Dr. Mona's Mom Blog

Why “self-compassion” is more important than “self-care”.

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And why I have grown to loathe the term “self-care”!

Give yourself self-compassion, give yourself a hug!

When you think or see “self-care” on social media, what you see is women looking perfect all the time, who look perfect using the hashtag, when they’re getting their nails done, or their hair done, etc. The use of #selfcare has made me hate the term self-care, so much that I need some self-care to overcome the annoyance I have with the term self-care. Got it. Okay. Let’s move on.

Self-care seems impossible sometimes as a mom. And as you add kids and responsibilities (such as work or household chores) it seems unattainable. Then what happens? You feel guilty when you can’t accomplish the “self-care” that you are being preached to do.

But, you know what? We all have different resources. We all have a different definition of what self-care looks like and yet we hold ourselves to a standard created by others or compare our self-care to others. 

The worst thing we can do! Comparison is the worst and now we compare our self-care. We start to say to ourselves, “Wow, she got her nails done, a workout in, her hair done, a girls trip—and I cant do any of that. I don’t have the resources (financial or time off) or childcare help to do any of that.”

There are a few fundamental issues with self-care:

  1. It seems impossible when you have no help. This is true for so many of us in this pandemic. Childcare is a mess. Jobs are overstressed. Social circles are not what they used to be pre-pandemic.

    So, when do we breathe? When do we get time for ourselves?

    There is no amount of “self-care” to get us out of a lack of support. 


  2. When we have tumbled into exhaustion, there is no amount of meditation or lighting of a candle, that’s gonna fix it.

    When you enter a spiral of overwhelm, it can be hard to get out.

    So things like lighting a candle are like trying to patch a leak with scotch tape. It’s going to barely keep it together.   


  3. We confuse needing self-care with an actual need for professional help.

    A good rule of thumb is if you are doing your usual self-care practices and you are still feeling a level of distress – such as feelings of guilt or worthlessness, intrusive thoughts, lack of motivation or difficulty concentrating – it might be time to seek professional support.


  4. We all may define it differently or need different outlets–I find my self-care activities to be working out or sitting uninterrupted (no “mama” being yelled, no questions from hubs, and no dogs barking).

    If Ryaan is in the house being taken care of by hubs, it doesn’t work, it’s impossible for me to do any of that in the house with him screaming “mama, mama, mama” or coming up to grab my shoe while I try and do a Peloton ride. That is not self-care. Self-care is me time uninterrupted—no decisions. 


  5. We feel guilty when we don’t do it because we feel we are letting ourselves down—cue guilt. A checklist we can’t accomplish. Cue the need for more self-care and a vicious cycle. 

So, I want to offer a different perspective, to rather focus on self compassion.

Focus on giving yourself some understanding for bad days. And accept that you may not be able to do self-care (again, whatever that may mean for YOU), everyday.

But, also celebrate the small wins with reframing. 

Here are some of my favorite ways to practice self-compassion:

  1. Recognize burnout. You are the only one who knows this. If you feel its settling in, you MUST retreat to find what will help “reset”.

    Speak to your partner (if you have one) and if you don’t; build in things for YOU when your child is napping or goes to sleep.

    Ask for help from family or loved ones so you can reset your soul. But, it’s also about long-term maintenance so we don’t end up in this cycle of overwhelmed. 



  2. When you do get a moment, whether it’s during a nap time or bedtime—focus on small accomplishments for the day. “I cleaned up the toys or did the dishes.”

    You don’t need to do everything, but give yourself a little nod for accomplishing something today.

    You don’t need a red carpet, or validation from others, but it’s okay to celebrate in yourself!



  3. Focus on the things you did do and not the things you didn’t. As mothers we often forget all the good we do because it’s easier for our brain to focus on negatives. This is how our brains are wired.

    But, feed that dopamine. Actively think of the good things that happened that day. Maybe you made your kiddo laugh. Maybe you didn’t yell today. Maybe you yelled but apologized. Maybe you accomplished something at work.

    There IS going to be something that you did, that you can say to yourself, “I’m proud of you.”


  4. Practice reframing for all the things that did make you feel upset today.

    Rather than scrolling social media—yes I said it—write in a journal a thing of things that bothered you or made you anxious today. And then write a reframe – or just say it to yourself!

    I love this because you can see the issue that’s causing you worry, but you are controlling it by writing a positive about it or a rebuttal and can visually see it. Bonus, would be to say it to yourself.

    By doing this, you are not denying what you are feeling – but you are controlling the narrative.


  5. Don’t put too much pressure on you to “self-care” a certain way. What works for me, may not work for you. But, it does come down to two essentials.

    1. Move your body in some way—this is a physical way to move negative energy or stagnant energy in your mind.

    2. Still your mind either by meditation, journaling, or taking moment for yourself away from your cell phone. 

So rather than trying to fit in self-care every day and the idea of it, fit in self-compassion. Celebrate the things that did go well or are going well—you may need to dig deep on some days, without comparing your self-care with others, or another day, or moment you have had. Don’t get into that cycle.

Days and moments are fleeting, what is not fleeting is the mindset that you create for yourself. The narrative you tell yourself.

True self-care is giving the world the best of you instead of what’s left of you, and in order to reach that place of self-care, we have to give ourselves self-compassion, FIRST.

Understand to learn to let go of expectation and show yourself some grace as you navigate hard times. 

P.S. – Listen to this Finding Joy Episode from my podcast, where I dig deeper into this topic and what it’s meant for me in my life as a mom!

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All information presented on this blog, my Instagram, and my podcast is for educational purposes and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These platforms are to educate and should not replace the medical judgment of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.

It is the responsibility of the guardian to seek appropriate medical attention when they are concerned about their child.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or hospitals I may be affiliated with.