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Redefining Self-Care: Why Our Inner Dialogue Matters More Than Bubble Baths


We’ve all heard the mantras before…

Take a bath, watch your favorite movie, eat a salad.

Or spend a bunch of money on manicures and getting massages.

All of these things are great and make us feel good in the moment, but they’re external. Our external circumstances don’t often change how we feel about ourselves.

And if they do it’s usually temporary.

Self-care has become something we can buy. It can be seen as more of an indulgence than a necessity.

It’s a term thrown around so much we may start to wonder what it even means now.

None of these things matter when your inner dialogue tells you you’re not worth it, that you’re not good enough or not loved.

Let’s explore what *real* self-care looks like and how it can change how we feel about ourselves – which is what matters more than anything else.

Why drinking smoothies only goes so far


Say your inner dialogue tells you that you’re fat or ugly, or your partner tells you you’re “too much.” You know, common experiences for women.

A green smoothie might nourish you, but it won’t help you address the storm that’s raging within.

When you can’t stand the thoughts in your head or you can’t afford to pay rent or buy groceries, a bubble bath or a smoothie just doesn’t cut it.

You might want to get as far away from the situation as possible and run away from these feelings. Others might want to bury their feelings with a bottle of wine.When these negative thoughts become too much, some might turn to self-destructive habits.

In these moments it doesn’t matter if you had your hair cut that day. It doesn’t change how we criticize or hurt ourselves, physically or emotionally.

We can take a bubble bath and still hate what we see in the mirror. We can get a massage and still feel utterly alone.

It's time to take self care into a new dimension and introduce the idea that self care also means how we interact with OURSELVES.

While we all may not have a term for it, most of us know the feeling of not being 'enough' or feeling like a burden.

How does that inner dialogue start to sound? How do we talk to ourselves when we are filled with these feelings of self aversion?

The injustices we’ve lived through can bury the joy, the happiness and feelings of self worth.

When we feel angry sometimes the anger becomes critical and turns inwards.

What if we could separate the anger, the hatred, the feelings of worthlessness from the part of us that wants to feel joyful, empowered and light? What if we could begin to look inwards to see the dialogue becoming something we can take part in?

What if we could begin to reframe self care as a curious, compassionate, internal conversation with our intense emotions?

We do not have to resign to the loud voice in our head repeating to ourselves that we are ugly, helpless, worthless or hopeless.

By reframing that voice as a "part" of us, we can create some space between our true self and our critical self. Then we can slowly but surely start to interact with our critical self in ways that makes that voice quieter and smaller.

Care for yourself in this moment


One way to distinguish and practice true self care is asking what the most scared, hurt part of ourselves wants and needs in that moment.

When we can’t stand the thoughts swirling around in our heads, what are these negative self-beliefs trying to tell us?

Most of us have experienced trauma to some degree.

When that happens, parts of ourselves step up and blame us for what we’ve experienced. True self care means asking how do we love, accept and work with those parts of us?

You can start by noticing that inner dialogue.

According to Richard Schwartz's Internal Family Systems therapy, just like we are part of external systems like our state, our county, our town and our family, we’re also part of a complex internal system.

Our internal systems strive to reach homeostasis, even if the balance it tries to maintain isn't a helpful or positive balance.

If we can orient our awareness to those systems and the parts that make up those systems, we can begin to notice what part needs nurturing and compassion in order to shift to a more positive, empowered and self-accepting baseline.

If we begin to notice which part is stepping in with criticism rooted in painful past experiences, maybe we can establish a new conversation with those parts that allow them to be honored, heard and reassigned to roles that are more constructive, positive and helpful.

I know it can sound a little silly, but if you give it a try, you might find that suddenly you experience "parts" of yourself in ways that allow you to begin an inner dialogue of more open curiosity, compassion and intention.

Tell that part it’s okay.

It's way harder than it sounds and it might feel doable only for one second. Your critical part might jump back up and say louder than before, "no you’re not enough!"

And that's where it gets hard.

The "self care" work here is to stay calm, stay curious. Respond with something like this, "I hear you, you feel that way, and that's ok. Right now though, I am enough. So let's be ok together."

This can slow your inner critic and help you accept what you’re experiencing in the moment.

Why real self-care can seem scary

Real self-care is not always fun and can actually be scary.

On the outside, it can look like going to bed earlier than you want to, or not drinking at a party because of the “hangxiety” that comes with the morning after.

It can also mean being able to say no, setting healthy boundaries and getting in tune with your emotions instead of blocking them out with drugs or alcohol.

On the inside, it’s letting yourself experience negative emotions and seeing them face-to-face.

Let's actually find a way to articulate how we can begin to talk to ourselves in a way that helps us feel BETTER. Let's use this inner dialogue that we all have and turn it into a tool that helps elevate us out of dark spaces when those dark spaces aren't serving us anymore.

Real, true, self care means exploring how we see, accept and work with those dark and scary parts of us.

Find a way to release negative energy

Not too long ago, my partner said something that triggered me.

I was filled with intense energy that I couldn't even identify as anger. It was something else, something deeper.

Screaming wouldn’t help. I wanted to run as fast as I could, or get on my motorcycle and ride as fast as I could. These images filled my head for several minutes, and all I could do was stop and freeze. I was totally amazed and captured by the intensity of this emotion.

As a therapist, the topic of self harm has resurfaced often within my work.

Some people cut. Some people restrict. Some people have a cyclical dialogue of self hatred. Others drink. Some people bury it, some people's bodies end up feeling physical sickness or pain from these intense emotions.

I'm not alone, and neither are you. Let's put some words to this experience, let's identify that we can all experience pressure and feelings of being trapped.

Let's really identify how to care for ourselves when these moments happen. It all starts by listening to our inner critic and asking what it needs at that moment.

Then doing the things that will help you release that negative energy.

It might involve taking a walk or deep breathing. Or sharing with someone what you’re going through. Or sprinting on a trail in the woods as fast as you can.

Once we begin to engage in our inner dialogue, what next? Maybe that's when a bubble bath feels right, or listening to music and any other ways you can learn to redirect that energy.

It probably involves exploring those thoughts and feelings in a deeper, more focused way. And reminding yourself you’re okay.

Need someone to talk to, or have a question?

Our regular blogs will explore themes such as practicing self-care and reducing the power of your inner critic. Do you have a mental health topic you’ve always had a question about but can’t seem to find the answer to?

Email Kari at, and we’ll see if we can integrate your question into an upcoming blog.

Wild Roots Collective aims to explore the wildness within ourselves through our blogs and our work, however that manifests.


Schwartz, R. & Sweezy, M. 2020. Internal Family Systems Therapy, second edition. The Guildford Press, New York, NY.

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