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Where Self-Improvement Meets Self-Care

Self-improvement often feels like the opposite of self-care. Driving yourself to get a promotion at work or to succeed in some other endeavor can actually be what leads to the need for self-care in the first place. On the other hand, sometimes self-care can start to feel too much like self-improvement. Sure, you want to eat healthy, nurturing foods, but sometimes, you just want a cookie. Do you always have to be on a treadmill trying to be better? Can you ever integrate doing things better with looking after yourself? The answer to the first question is no, and the second is yes, and the tips below can explain how.

What is the Difference?

We live in a culture that demands living a life of intention and insists that we always need to do better. This is at the root of self-improvement. Self-care, on the other hand, is about looking after yourself and finding things that nurture you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Which one makes you strive to run a marathon, learn a language, or finish a degree? A useful question to ponder goes like this: what if you’re just fine the way you are? What if you don’t need to do things better? This can help you start to get at the root of the difference, to figure out if you’re trying to run that marathon or learn that language because it’s just something you enjoy or it’s something you think you should do.

Financial Well-Being

financial planning
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One way to integrate the two concepts is to consider practical things you can do that will both enhance your well-being and represent a genuine step toward improvement. Organizing your finances will do both of these things. If you’re like most people, your finances need some work, and getting them in order will take a lot of stress out of your life and represent a genuine improvement in your situation, allowing you to save and invest more toward retirement.

In general, your financial planning needs to have a few different elements. You need to create a budget. You need a plan to pay off your debt, such as credit card debt and student loans. An Earnest student loan refinance calculator can help you determine what your payments would be if you refinanced your student loans, and this could reduce how much you’re paying each month. You also need to ensure that you’re building a fund for emergency expenses and retirement savings. An exercise program you enjoy enough to stick to is another example of integrating the two.

Down Time

Self-care and self-improvement can make you feel like you can never really have any downtime. The former may seem like it’s about taking a break, but why does it always seem like the break involves doing something like writing in a journal or yoga? What if you don’t want to move around healthily or write things down? Maybe your time would be better spent learning a language or reading something demanding but what you really want to do is just polish off a trashy novel. Sometimes you just need to watch mindless TV or play a less-than-edifying video game to unwind. You don’t have to be productive every minute of every day, and the way to nurture yourself sometimes is to ease off on the judgment a little bit.

What to Let Go Of

It can be easy to forget that some of the most valuable qualities that people can possess are not things that are easily quantifiable along a scale of improvement. Think about the person in your life who is the most compassionate and makes you laugh the hardest or the friends and family who love you and toward whom you feel the same. Remember that these are not valuable to you because of their career successes, good exercise habits, and organized finances. Goals can be great tools to help you run your life more smoothly and enjoy it more, but you can let go of the idea that you need them to have value as a person. This realization might be the most important act of self-improvement and self-care.

Featured Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay