming healthy would make her seem attractive to others that she was becoming more anxious and lost through the process rather than making social connections through it.
Jill’s routine, although she followed it to the T as I’d directed, lacked a personal foundation based on her belief system. It was simply an arbitrary list of “things” that I’d suggested. Despite her high level of compliance, the actual routine was making her tired and stressing her out while underneath she was experiencing social anxiety related to her shyness.
Have you become too inwardly absorbed by your self-care routine? Ask yourself these questions and try my tips to get your social life in motion this summer:
- Have I identified how my personal beliefs and values are connected to my current self-care routines?
- Is my need to practice self-care similar to spiritual bypassing? Am I consuming myself with my self-care routine as a way of avoiding a need for self-validation, self-acceptance or to cover up the source of anxiety or fear I may be experiencing?
- Am I covering up a need for self-validation through excessive self-admiration with my excessive exercise, beautification practices and dieting?
- Engage in self-care activities that can be practiced alone or in groups such as yoga or tai chi. Both are gentle, yet powerful mind/body practices that create new neural networks, diminish fatigue and have been reported to boost self-confidence both sub- and consciously.
- Align with wellness practitioners that help you explore the connection to your beliefs, how you perceive yourself related to your wellness goals and how to balance your inward and outward expressions.
- Join a meditation or manifestation group where you discuss and practice certain aspects of your self-care routines in a social setting.
- There’s nothing wrong with “look good, feel good” when it’s a balanced part of your daily routine. Try facial rejuvenation as a whole-body self-care experience.
Has simplifying or reshaping your self-care routine helped you connect to new friends or groups? Share what you’re up to this summer in the comments below.
Christine has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. She is available for both private and professional consultations. Please contact her here.
Artwork by Michelle Favin of Whys LA for Poppy & Seed. Connect with her @whyslosangeles.