Audre Lorde was (and is) amazing. Self-care and self-preservation are very important. But I am intrigued by the need to distinguish self-care from self-indulgence. There seems to be an overall need to clarify that care and preservation are not indulgent. Why is such distinction and clarification necessary? This was furthered in an article about self-care experts who apply Lorde’s self-care theory.
Merriam-Webster defines self-indulgence as “excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s own appetites, desires, or whims”. A Google search definition states “characterized by doing or tending to do exactly what one wants, especially when this involves pleasure or idleness,” the example provided is “a self-indulgent extra hour of sleep.”
This is cultural and subjective because “excessive” and “unrestrained” vary across contexts—environments, demographics, self-identities, and group identities. Is doing exactly what one wants, including forms of pleasure and idleness, instantly and always a bad thing? Who determines that and how is that determined?
Over the years there have been Internet-based articles, including the aforementioned article, which give self-indulgence a negative connotation and address the difference between self-care versus self-indulgence. Women, in particular, often struggle to take care of themselves and to indulge in the people, places, and things that make themselves healthy, happy, and satisfied. There is an apparent need to proclaim “my self-care is NOT self-indulgence,” as though there is implied immorality and even possible illegality.
I oppose self-care being distinct from self-indulgence. I also oppose implied immorality and possible illegality. I see nothing wrong with (safe) self-care and nothing wrong with (safe) indulgence and (safe) self-indulgence. These are important.
We need to know ourselves and know our own likes and dislikes. We need to take care of our mental-emotional-physical health prior to, during, and after taking care of other people. It is problematic for there to be people who do not know themselves. This includes people who do not know what truly makes them satisfied and happy. Such lack of awareness can happen when people are consumed with family, culture, and society. This can happen when people are consumed by other people’s standards and criteria. This is a form of silencing and censorship. I encourage challenging this for the sake of self-awareness, self-care and self-indulgence.
Are self-awareness, self-care and self-indulgence selfish? That depends on who you ask. If it is selfish, selfishness is not always a bad thing. There are times when we need to look out for self which includes, but is not limited to, telling other people “no” (as I stated in my December post). We have to know ourselves, our own desires and our own wants so we can define ourselves and define our happiness. After all, we cannot seek health and happiness for our families and communities if we do not seek health and happiness for ourselves.
Unfortunately, self-care is still often ignored and dismissed. Thankfully, self-care has become more accepted in some cultures and some environments. There remains a tendency to distinguish self-care from self-indulgence. I propose there is no true distinction. There is no shame in self-indulgence. Self-indulgence does not have to harm other people. Self-indulgence does not have to be taken to the extreme. Self-indulgence needs to be viewed the same as self-care—beneficial, important and necessary—based on the notion that this is safe, moral, and legal.
Therefore, I refuse to make such distinction. I am happily and proudly self-caring and self-indulgent. The shoes fit and I am happily wearing them. We should all wear them. This makes us healthier, happier, conscious and involved. Life is too short not to be.
Do you engage in self-care and believe it is appropriate to be self-indulgent? How do you take care of yourself and treat yourself?
Biography: Kimya N. Dennis, Ph.D., sociologist and criminologist, engages in community outreach and research on suicide, suicidal self-harm, mental health, and reproductive freedoms. This work addresses diverse perspectives and underserved populations. She also conducted the first known study of childfree-by-choice people of the African diaspora; and created and teaches the first known college course about the childfree.