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Self-Care Is Hard to Implement with Low Self Esteem

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self care and self esteem

One of the biggest obstacles to developing a self-care routine isn’t necessarily loathing the activities it might entail, it’s believing that one deserves to take a break and do things for themselves. It’s a Catch-22 that activities designed to improve one’s self esteem are harder to engage in when one struggles with low self-esteem in the first place. For some young adults, this might look like obsessing over skincare and makeup routines to the point where they’re no longer enjoyable while, for others, it may mean skipping the gym and home cooking altogether. 

What is Self-Care Anyway?

Self-care isn’t just face masks, bubble baths, and green smoothies. It’s going to bed early, saying no to plans, and crying on a friend’s shoulder too. Self-care doesn’t require purchasing expensive products, but it does require giving oneself permission to rest–whatever that looks like.

Many young adults with low-esteem esteem are hard on themselves and struggle to identify what it might look like to be more gentle and patient with themselves. They are also more likely to be cynical that “self-care” practices might make a difference for them. 

Why Do Young Adults Struggle with Self-Care?


  • Self-care takes effort, especially when you’re tired. Young adults have a tendency to keep going until they crash. When they are exhausted, the last thing they want to do is something “chill.” They’d rather take a nap or do something high energy. If they do try to do something for themselves, they’re more likely to get distracted and choose something else with more immediate gratification.
  • They feel like it’s something other people want them to do. Growing up, things like “taking a shower everyday” or “eating healthy foods” may have been rules their parents expected them to follow rather than something they chose spontaneously. Without personal evidence that these activities work for them, they may feel unmotivated to engage in them.
  • They confuse self-care with indulgence and rest with laziness. They may not see self-care as a positive thing. For example, canceling plans with someone because they feel overwhelmed may bring up a sense of shame rather than a sense of relief. Taking a nap when they didn’t sleep the night before may feel like they’re being unproductive. Treating themselves to a haircut by a professional rather than their craft scissors may feel like a luxury they don’t deserve.
  • They find it hard to recognize when they need it. Some people consider self-care a “backdrop” activity that they do on a regular basis to regulate their mood and self-esteem, while others see it as a form of crisis intervention. For those who don’t make self-care part of their routine, it can be hard for them to justify when exactly they need to integrate it into their schedule. 


Integrating Self-Care into a Weekly Schedule

Realistically, it’s hard for some young adults to prioritize self-care on a daily basis. Life happens and energy levels shift and it’s easy to come up with excuses about what got in the way. This is why Journey Home encourages young adults to plan their own schedules a week at a time, allowing more time for flexibility. 

As they tentatively plan out their weeks, we encourage them to leave space for free time and rest so that it doesn’t feel as rigid and they don’t feel overprogrammed. We also explain that self-care has a broad definition and looks different for each individual. There are multiple ways to practice self-care in different areas of one’s life that can have a ripple effect. It is important to start small and to consider what big picture goal this “self-care” activity may actually be meeting.

Some examples of self-care activities we encourage our students to incorporate into their week include: 

Physical self-care

Activities that help them to stay fit and healthy, and with enough energy to get through their personal commitments.

  • Develop a regular sleep routine.
  • Aim for a healthy diet.
  • Get some exercise before/after work regularly.

Psychological self-care

Activities that help them to feel clear-headed and able to intellectually engage with the challenges in their personal lives.

  • Keep a reflective journal.
  • Turn off digital devices
  • Make time for relaxation.
  • Make time to engage with positive friends and family.

Emotional self-care

Activities that allow them to safely experience their full range of emotions.

  • Write three good things that you did each day.
  • Go to the movies or do something else you enjoy.
  • Talk to a friend about how you are coping with life’s demands.

Journey Home Can Help 

Journey Home is a transitional living program for girls ages 16-21 that have graduated from a residential treatment center or wilderness therapy. We are the perfect fit for young women who are ready to build upon skills learned in therapeutic settings but recognize they still need guidance and support to further develop their success. Journey Home blends a traditional home setting with positive peer and staff relationships. We believe in the value of good health and healthy hobbies in promoting future success.

For more information, call 801-444-0794 . We can help your family today!