When self-care hurts

Self-care is often seen as something soft, nurturing and even fluffy at times. It’s a warm bubble bath on a Sunday evening, a cup of tea in the garden, a gentle yoga practice as the sun sets. And it certainly is all of these things, but it’s also so much more.

I’ve always considered self-care to be anything that helps you feel calm and refreshed. An act or practice that recharges you and brings you back to yourself. But the more I work in this realm, the more I realise this isn’t strictly true. 

Self-care doesn’t always feel warm and comforting. It isn’t always the soft embrace we want it to be. Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it hurts.


This, I believe, is because self-care often involves an element of growth and change. And this can feel sticky and uncomfortable. We have to meet some not so pleasant emotions on the way. We have to sit with discomfort, knowing that ultimately what we’re doing is for the best.

I want to share some examples here and reiterate that while it can feel uncomfortable at first, these actions are still acts of self-care. They’ll help you grow and develop in beautiful ways. 

Setting boundaries

This is a pretty broad umbrella, but setting any type of boundary can feel difficult at first. Maybe you’re drawing a clearer line between work and life? Perhaps you’re firming up your boundaries around social media? You may even be setting boundaries with loved ones in your life. 

Whatever boundaries you’re setting, you have good reasons for setting them and know deep down it’s an act of self-care. So when the heat of discomfort arises, breathe through it. Remind yourself what happens when your boundaries evaporate.

Saying no 

In a similar vein to setting boundaries, saying no to people and prioritising your needs is no easy thing. Whether you’re saying no to more work because your plate is already full or you’re saying no to a social invite because your mental health is playing up – prioritising your needs can feel icky, I know. Especially if you’re used to people pleasing and putting other people’s needs above your own.

In this instance I would encourage you to remind yourself how your self-care supports others. Saying no may feel like you’re not helping others, but it’s the only way you can keep hold of the energy you need to really be there for others. If saying no out right feels too hard, try offering an alternative (for example, “No I can’t meet for dinner tonight, but let’s grab a coffee at the weekend instead”). 

Letting go

Habits, routines, beliefs, toxic relationships… there are some things in life we all struggle to let go of, but sometimes we need to. The habit of checking emails just before going to bed. The routine of eating lunch in hurried bites at your desk. The belief that your worth is rooted in your productivity. The so-called friend who makes you feel like what you have to say doesn’t matter.

Facing the things in life that don’t serve us and letting them go feels new and scary. But, when you get through the discomfort you’ll find space. And this is where new and nurturing habits, routines, beliefs and relationships can grow. 

Saying yes (and pushing through fear)

We’ve covered the fact that saying no can be hard, but so can saying yes. Saying yes to opportunities that feel too big for you. Saying yes to the next step of your growth. Saying yes to yourself. All of this takes you into new territory and you haven’t got a map for that. It takes courage.

Sometimes self-care is saying no and retreating to a place of comfort, but sometimes it’s saying yes and pushing through the fear of the unknown. This line is a tough one to tread and one I honestly wrestle with the most (thanks for that, anxiety). 

It’s hard sometimes to know what the right course of action is and just doing what feels good when it comes to self-care isn’t always the answer. As with all things personal development, I believe listening to yourself here is key. Journal, meditate, do whatever you need to keep tuning in to yourself and how things feel. What parts of self-care feel hardest for you?

I want to pop a reminder here too that if self-care is an area you’re looking for support with, I would love to help. Take a look at my coaching page for more information on that.

I will be back on Wednesday with the show notes for my first official podcast episode! It will be an introductory episode to tell you my background, why I decided to start a podcast and what I hope to achieve with it. 

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When self-care hurts

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