From Burnout to Bliss: How to Avoid The Self-Care Trap

Growing up, I didn’t think much about what I wanted. I just went along with what everyone else was doing. If my classmates liked something, I liked it too. Back then, I thought I was just being a normal teen, unsure of myself.

When I graduated from college and started working, I forgot about myself. My dad left us, and as the oldest, I had to take care of my family. I put their needs before mine. It was hard, but it had to be done.

As the years went by and my career grew, I found joy in providing for my family. Whenever I went out, I would always bring them gifts. I also made sure that if I bought something for myself, I got something of the same value for them. It was my way of showing love.

Making Peace and Facing Challenges

In 2019, I decided to make peace with my dad. I wasn’t angry anymore and felt I had forgiven him. I also wasn’t the main provider for my family anymore, so I could finally breathe.

You might think my life was perfect after that, but it wasn’t. I realized I wasn’t ready to talk to my dad. I couldn’t go back to how things were before he left. Plus, I was dealing with personal and work issues. I started to think I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. I just knew I needed to escape from my dream job and the family I loved. I felt lost and hated my life.

I tried all the usual self-care activities like massages, fitness classes, facials, watching K-drama series, and eating cookies (my favorite food). I even got to travel to El Nido, Palawan for work. The beaches were breathtaking, the ocean was a deep blue, and yet, none of these activities made me feel better.

A Wake-up Call to Self-Care

A loving friend gave me a wake-up call. She asked, “What do you really want in life?” She told me it’s okay to prioritize myself and that I shouldn’t feel guilty. Maybe that was the type of self-care I needed. I was puzzled and in denial for weeks.

It’s okay to prioritize myself. I shouldn’t feel guilty.

I used my Christmas break to sit down and learn more about myself. I listed the qualities I appreciated about myself and figured out the little things that made me happy. This wasn’t solved in a day. Focusing on myself felt selfish, like I was taking something away from my family. I had to fight the guilt.

It took months for me to realize that I was people-pleasing most of my life. I finally understood that I should stop feeling guilty about doing things that make me happy. People-pleasing isn’t a form of love—real love is knowing how to take care of yourself so you can give to others. For the first time ever, I said these words to myself: “It’s my turn. What do I want?”

Embracing Your True Self

A year after that tough love conversation, I can say that I’m happier than I was in 2019. Of course, I still have a long way to go in my journey to self-discovery. But so far, I’ve figured out interesting things about myself. From something as simple as who my favorite BLACKPINK member is to something as complex as choosing an online course to enhance my skills. I never thought knowing what I really want was the type of self-care my soul needed.

Steps to Discover What You Really Want

So, if you’re feeling lost, maybe it’s time to really focus on yourself—and I’m not talking about pampering skincare routines, eating chocolate cake, or enjoying a day at the beach. Inner work starts with your own thoughts. Think about the things that bring you joy. Here are a few steps to help you begin your journey:

  • Reflect on your day: What moments make you smile?
  • Journal your thoughts: Start with “Today, I felt happiest when…”
  • Choose activities that feel good, not just ones that are popular.

From here, you can begin your journey to self-discovery and self-love.