Symbolic Self-Care: Why the Stories We Tell Ourselves Matter So Much

September 12, 2018

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy


Self-care has become quite the buzz word lately.  It’s definition has been corrupted by popular culture, to the point that it’s at times used as a joke.

However, self-care is actually a really important aspect of our lives that is often overlooked.  Our success and money-driven society tells us that self-care is indulgent, lazy, and definitely not noble.  We praise people who work 12-14 hour days and never take a break. We give medals to people who run marathons and ultra marathons.  We act like it’s cool to only get 5 hours of sleep.

This is all based on the notion that if some is good, more must be better.  It’s exhausting.

So where does self-care come in when it feels like a luxury that we can’t afford with our time or money?  (Hint: It’s not all about beach vacations and spa days).

Self-care isn’t so much about WHAT we are doing.  It’s more about WHY we do it and the story we tell ourselves about what we’re doing.

The most mundane things throughout our day can actually contribute a great deal of meaning and self-care if we choose to give them purpose.  

A few examples:

  • The Task: Washing your hands
    • The Story: Noticing the sound and feel of the warm water rushing over your hands, and the suds from the soap.  A peaceful little moment sprinkled into your day.

  • The Task: Riding in an elevator

    • The Story: A moment to take a few deep breaths, and an opportunity to give a warm smile to others on the elevator and to wish them a nice day (either aloud or in your mind).  
  • The Task: Taking your medication

    • The Story: Consciously telling yourself that you are taking your medication as an act of respect and honor towards your body.  You are helping your body work its best. (Side note: Studies show that the more you believe this to be true, the better the medications actually work.  The mind is a powerful thing!)

  • The Task: Decorating your home or office

    • The Story: Assigning meaning to certain objects.  A painting that represents hope, or a plant that symbolizes your commitment to be kind to yourself, or a throw blanket that represents warmth (both literal and metaphorical) when you need comfort.  


You see, these mundane tasks and objects could be unnoticed and meaningless, or they could be acts of self-care if we attach an intentional story about the meaning.  

It’s all about the symbolism, and the story you tell yourself about these things.  Choose stories that function as self-care.

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