If you’re even a tiny bit tapped into the self-development world, you’ve probably read or heard some version of the following at some point along your journey:
If it doesn’t flow, it’s not meant to be.
Healthy relationships feel easy, not challenging.
Only do things that feel in alignment.
Follow your bliss.
Self care is fun, relaxing, never challenging or difficult, and looks like bubble baths, manicures, cake, and movies.
Wait until you feel ready, then go for it.
If someone makes you feel ______, they are toxic and you should cut them out of your life.
Only spend time with people who make you feel _______.
I could go on and on.
I love a cute instagram infographic as much as the next millennial but COME ON, PEOPLE. These statements above are so ridiculously misleading and so irresponsible to keep proliferating. When I was in the beginning of my own journey learning about self development, I would see one of these graphics and it would make me second-guess all of the deep work in therapy and coaching that I had done because it didn’t feel flowy and nice, but rather gut-wrenching and identity-shattering. Part of this second-guessing was of course due to the fact that I was still learning how to trust myself and my intuition, but part of it was because I was seeing to many voices out there telling me to halt any activity that didn’t make me feel like a baby bunny in a pink silk bow in a green meadow. Bullshit. I wanted to dedicate an entire post to making sure whoever reads this knows that self care and self love and self development does not always look pretty (in fact, it will fuck you up in a good way if you’re doing it right).
I will dispel the 3 most common faux self empowerment myths for you right now:
self care and self development are beautiful and peaceful and fun.
you should only do things that feel good.
toxic people make you feel ______ & you should cut them out of your life right now.
All of these statements sound innocent enough, and would probably get you some approving nods if you gave them as surface-level advice to a friend who was going through some tough stuff, but none of these statements are helpful or true and I’m here to tell you why.
Self care means caring for and loving yourself, respecting your own dreams and boundaries and goals, honoring yourself more than anyone in your life ever will. Sometimes this looks like cuddling in bed, but sometimes it looks like exercise, doing homework, filing taxes, not eating sugar and caffeine, or making a vulnerable and difficult request from someone. If your only version of self care includes drinking hot chocolate and watching Harry Potter, I would guess that a huge part of you—the part of you that requires you to go out there and do scary things—is being suppressed, and that is NOT a loving way to treat yourself. So stop it ;)
You should absolutely do things that feel good. Of course. But making comfort the gold standard for how you decide to spend your time? That’s a no. Recognize that as you’re growing out of old conditioning, some really amazing activities that will directly contribute to your growth and wellbeing won’t feel good to you—at first, or ever. Things like boundaries, goal cultivation, keeping commitments to yourself and to others, saying no, telling the truth, and being deeply honest with yourself can, at times, feel like your skin is burning off. It’s awful. It’s painful. It will make you want to leap into a warm tub of bubbles with hot cocoa and back off this more intense inner work. But it is important to know when you need to choose discomfort on purpose—it is important to know that the decision to pay for growth with the price of discomfort is one you want to make (or maybe it’s not, but you do need to give yourself the gift of deciding). Remember: you can always soothe yourself with all the kindness and compassion and understanding you need while still staying committed to the difficult things that are moving you forward. It doesn’t ever have to be either//or; it can be both//and.
In cases of abuse, going no-contact with someone can be a brave act of self love. Oftentimes, however, when people talk about toxic people, they are conflating someone who is abusive with someone who simply has different priorities, values, interests, and viewpoints. People in your life that you think are “toxic“ might be giving you valuable opportunities to learn compassion, patience, and a deeper level of self-knowledge that shows you where you still have work to do. Remember that you have 110% control over your emotions because you have 110% control over your thoughts—living your life in retaliation of the way others behave will not serve you.