Shadow Comforts vs Self-Care – What’s the Difference?

JT - Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them - Brené Brown

Each year I continue to be inspired by living in to my own version of leading from within with my whole heart. Yes, there are days that are easier than others, however one of the quotes that has inspired me for many years now is by Wayne Dyer was “Don’t die with your music still in you.”

So today, I wanted to discuss one of the things that can stop us from leading from within and that is knowing the difference between shadow comforts and self-care.

Subsequently, in this post I will share –

  • What is Self-Care?
  • What Self-Care is NOT?
  • Shadow Comforts – What Are They?
  • Shadow Comforts vs Self-Care – What’s the Difference?

What is Self-Care?

Self-Care –

  • “refers to actions and attitudes which contribute to the maintenance of well-being and personal health and promote human development.” – according to Wikipedia
  • “care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.” –
  • “care for one self” – the Miriam-Webster Dictionary
  • “These are our daily activities in looking after ourselves. The process of looking after one’s self. Avoiding all threats and issues that may make a person face irritable and uncomfortable circumstances.” – Psychology Dictionary
  • “activities and practices we engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and enhance our well-being” ~ unknown
  • “something that you do often or regularly, often without thinking about it” – MacMillan Dictionary
  • “the practice of activities that are necessary to sustain life and health, normally initiated and carried out by the individual for him- or herself.” – “self-care.” A Dictionary of Nursing. 2008. Retrieved June 07, 2014 from

A simple way to think of self-care is putting your face mask on yourself, so then you can assist others.

What Self-Care is NOT –

  • about adding more to your ‘to-do’ list – it can be about identifying your essential needs and then prioritising them,
  • about an ’emergency response plan’ when stress becomes overwhelming and are close to burnout – it is about creating behaviours or healthy habits that you can do to nurture yourself, and
  • being selfish – it is about looking after yourself, so you can then give your best and provide value to the world by living your purpose and sharing your gifts.

Adapted from – What is Self-Care? Family and Community Services NSW

Shadow Comforts – What Are They?

Jen Louden wrote in her “The Woman’s Comfort Book” –

“Just because there is a shadow aspect of comfort, doesn’t mean comfort is bad. It does mean that it is possible to use comfort and being comfortable as excuses to limit or negate ourselves. We may stay put in a less-than-great relationships because it is comfortable. We may not go to night school because it would make us uncomfortable. We may spend our weekends doing boring activities because this is comforting. You can recognise and work to transform this facet of comfort, but please don’t use it as a reason to stop nurturing yourself.”

Basically shadow comforts are the choices and behaviours that look like self-care, however in fact are the opposite and drain your energy and life-force. They are often self-defeating and avoid seeing clearly in to what is truly going on and often show up as excuses or trying to avoid fear. Shadow comforts are not about what you are doing it is about why you are doing it. Some examples of shadow comforts include –

  • wanting to do something (i.e. start a project or course), however not committing and making the time to start, and/or
  • shutting off from or stuffing down feelings / emotions.

Shadow Comforts vs Self-Care – What’s the Difference?

After reading the above, I hope it is clear the difference between shadow comforts and self-care. For me, I see that difference as self-care increasing or fostering our energy and life-force, whereas shadow comforts decrease it over the long-term. Most of the time, shadow comforts move me away from vulnerability. Over time, if we get them confused, it can lead to stress and burnout.

I also think it is important to note, occasionally I still use shadow comforts, however the key now is that I know I am using them and I use them significantly less than I have done in the past 🙂

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”

~ Brené Brown

Over to You…

I hope this post has given you some insight in to shadow comforts and self-care. If you have any questions, please write them below.

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heartwhy not join our Toolkit? You can also join our 7-Day Self-Care Promise here.

Reference –

Louden, J. (2003). Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life. Washington, USA: Harper Collins Publishers. 

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