Unpopular Opinion: Self Harm Is Self Care

Hear me out.

Cutting is self harm but it’s not the only form.

Drinking is self harm.

Drugs are self harm.

Cigarettes are self harm.

Not wearing a seat belt is self harm.

Biting the skin off your lips and around your nail beds.

Having unprotected sex.

Dating in 2019 is self harm.

Plucking your eyebrows.

Getting tattoos.

Working out excessively.

Waxing your legs.

Skipping dessert. (Arguably)

How can all of these things be considered self harm? They are performed by people who are trying to feel better or self soothe. Anytime you willingly submit to pain you are practicing self harm and self-harm is really just dysfunctional self care.

Wait; hold up, did I cross a line? How can I compare plucking your eyebrows to intentionally cutting ones skin? Surely I can’t lump forgetting your seat belt in with cutting. You’re right, not wearing a seat belt is far more deadly.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating for self harm. (Except for desserts; I advocate for desserts.) But is it weird to anyone else that some self harm is more socially acceptable than others?

Let’s work to end the stigma around self harm. My scars are not worse because I wear them like armor, yours are not less because you hide them inside. If you see someone out this summer with scars exposed, don’t shame them. Don’t mention them, don’t stare, don’t treat them any different than the next person with a drink in their hand. Please be intentionally kind to everyone. We’re all just trying to feel better, one way or another.

And don’t skip dessert.



34 thoughts on “Unpopular Opinion: Self Harm Is Self Care”

  1. I guess as long as our bodies can tolerate our so-called coping mechanisms( i.e. “self-harm” depending on perception) without resulting to lasting self- injury(physical or not), it might be tolerated. It is amazing to think how we had to put our bodies through this so as to feel better. Perhaps it is for reinforcement purposes only that is, we got to FEEL something on our bodies to reassure us that we are working on the problem to make us feel much better.Very complex concept indeed.Now regarding desserts, definitely do not avoid them unless you are diabetic then it becomes harmful to self. To indulge in desserts even if one is diabetic can be modified in terms of cooking,portion control,type of sugar used. In this way, we can still feel as if we are all enjoying life in some way and also lessening self-harm to our bodies.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. i used to have a similar idea in my teens- but I’ve since come around to the idea that it was my way of justifying my actions. all things can be justified if we paint them as good, but self care isn’t indulgences. self care is the tough stuff.
    self care wasn’t the desserts I indulged in, it was the good food I forced myself to eat. it was forcing myself to go to bed and waking up at a reasonable hour- it was every workout i forced myself through. it was every toxic relationship I severed and every time i put myself out there to expand my horizons. it’s every time i called a friend on the phone, terrified, so i didn’t cut myself. it was timidly stepping into the counseling office for the first time. it was realizing that my cutting, my hypersexuality, was a superficial way of filling a hole that couldn’t be filled with anything but patience and lots of work.
    i don’t judge people for having their ways of coping, but coping is often mal-adaptation as it is adaption. it’s often more. and while i agree that some forms of self harm are definitely demonized more than others, that doesn’t make them okay.

    Liked by 7 people

  3. One of the things that finally made me realize that I was not treating my anxiety disorder appropriately was that I do tear up the skin around my nail beds. I’ve done it my whole life and actually my brother has as well and we’ve always just called it a bad habit. But I’ve actually tried to actively break it and I can’t. One day I was researching what it’s called and I came across something about anxiety and it basically said this is something that an anxiety sufferer will do. Suddenly I started to realize when it is that I do it the worst, and it lines up with when my anxiety is most triggered. It was such a lightbulb moment. It was one of those things that finally got me to start looking honestly at my anxiety because my entire life I always thought that if I just worked hard enough I could control it myself with meditation with journaling, self talk, etc. A couple days ago I finally went to my psychiatrist and I broke down saying I am tired of fighting this myself. She has tried for years to get me to go on medication and I always resisted but I finally stopped resisting and I started taking something and honest to God for the first time in my life I’ve experienced glimpses of normalcy. So I wonder if I will be able to stop doing what I do to my fingers if I’m appropriately treated? But I understand completely where you’re coming from. I have a cat who has obsessive compulsive disorder and does these repetitive behaviors and my vet said that’s her form of self care.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Self harm is…well you can look at what it is for objectively.
    Pure physical self harm is usually done by those who think they deserve it or are punishing them selves among many other reasons.
    I sometimes do it (as harmlessly as possible I just want to simulate pain) to help pay attention. I loose focus a lot and sometimes a quick stab with a pen helps during a exams or when something serious is going on.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have dealt with my anxiety and depression through cutting, starving myself and making myself throw up. It was the only thing that took my pain away and brought me comfort. I was all alone. I had no friends that I could talk to. My self harm became my friend for years.

    I knew it was wrong since the day I started harming myself. That didn’t stop me because it was all I had that worked. It wasn’t until I found someone who made me happy and made my pain disappear that I started to work on healthier habits. I still struggle daily though.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “self-harm is really just dysfunctional self care”

    That’s a good way of expressing it. At it’s core, you’re doing something to help you continue existing. I’ve been lucky enough that the traditional forms of ‘dysfunctional self care’ don’t work for me. I don’t smoke, or drink, or do drugs, or cut, or indulge in risky sex. If any of those things could actually help, even if the help was temporary? Well, I probably would have. Because when you’re dealing with enough depression and anxiety you’re living from moment to moment, just trying to get through the now. Because if you can’t find a way to get through the now…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Difficult to avoid that staring. But you are right, the staring never helps. You are right about dessert, too.
    As an aside, good vegan chocolate seems almost impossible to find. The search rivals the quest for fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It depends but I believe yes. I think isolation to the point of internal pain is self harm. And the way you describe it shows it’s also self care, you’re trying to protect yourself and them in a disfunctional attempt at caring for everyone’s best interest. Or that’s the point I’m trying to make at least.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not knowing all the details I can’t agree with that statement. You may perceive that they are happier and they might be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s for good. I’m happy to talk to you about this more if you want to jump over to dms or email. I’m really interested in your perspective on this.


  8. I have always wanted to say this! This concept is one of the most inalienable to those who haven’t experienced MH illness. Well done. Such a great post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I self-harmed with alcohol most of my life. I have emotional scars to prove it – and I’ve scarred my family members in the same way. Thank you for the call for all of us to practice kindness and acceptance.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love love love this. When I was in junior high school, I had a friend ask me to go with her to the bathroom. We went. She began to take off her jeans, her hands were shaking and tears began to fall from her eyes. Her legs were cut up so bad I could barely look at them. All I could do was hold her as she poured herself into me. I’ll never forget that moment. I took that girl under my wing, comforted her, and now when I see scars I have a much better understanding of the pain and feeling that they stand for. They don’t bother me one bit. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Such a well written and intelligent insight into emotional pain driven to extremes. I didn’t start to cut, burn, and bite myself until I was 45. As I read more about it I began to realise that the promiscuity and alcohol that were part of my earlier years were also SH. Outsiders had no problem with the latter but everyone had opinions about the former. Why? I was using maladaptive strategies. I was attention seeking. I was distressing others. I was even abusing a divine ‘temple’.
    As for the cake? I find your scars more beautiful – your pain drawn on your own canvas showing your story, struggle, and strength.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve always thought this way. My physical scars were deep wounds – sometimes requiring many stitches, sometimes into muscle or bone. When they convinced me to mostly stop taking blades to myself I got tattoos to cover the ones on my forearms – then I discovered tattoos were a mostly acceptable method of the same – a little more planning maybe – sometimes – but a public-able way to transform the internal quarrel acceptably. I began to take more risks – My injuries got worse – nearly lost my index finger on my left hand and recently – my thumb.
    But, if I can’t process – I’ll pull that trigger of no more pain at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. While I agree skipping dessert is self harm, it’s only self harm if it’s a good dessert. If it’s something gross, then it’s self preservation! 😉
    As for tattoos… I guess it can be, yeah. It depends on why you’re getting one and your pain tolerance. I wanted one since I was 18. I’m an artist and I wanted to wear art. About 2 years ago, I finally got a beautiful watercolor tattoo of a lily with the Japanese characters for “artist”. Watercolor tattoos, I’m told, hurt less, which explains why it didn’t hurt at all (for me). Was it still self harm? I suppose, since I was willing to inflict pain on myself for it.
    Smoking is my worst form of self harm. I’ve been smoking for decades. I know it’s bad for me, I feel like crap, but I keep doing it…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Awesome post- spot on message. Been hankering to read this for awhile and I’m pleased that i have.
    I completely agree with all of it- self-injury is coping mechanism or as you brilliantly put it “dysfunctional self care”.
    Some are socially accepted/ applauded and others stigmatised. Deep down they all have that injurious nature, but can so powerfully keep us safe. By accepting them as such, as you encourage, we take away shame….. and that allows so much to open out.
    Brilliant stuff, thank you.
    Spence 🙂


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