Is this Self-Care, Self-Indulgent, or Self-Punishing?

Is this Self-Care, Self-Indulgent, or Self-Punishing?

Yes, I’m the Cheerleading Captain of the Self-Love Movement!

Yes, I believe that until we accept ourselves for all of ‘who we are’—the good, the bad, and the ugly—we will never feel whole, authentic, or completely empowered.

Yes, I believe that true change only comes once we love ourselves as we are, right now.

But here’s where we must be careful…

Separating self-care from self-indulgence from self-punishing.

For most of my life, I used fear, guilt, and shame to ‘whip myself into shape.’

“God, look at you! How did you let yourself get here, Crystal? It is time to pull it together and get back on track! Enough is enough! Shame on you! Let’s go!!!”

I pushed myself. I’d coach myself. I’d even metaphorically whip myself if I thought I needed it.

My biggest challenge was with my body and self-image.

I was never content with what I saw in the mirror (even though as I look back at pictures I was in amazing shape!).

And the worst part was that my workouts now frustrated me. My body hurt … a lot. I wanted to train like I used to. I wanted to look like I used to! But…it all just hurt so much.

Not to mention, I was experiencing a real disconnect inside. All this exercise and ‘super clean’ eating felt punishing; the opposite of what I was teaching to women. This was my internal struggle:

Why was I exercising when exercise hurt me? Why was I dieting when the stricter I ate, the more I obsessed with looking good, better, leaner?

It didn’t seem very loving. It felt quite cruel, actually.

Then I had a breakthrough:

Here I was teaching women self-love and yet I was self-punishing. I used shame not love to coach me. I was constantly self-improving. Pushing. Grasping. Working. Hard.

But I also innately knew that love doesn’t motivate in this way.


Love empowers us. Love heals rather than hurts. Love finds a way to inspire us.


And so I embarked on a new journey:

I needed to accept myself as I was. Exactly as I was.

I’m done with dieting, I told myself.

I’m done with aching hips or pulled hamstrings.

I’m done with looking at myself in the mirror wishing I could be thinner, fitter, sexier, whatever.

I’m done with saying ‘no’ to so-called guilty pleasures! Life is too short to be repressed, I told myself!

I’m done with not liking what I see.

I’m done with judging me.

It felt so good.

I felt good.

I had many slip backs along the way. But they only encouraged me to be kinder to myself. ‘No more shame’ became my mantra!

I talked to myself the way I would my own children, a friend, or my own dogs, for that matter!

I gave myself permission to relax.

I allowed myself to eat what I wanted, drink what I wanted, sleep when I wanted, dance when I wanted. I accepted what was.

Yes, I still exercised. Sometimes. When I wanted.

I walked mostly. The running was too much. It hurt.

No one is hurting this girl any more!

I sat in bed many days with my computer on my lap, working away at a peaceful, easy pace.

I booked less events, courses, classes.

I felt less stressed.

Less pressured.

Less and yet more. So much more.

I continued to assure myself that being me—exactly who I am—was the only me I could be or needed to be. There was no better version of me. I needed to love myself right now. Period.

I listened to myself more.

I laughed a lot more.

I let go of a lot of anger.

I let myself feel sad when I felt sad.

I accepted that I couldn’t be perfect. Wasn’t perfect. In fact, I completely embraced that I was flawed and imperfect and that was okay! It felt good. Better than okay. It felt wonderful. I was learning to LOVE what I saw in the mirror.

Crazy, right?

I stopped trying to be better and I actually started falling in love with myself!

I was climbing closer to wholeness.

I could feel it. It felt strong.

And then something else happened.

Something really powerful.

Love took me even higher.

I guess that’s why they call it higher ground.

For the first time in my life, I knew I really mattered.

I needed to be here a lot longer.

Not so I could raise my children.

Not so I could write more books.

Not so I could make the world a better place.


Simply because I matter. For me. For my own life.


I needed to take care of myself because my life mattered. Mine. I, alone, mattered!

All life matters. Your life matters!

I innately knew that I needed to move my body in order to keep my brain evolving (science now shows that exercise, alone, releases a special protein that connects in the higher reasoning part of the brain) and to keep my physical structure strong.

My body needed more water, lean protein and salads, and less wine, less rich sauces, and smaller portions.

My body needed more self-care and less self-indulgence.

I laugh now as I see how blatantly my pendulum had swung from self-punishing to self-indulging! There was a middle ground that I needed to expand into.

The truth is, finding self-acceptance was the secret that allowed me to find self-love. 

But then love showed me even more.

Love knows exactly what we need to be our greatest happiest most authentic Self.

Love listens and responds appropriately. Love lets go. Love soars. Love expands consciousness.

I’ll never go back to shame, guilt and fear. I’ll never stand in the mirror with judgment and mean words. Ever. Again.

I’ll never stand on that damn scale unless I can be at complete peace with whatever number it shows.

But I will love myself enough to expand my edges, push me gently out of my comfort zone, and inspire me to see how far I can go. Just for the fun of it!

We live in an ever expanding universe so I plan to keep on going . . . like Star Trek, “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no (wo)man has gone before!”

But I need to take care of myself in order to do this!

I have an exciting journey ahead.

So do you!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s blog. Leave a message and I’ll respond!





    Crystal is the founder and CEO of The S.W.A.T. Institute. Her personal story is the perfect backdrop to become a voice for the next era of the women’s movement. Crystal has overcome insurmountable odds to create a life of joy and purpose. From a tough beginning—her parents turbulent divorce at age 12, a stranger rape at 14, extended sexual abuse from a family friend, moving out at 15, battling the early stages of cervical cancer at only 17, suffering a traumatic head injury at age 20 that left her to deal with unannounced seizures, marrying young and gaining over 80 pounds in her pregnancies, then struggling through a difficult divorce and near bankruptcy before becoming a single mother to two beautiful girls (one who nearly lost her own life in 2010)—Crystal has dedicated her life to helping women transcend their victimhood, martyrdom, self-limiting beliefs, fears, and patterns.