Self-care is not a replacement for self-work. The Buddha didn’t teach self-care as a means of liberation from suffering; he taught Awakening. If your self-care routines have been failing you, it’s not because you aren’t doing enough. It’s because self-care doesn’t go far enough.
Self-care is helpful to smooth out the cuts and bruises of the daily grind. By undertaking self-care routines, you can better tend to your human body and mind. It is helpful to manage stress, balance your energy levels, and promote a sense of feeling at ease.
Yet if our stresses, our sense of dis-ease, and our suffering are caused by something deeper–namely identity confusion, personal insecurities, and unhealed wounds–then it won't matter how well you care for yourself. You will never be fully free and at ease.
That is the business of self-work.
One way to regard dharma practice is as self-work. While self-care is generally pleasant and meant to provide you with elements that nourish you, self-work can be challenging and often unpleasant (at first).
Finding and noticing your own wounds, false beliefs, fears, insecurities, prejudices, and assumptions can be tough. It can feel like you are being personally attacked, to say the least. If you feel squeamish and like wincing then you are doing it right.
However, that difficulty is revealed as worthwhile when you begin to disrupt your illusion-driven habits. A moment will come in which you aren’t triggered in your usual way or a strangely familiar loving-yet-sad-emotion arises that allows you to act in a new kind and brave manner. When such a moment comes, you will realize it is working, that this work matters. These are the cracks in which you feel and live outside the bounds of the ego’s mechanism. It is your first glimpse of truth.
Then self-work becomes something else, something that words fail to fully approach.
We can talk about illusion because so much of the illusion is made of words. We can’t talk about truth because we cannot use a candle to illuminate the sun right?
Ask yourself what it is you do to carry out both self-care and self-work. Make sure you have a solid balance between the two. By not confusing one with the other, you can better adjust your lifestyle to support your path.
Hope this helps you and your endeavors! xoxo.