It’s probably happened to you more than once… that someone, perhaps a family member or friend, tells you that you’re being selfish when you want to take care of yourself. You might even get a little pushback when you’re doing your self-care practice.
It’s no surprise really, even though it is demoralizing to know that western society tends to see self-care as a reward for taking care of others. And only when absolutely no one needs your time, your help, or your energy, are you allowed to do something for yourself.
That is a myth of self-care that does more harm than good. Self-care is not a reward for working hard; it is a practice that is vital to your health. Taking care of yourself is NOT selfish. It’s really the only way you have enough energy and motivation to help others.
As the saying goes, “An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.” -Unknown
Here are a couple of examples that demonstrate this.
The Oxygen Mask Example
You might have heard this before but it’s a great example and needs to be repeated. When you get on a plane one of the first things they tell you to do is to put your oxygen mask on before you assist others in the event of an incident. Not because it's selfish but because it's logical.
If you are having a hard time breathing you won't be able to help others around you. So, ultimately both you and the person needing your help are out of luck all because you put them before yourself.
This same story can apply to your own life. If you are burned-out or unhappy you won't benefit the people around you. You will do sub-par work and maybe even say things you didn't mean to say if you don’t take care of yourself.
By simply putting yourself first you can easily change your productivity and relationships with work, friends, and family. Everyone benefits in the end if they can get to their oxygen masks easily.
Get To Know Yourself Better
A good self-care routine also allows you to truly get to know yourself better. Knowing what you enjoy that makes you happy, or understanding your passion and purpose in life benefits the people around you too.
These people get to experience the best you that there is; the relaxed and highly self-confident and powerful person you are. Less negativity and resentment towards others allows for stronger and more meaningful relationships to flourish.
Don’t Let the Negative Nelly’s Stop You
There may be a few people in your life that will see self-care as selfish but don't let it stop you. Instead, educate them or take them out of your life if that’s possible. Maybe they are just as overwhelmed as you are don't understand the importance of self-care.
If you can explain it to them, and they have an open mind it’s entirely possible they will agree with you and even add it to their schedule. If they don't understand it there is no point in stressing about what they say. Don't let them stop you from taking care of yourself. Your health, happiness, and life matter too.
Here’s another quote that really gets the point across…
“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 others.” ~ Parker Palmer
What will you do to take care of yourself today?
This is Part 7 of a 10-part series on Taking Care of Yourself
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Part 10 - What happens when you don't take care of yourself