The Difference Between Loving Yourself + “Treating Yourself”

Self-care vs treat-yo-self.  They sound like two very similar ideas, but couldn’t be more different.  As a yoga teacher, I am often conflicted by the number of companies using self-care promo codes or insta-yogis who shamelessly promote products. I am ready to address the elephant in the room.


Self-care is aligning your energetic state. It is connecting with a routine or actions that set you up for success; that allow you to be fully present + connected to your actions. It could be meal-prepping, exercise, taking a bath, journaling, shutting off your electronics an hour before bedtime, or spending time in nature. Usually, it doesn’t cost you a thing + it is repetitive.


Treat-yo-self is indulging in food, shopping or a service, with this notion that you “deserve it” or somehow earned it.  It could be a one-time expenditure + may cost you money.  That might sound negative, but at the heart of treat-yo-self, is the notion that you need things to be happy.  As a yogi, I beg to differ.

How to separate the two

I moved to Chicago a little over 10 years ago, just after graduating college, in the pursuit of hopes, dreams & happiness. I had landed a big corporate communications internship + was living in my very own studio apartment. Each day I went to my job, ready to feel significant, + to show the world I had “made it.” Each day I was disappointed. I kept waiting for this moment of “look mom, I made it” but it never came.  I was confused. I had followed all the steps, checked all the boxes + should have felt more than what I did.

That moment that I had searched for, that I thought I had to earn, never showed up because I kept looking outward instead of inward for happiness. I was in a “treat-yo-self state of mind.” I operated from a state of shame + scarcity, clinging to any “treats” that could define my worthiness. The more I attached to the “treats”, the further I strayed from my truth. Eventually, the universe intervened + led me to yoga.

Yoga + Balancing loving yourself vs. treating yourself

If you’ve studied the history of yoga, you may be familiar with Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s & the 8-limbed path. Within this text lies the keys to leading a yogic life + reaching an enlightened or blissful state. Each limb of Pantanjali’s path is significant, but there are two limbs that offer insight into our day to day; the yamas & niyamas.

Aparigraha, one of the five yamas, or restraints, is more commonly referred to as “letting go” + helps us to manage our “treat-yo-self state.” Letting go, or detachment, can be applied to many aspects of our lives; pain, expectations, results + of course, material possessions.  This is one reason many yogis chose to live a minimalist lifestyle + Millennials are investing more money in experiences + travel. Unfortunately for some, aparigraha is not so easy. In the age of consumerism, we are always tempted to treat ourselves to the “shiny new object” + are taught from a young age that the more wealth, or stuff you amass, the happier you will be.

This is where Santosha, one of the five niyamas or observes, comes in. Santosha is contentment. It’s the practice of gratitude, of knowing you are enough, of not only giving, but receiving love, + of course Self-love. We know that money does not equal happiness, but we have a bad habit of searching for happiness in material possessions or by treating ourselves. Like me, have you ever thought, “I’ll be happy when I get that promotion,” or “I’ll be happy when I can buy this condo.”  Santosha reminds us that we are enough + have everything we need to be happy.

I eventually found my moment that I came looking for ten years ago. But it only came when I switched my mindset to one of abundance. I stopped looking for happiness + found gratitude within. Every morning, I walk my dog Riley — without my phone, for at least 30-45 minutes.  During this time I go through my gratitude practice + list all the things from the last 24-hours I’m grateful for. This is Self-love. I am aligning my energetic state first thing in the morning.   

A new version of self-love

In the past, I might go to Starbucks to pick up a Caramel Macchiato + try to convince myself that this Starbucks makes me happy. Now if I go to Starbucks, I can be happy + enjoy my drink, knowing that it does not define my value or happiness.

Self-love flips everything we’re taught from a young age on its head.  How many of us were taught to work hard, climb a ladder + eventually amass enough possessions that you’ll be happy. I suggest we love ourselves first, align our energetic state, then take meaningful action which will lead to abundance. I promise you the second option will be so much more rewarding + fulfilling.

The most important part to remember is that it’s FUN to treat yourself. Just remember that the treat does not define you or your self worth. Know that your true happiness comes from within.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment