Self Indulgence 101

As I exited a cinema last night, I over-heard someone describe the film we had seen as ‘self-indulgent.’ This phrase doesn’t sit well with me, though I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe I’m too self-indulgent to see it…

The film was The Descendants, starring George Clooney. I liked it. Good story, great location (Hawaii), strong acting by the lead characters, particularly the two young girls that play his daughters, and an irreverent, off-beat script. It was long, and there were some weak spots, but overall I thought it was pretty brave.

But self-indulgent? More like a story about love, humanity, f%^#ing up and forgiveness. Or so I thought.

It reminds me of a description of one of my favourite books, the best-selling Eat, Pray, Love, in which someone labelled it with the self-indulgent tag too.

A woman overcoming her feelings of discontent by breaking out of a stagnant marriage to find herself through travel and adventure?

Self indulgent, indeed. How dare she set off on a solo voyage towards her true self, her authentic life! Shame on her for not sucking it up, and settling on a mediocre existence for the sake of keeping other people happy!

I think it’s a shame that we judge those who dare to take that journey towards their true calling, whatever it may be, who dare to follow their bliss and find happiness outside the realm of western society where we are judged by what we do for a living, rather than who we truly are.

I say bravo to those who dare to dream, dare to front up to themselves in the mirror, stare themselves in the eye and say, I don’t want to live like this anymore.

Yes, it’s threatening to those who don’t want a mirror held up to themselves, who want to bury themselves in work, in making more money, in booze. I tried all that.

But I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror.

I just didn’t know what to do about it.

It hasn’t been an easy or a simple process to discover who I am, or what my true path in life is, but I’m willing to be led towards it.

And perhaps being willing is enough.

But first I had to be honest, and I now believe my life depends on that. That if I truly want a life that reflects my spirit, I have to get to know who that is.

And to do that, I have to discard the things that don’t reflect my true self, chipping away the pieces that aren’t me.

I truly believe that in order to live truthfully, and be most me I can be, I have to keep the focus on myself. It’s so easy to judge, easy to tell other people what they should do, but harder to look at myself, warts and all, admitting my faults and my mistakes along with my qualities and accomplishments.

But I know that in giving myself the gift of self-appraisal, I can reach the core of who I am, and take her in hand like a best friend.

If I am kind to myself, and forgiving of my short comings, then I can have moments of losing myself in service to others, because I’ll know it’s coming from a place that’s real.

But if  I continue on the path of people-pleasing for fear that I won’t fit in, or that I will fail and be humiliated, I won’t be of much good to the people around me, because I won’t be rising to the great challenge of being the best me I can be.


Maybe, but I’m okay with that.






Self Indulgence 101 — 8 Comments

  1. I definitely have the fear of being self-indulgent myself. What, with quitting everything to try and figure out who I really am, that’s pretty egotistical, no? But sometimes when I try to look at it another way I think that I am doing something great for the world (ha, that sounds self indulgent too!). What I mean is that I think we should ALL be trying to figure out who we really are and that the world would be a much more caring, kind, appreciated place if we all did.

  2. This is an outstanding post. It’s the reflections of a woman who has truly awakened to herself and her true potential.

    My advice: Have compassion for those who say that being true to yourself and following your heart and your calling is “self-indulgent”. They are like people who are in a deep sleep; a coma if you will. People like you and I who have decided to stop living our lives like lemmings and sheep to the slaughter of the demands of society are like people who have awakened from a deep sleep. But upon awakening from this it is not a point where we can sit back and relax. There is more awakening to do. Both to our potential to realize awakening in our external and internal worlds.

    We can be agents of change in our worlds and behave like lighthouses; showing the way for others to go safely in our footsteps. This has been the practice of enlightened beings since time immemorial. The only reason why we see the world in the state it is in now is because of fear, ignorance and greed. It is only by resuming this practice of following our true callings and being our authentic selves do we ever have a chance of changing the world for the better for all that inhabit it.

    • Thanks for sharing your insights Matthew, it is much appreciated. Compassion, as you say is the key. I need to remember not to be judgemental myself, and less affected by the opinions of others. Cheers :)

  3. Fantastic post, Sarah.
    I recently met a person in Costa Rica who is a national champion in roller skating, has his own skating brand, teetotaler, runner, biker, parties every weekend, goes different places almost every month, AND has a daughter who lives with her mom not him (her Mom is just a friend, he said). I almost judged him to be self-indulgent, but he said something that resonated with me so much that I developed a new sense of respect for him: “Life has a LOT to give, its you who limits yourself from taking what is offered, its your choice so why not choose to take it?”

    I self-indulged this weekend, just back from Costa Rica last weekend and had a super busy first week back so went to the movies (MI-4) and bought a bed/breakfast weekend pack from a colleague who could not honor the voucher due to change in plans. Hoping to have a great relaxing long weekend 😉


    • Thank you for sharing that story Ajay! I completely get where you are coming from, and I absolutely love what he said about us limiting ourselves. So true. hope you enjoyed your weekend of indulgence :)

  4. I struggled with a lot of guilt over my choice to travel and often wondered if I was being selfish or self-indulgent. It took a long time to feel comfortable with my decision. Once I had though, I came alive.

    I remember reading that review of EPL where they labelled Liz Gilbert as self-indulgent and it made me so angry. In my opinion, anyone who has the courage to step outside of the perimeters of ordinary in search of a more authentic existence deserves our respect and admiration. And you certainly have mine xxx

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