Is Self-Care Selfish?

There’s a word that comes up quite often when I talk with women in midlife:

“I need to be more selfish with my time.”

“But, I don’t want to seem selfish.”

“Geez, I’m using the word ‘Me’ and ‘I’ a lot and it sounds selfish.”

That word “selfish” comes up a lot because I talk to ladies every day who have put themselves last on their list for too long.

They have been so “self-LESS” throughout their lives that their health has suffered a little or a lot as a result and hence, they reach out to me because now in their midlife years, they are ready to refocus on taking care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally.

My aim today is to explore these two words, “selfish” and “self-care,” more deeply so they are better understood.

Then, perhaps, if you’ve found yourself feeling selfish for wanting more self-care practices, your perspective might change making it easier for you to start making those self-care tweaks, however small.

Let’s explore these words, what they mean, and what they mean for you.

We begin with the word selfish. I looked up some actual definitions of the word. Here’s what I found:

  • Lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. (Dictionary via Google)
  • Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  • Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others. (Dictionary.com)

I think the common denominator with these definitions is the idea of caring ONLY for yourself without any regard for others.

Let’s look at the word self-care now. Here are some definitions I found:

  • The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. (Oxford Dictionary)
  • The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress. (Oxford Dictionary)
  • The care and cultivation of self in a comprehensive sense, focusing in particular on the soul and the knowledge of self. Self-care is learned, purposeful and continuous. (Wikipedia)

These definitions are clear that self-care is a practice of taking charge of one’s own well-being.

Very different than “selfish,” right?

So why then do we confuse the two so often believing that one is the other – calling self-care selfish?

One of the quotes I put in my Healthiest Year Ever 2018 Planner in the Daily Evening Reflection section was this:

“If you think taking care of yourself is selfish, change your mind.
If you don’t, you’re simply ducking your responsibilities.”
– Ann Richards

What if you saw self-care, not as selfish, but as a responsibility?

One of my clients once told me, “If I don’t take care of myself, who will?”

I thought it was a powerful statement and call to action – not something I told her, but something she realized for herself through our coaching sessions.

Your health and self-care are your responsibility, not your spouse’s or kid’s, just like theirs is not yours.

Imagine viewing selfishness as a life where you don’t take care of yourself because you’re too busy taking care of everyone else and later on your family or friends will have to take care of you.

On the other hand, as I see it, self-care throughout your life is not only an act of self-love, but to those you love as well.

If you feel like it’s too late, please let me assure you that it isn’t.

You will never be younger than you are today.

Change your perspective on what it means to be selfish and what it means to practice self-care.

When you are ready to take the smallest action on your self-care, I hope you reach out.

I’m here to help.

 

 

 

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