Is Self Care Selfish?

Is Self-Care Selfish?

What comes to mind when you hear about self-care? Maybe it’s images of bubble baths and pedicures or a day at the spa? (Nothing wrong with those things!!) Perhaps it’s an inner knowing of when to say no and prioritize your sleep and health.

There is a lot of confusion and even resistance to self-care because of a fear of being selfish or self-indulgent. However, I would argue that true self-care is a responsibility you have to yourself and all those in your life.

I like what Parker Palmer has to say,  “Self care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” 

That gift is you. You can be a gift to others if your cup is full. As someone in my recent group-coaching program said, “No one thinks twice about the necessity to fill your car with gas. So why do we have to run out of gas to give ourselves permission to take care of our selves? What’s up with that?!”

Here are some reasons to ponder that I have observed over the years in my practice:

  1. In many cultures and religions, service to the point of self-sacrifice and exhaustion is held up as saintly. The martyr archetype comes to mind. We default to putting ourselves last. 
  2. We are slaves to our to-do-list and productivity and lose touch with how we are truly feeling and what we need to maintain our health.
  3. We feel unworthy of tending and befriending ourselves.
  4. We don’t ask for help (or it’s not available) with the workload we have at certain times in our lives.
  5. We have other priorities. Self- care can take some effort and discipline and after a long workday we often want a quick feel-good fix, like having dessert, a drink, or zoning out with TV, etc.

Ignoring our self-care needs can lead to serious health issues, depletion, relationship issues, resentment, and not expressing your potential.

But be aware that we can use the idea of self-care as a way to self-indulge or be excessive. If your “self-care” practices involve spending excessive time and money, or isolating loved ones, avoiding responsibility, or turns into an addiction or obsession (toxic dieting and exercise come to mind), then it’s time to evaluate and perhaps seek help.

Do your “self-care” activities lead only to short-term pleasure or do they result in long-term benefits? True self-care benefits you and everyone in your life. Moderation, balance and being honest with yourself is key.

"Almost everything will work again if you unplug for a few minutes, including you."

What is True Self-Care?

I define self-care as rising above our auto-pilot habits by setting the intention and carving out time, (which requires setting boundaries) to properly care for your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual needs. As you maintain your health and well-being, you will have more to give and thus will have more to receive.

The following are many beneficial and enjoyable self-care activities from a mind, body and spirit perspective:

Body:  Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night, exercising 4-5 times/week, preparing delicious whole foods to eat.

Mind/Emotions:  Practicing stress reduction, meditation, and mindful breathing. Getting in touch with emotions.

Spirit:  Connecting to a higher power and your inner voice.

I think most of us know the benefits of all of these practices. They can be summed up as improved well-being in every aspect of life including: mental and physical health, relationships, work, social, personal and spiritual.

Does this seem overwhelming? How about just a baby step?  Start with an intention; how do you want to feel? How can you spend time doing one activity that will cultivate that? Feeling good becomes its own motivation the more you follow your plan.

True self-care is about coming into communion with your self in this very moment. Can you welcome, accept and meet yourself as you are? What do you really need? The answer may surprise you.

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