Change the Mindset: Celebrating Self-Care, Not Self-Destruction

Here in the USA, we are known for our culture of “workaholics,” productivity, not taking breaks, piling on social commitments, eating meals at our desks and in our cars, and simply never taking the time to slow down. We celebrate it… but maybe we shouldn’t.

You can’t always affect the whole world, but you can affect the world immediately around you. There is tons of research on how friend groups and social circles can influence each other’s behaviors. Sometimes, that is for the better, but it can also be a place for bad habits to spread. We’re looking at the bad habit of celebrating self-destruction through overextension.

Here’s an example: You’re chatting with a friend, and you start detailing your week,

“Work has been chaotic – my boss is having me work overtime for a huge project, but I still woke up early and went to the gym, and I’m meeting a couple of people after work today for drinks, and still am pretty sure I’ll be able to cook something for my mom’s potluck on Saturday.”

Your friend replies, in a show of support, “Wow! You’re crushing it!”

The reality is, yes – you’re crushing “it,” but you’re also crushing yourself.

It generally is good to be celebrated, but celebration can be less good when it’s about overextension. Bragging about and celebrating overextension creates an unhealthy cycle where overextension becomes the norm, or even the expectation. It’s human nature; we see others getting praised for something, so we start to copy their behaviors. Then, the little voice in our head develops! When we don’t overextend, we start to feel guilty for not doing enough. The good intentions are there, but while trying to be supportive of success and productivity, we may be hurting ourselves and others.

The good news is that a simple mindset change by one person in a friend group can often result in everyone else catching the wave to create a healthier mindset. Even just being aware of this productivity obsession might be the ticket to catching yourself when you’re about to celebrate it, and eventually letting that little voice in your head relax too. You could be first, and it means leading by example.

The first step in redefining success and productivity is to ensure self-care is included. Self-care is pretty individual – what might be self-care to your friend isn’t what self-care looks like for you. Start by taking inventory:

  • What are you currently doing for self-care?
  • Is what you are currently doing for self-care actually meeting your needs?

If you’re a) not sure that you’re doing anything for self-care, or b) not sure it’s really meeting your needs, it’s time to figure out something that would be self-care to you, and what would actually meet your needs. Below is a list of examples that can get you thinking on the right track, and some things you really can brag about to your friends:

  • “I never get enough sleep. I’m tired at work, and I don’t feel strong at my workouts. I’m trying to make a change, and I already went to bed an hour earlier three times this week!”
  • “I have a lot of fun activities going on this week, so I’m taking a “me day” to recover this weekend. I’m really looking forward to it!”
  • “I’ve been eating a lot of junk lately, so I picked up some pre-made meals to make this week easier.”
  • “My boss asked me to take on another project at work, and instead of just saying ‘yes,’ I asked them what other project they would like to table for me to work on that. I usually just say yes to everything, so I’m very proud of myself.”

It’s ok to not change everything all at once – it’s actually even better for long term change. Maybe try to do one thing, and celebrate it. Your little changes for self-care (healthy daily habits, planning recoveries, maintaining boundaries) are all worth celebrating, and hopefully it will rub off on others.

The second step is to adjust your support to encourage self-care behaviors from others. Here are some ways this can sound:

  • “Wow, I’m really glad you were able to get all of that done! It sounds like it needed to happen on that timeline. Do you have a day planned to just chill soon?”
  • “That sounds like a lot – how is that affecting your ability to (insert favorite hobby)?”
  • “You have a lot going on. Do you feel like you’re getting enough time to rest most days?”

Showing genuine concern for self-care expresses your values and may rub off positively on your friends. For some friend groups, the enthusiasm for your self-care may initially be a little lower than the enthusiasm for overextension. They may not be ready to make the changes at the same time as you. That said, showing support and enthusiasm for each other’s self care needs can become as contagious as it was to celebrate each other’s overextension. Keep showing them your support, and eventually, you can all celebrate each other’s positive changes and positive mindsets!