The Difference Between Self-Care And Self-Control

I was listening to a Podcast a while back, which briefly mentioned the difference between self-care and self-control.

One of the women on the Podcast simply said “yeah, well one of those is self-care, and the other is self-control” as she was describing two examples. The other woman agreed and then they moved on.

I was so struck by this topic, and knew I wanted to talk so much more about it. To these women, the difference was simple and obvious. To me, this was the difference between my current joy and my history of feeling CRAZY restricted and obsessed with food and dieting. This was HUGE.

This little phrase “self-care vs. self-control” felt so BIG to me. There’s such a difference between the two, and today I want to talk about how they are different with you.

Is this a BIG topic for you, too? Then, let’s jump right in with some examples (I love examples) from my own life:

Self-Care

  • focusing on taking really great care of myself
  • choosing to not wear makeup for a day because it allows me to feel more “me”
  • getting a little extra dressed up for a day because I want to pamper myself
  • cooking myself healthy foods, because I’m excited to nourish my body
  • taking myself for a walk on a sunny day because I know it’s going to re-energize me
  • riding my bike to the gym instead of driving so I can be out in the crisp Spring air
  • going to bed early so that I can feel super rested before a big day of work
  • taking myself out to dinner when things in my fridge aren’t looking exciting
  • planning for the grocery store so that I can fill my fridge with things that are exciting
  • saying “no” to certain things in my week/calendar that feel like TOO much
  • creating a “free space” in my calendar to stay home, and do whatever I want around the house
  • spending extra time working earlier in the week so that I can take a day off with my husband
  • planning trips in nature because I know how much it fills my soul
  • waking up early one morning to spend time in my journal and read because I know it’ll set me up to have a great day
  • NOT picking up around the house so I can focus on what I actually want to get done or, be present with whoever is in front of me
  • or, taking a few hours to turn on music, get in comfy clothes, and clean/tidy my house so that I feel re-engergized
  • really thinking about what I want/need moment by moment
  • not weighing myself for 5 years now because it gives me more freedom

All of these examples are things that I currently do to fill my soul. There are many more, but these are the ones that are top of mind this morning. All of these things feel SO good. They add to my life, they bring me joy, calmness, and ease (which is exactly what we want you to feel in Finally Free).

Self-Control

  • making myself wake up at 5:30 so I could run twice around the block before work/school, then planning to go to the gym for two hours later in the day
  • choosing my breakfast by scanning my app and picking the lowest calorie option
  • drinking coffee, taking supplements, and sipping green tea through the day, which caused me almost daily panic attacks, usually at the start of my day
  • making myself exercise if I’d eaten too much, regardless of how late it was (11:00 pm? Yep! You’re still going to the gym!)
  • planning out my week rigidly and having no room for flexibility
  • grocery shopping with the goal of “only bringing home healthy/clean foods”
  • saying YES or NO to plans based on what types of foods would be there, or how “tempted” I’d be
  • relying on willpower to make my choices and paying no attention to what I actually liked or wanted
  • counting and weighing my foods before I ate them and feeling anxious anytime something was prepared in bulk (how would I know the calorie count?)
  • weighing myself daily (often multiple times a day)

All of THESE examples are things that used to be true for me back in the days where I thought being “super thin” and “really good” with my food and exercise would be what made me happy – what made me feel the MOST accomplished and on top of my life. Nope!

When I would put all of my energy toward controlling these things I would have little energy left for the places that I actually wanted to give my energy to.

On the other hand, when I LET GO of control I was MORE able to tune-in, focus on my body, and make choices that felt good. Having this responsibility to choose also gave me MORE confidence that I could take good care of myself longterm.

Here’s the difference:

  • Self-care refuels you & gives you MORE energy 
  • Self-control drains you & takes AWAY your energy 

AND, the goal we all have with both is to try and be better; to FEEL good. SO, it’s not about not getting better at something or striving to be better or having a healthy sense of discipline. It’s the way that we choose to do this that matters.

Which feels better when you’re trying to accomplish feeling good and getting better? Which WORKS better when you’re trying to accomplish feeling good and getting better? Self-care? Or self-control? Which allows you to have a BETTER experience as you’re improving your life?

Questions for you:

  • Is it true for you that self-care FILLS you and self-control drains you?
  • What self-care things are you currently doing that FILL you?
  • What self-control things are you doing that DRAIN you?
  • What are the specific ways you will switch gears from self-CONTROL to self-CARE?

To end, I want to share a Free 3-Part Video Series on Intuitive Eating that Simi (my partner in Finally Free) and I made for you. Our entire Finally Free family believe in self-care over self-control. We believe in creating more freedom, joy, and ease around food and in our lives.

Watch the free video series here: www.finallyfreegirltalk.com

I hope this post was SO helpful for you. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments of this post, and enjoy the free video series, too!

Love, Paige
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  • Megan @ A Continual Feast Blog

    Love how you always remind readers that the goal is to feel GOOD. And so true about the difference being that self care fills you up rather than draining you! Great post, Paige!

    • Thank you Megan! So glad this resonated with you 🙂 XOX You’re welcome for reminding you that the goal is to feel GOOD! So true, right?

  • Lauren Daniels

    Oh my gosh Paige, I’ve stumbled upon this post at exactly the right moment! I have been weighing myself multiple times a day and tracking food/macros/calories/points/steps/calories burned throughout the day (you name it I’ve tracker it at some point!) since I was 21 years old and I’m now 31! The only time I didn’t do this was for 2 years when I took the opportunity to live abroad and when I think back to those days I was so happy! I didn’t worry about my weight, I ate whatever I felt like, when I felt like eating it and I didn’t have a gym membership. This week I finally decided that enough was enough and I’m slowly trying to change my habits and come round to just being ‘free’. This week I vowed to not track a single piece of food in my app and only weigh myself once a day. It’s so overwhelming to stop wearing my Polar tracker and completely stop weighing myself but I’m hoping that baby steps every couple of weeks will help me finally be free to just live my life and be truly happy in myself. This post is inspiring and I just wanted to thank you so much! I’ve also just signed up to your newsletter! THANK YOU PAIGE! 🙂

    • Ah, Lauren, SO grateful to connect with you! Stay connected on your journey – leave comments, email in… I’d love to hear how you’re doing! Congrats – and it’s totally okay if the journey is scary or wobbly. That’s normal! Stay the course, and remember that there’s no such thing as “failure,” only “feedback.” XOX