Are You Playing Offense or Defense in your Life?
Ever think about the difference between Self Improvement and Self Care? Many people think these terms are synonymous, but in fact, they are very different. As defined in the dictionary, Self Improvement is “the improvement of one’s knowledge, status or character by one’s own effort.” Self Care is defined as “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness.”
In my opinion, Self Improvement is necessary and can lead to very positive outcomes. Through Self Improvement, we aspire to that promotion at the office. We can intentionally work to understand ourselves better which will ultimately lead to deeper relationships. We can increase our knowledge on a subject and eventually start teaching others. We can learn a new skill that we share with our family and friends. Self Improvement typically has a motive. Through taking on these actions, a person expects to achieve a certain result. Self Improvement takes a lot of work and discipline. It is an offensive play in our lives. We see something we want, so we proactively go after it in order to achieve something greater than where we are today.
Many people enjoy Self Improvement because the results are tangible. You learn a new skill such as playing piano, and then you host a recital for friends and family to listen. You put in extra hours at work for that promotion, and a few months later, your boss is calling you into her office to share the good news with you. It really is a simple equation.
Effort + Intention = Results
The promise of reaching these greater results is what drives someone to keep pushing, even when it gets tough.
Now, Self Care on the other hand…well, this may have a different connotation. Where Self Improvement has been deemed necessary and an important part of reaching high achievement, Self Care is a newer term that is being thrown around, but it is not necessarily widely adopted…yet. Self Care, in a similar way to Self Improvement, can also lead to quite positive outcomes. A few examples: living a life with less stress due to improved coping mechanisms; enjoying more peace on a daily basis by starting a meditation practice; building authentic relationships by leaning into vulnerability more often. These benefits sound life-changing to me; and yet, many people hesitate to take time out of their busy schedules to prioritize these practices throughout their day.
Self Care, just like Self Improvement, requires motivation and intention, but the main difference is that Self Care can be viewed as a defensive play in our lives. Just as the definition suggests, when we employ Self Care tactics, we are “protecting one’s own well-being and happiness.” We decide to invest in ourselves, so we are ready to react to the world’s expectations, stresses, struggles, and pain.
One of the issues that people have with prioritizing Self Care is that they think it does not lead to results. Well, to me, the equation here is:
Prioritization of Self + Intention = Freedom
How does Freedom come into play with Self Care? When we practice Self Care, we are learning to accept our current circumstances, and we adopt practices to deal with whatever life throws at us. By cultivating the tools to deal with life’s bullshit (pardon my language), we are freeing ourselves to be able to handle anything that comes our way.
When we work hard for that promotion, but our boss gives it to someone else, we turn back to Self Care to deal with the blow in a gracious way instead of spiraling out of control into jealousy, gossip and self-loathing. If we schedule a performance to showcase a new skill and we miss a note, we lean into Self Care for forgiveness and self-love, and we may even build stronger connections with those in the audience by showing up as a real human who makes mistakes.
We embark on a journey of freedom when we have a solid Self Care practice because we are no longer afraid of failing. We have our toolkit ready to go for when life spits in our face. There is no need for fear when you know how to deal with the scary stuff in life.
So why don’t we employ the same effort into taking care of ourselves as we do on improving oneself? Is it because our society refuses to label a calm, happy person as someone who has reached a high level of success?
In my opinion, I think you need both Self Improvement and Self Care to live a balanced and fulfilling life. Self Improvement will push you to reach for more…to go the extra mile. Self Care keeps you sane along the way. They are not mutually exclusive.
Think about it this way. How many people do we know who appear to “have it all” with success, money, or fame, but they are also struggling with self-loathing, anxiety, poor health or feelings of emptiness?
Just as a sports team utilizes both offensive and defensive plays on the field, when Self Improvement and Self Care are used in tandem, we are setting ourselves up for our best chance to win at life.
If you’re interested in starting your Self Care practice today, but don’t know where to begin, reach out to me at Bloom Life Coaching. I exercise both Self Improvement and Self Care, and I have seen immense value since incorporating these practices into my daily life.