Repeat after me. Self-care is not selfish.
I used to think, if I spent time taking care of me I wouldn’t be able to take care of everyone who depended on me. I felt guilty about doing things I wanted to do, rather than acquiescing to the desires of my family or friends. As a die-hard people-pleaser from way back, who tried to do everything perfectly, I often found myself disappointed and feeling like I let everyone down. And I was exhausted much of the time.
These were tell-tale signs that I was giving from an empty cup. It came from a place of fear that people wouldn’t love me or that I wasn’t worthy unless I kept on giving.
At a major turning point in my life, when I was upside down with loss and grief, I huddled under the covers and couldn’t leave my bed. Spent. Empty. Powerless. With nothing left to give.
After years and years of giving, thinking this is how I was supposed to be, I hit a wall.
I now know it didn’t have to be that way.
What I’ve learned since, and continue to practice and teach, is that my body, mind, and spirit need to be replenished regularly in order to be at my best. It is from that place I can give to others with love, compassion, and grace, without feeling guilty or selfish.
“Self-care is how you take your power back.”
10 Reasons Why Self-care Is Not Selfish
1. You Can’t Give From an Empty Cup
You are the beautiful teacup, and the saucer upon which you sit is the vessel from which you can give to others. If this is true, it only makes sense that you have to keep your cup full to overflowing, right?
Everyone fills their cup in different ways. Some may sit quietly and meditate or just breathe or read. Others may take a hike or a brisk walk. Spending time alone is very often a good way to get back in touch with what you need to refill your tank.
Think about what feeds your soul and helps you re-energize your total self—body, mind, and spirit.
“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”
~ Christopher Germer
2. You Are the Only One Who Can Do It
This is just a simple fact. No one else can take care of you the way you can. Nor can they know what you need unless you tell them.
It’s important that the people you care about are aware that this time you choose to spend to keep your cup full is an essential part of your life. Without dedicating time to self-care, you won’t be able to support them well. Involve them in your quest to take care of yourself. Let them know that everyone will benefit when you are feeling well.
“When we self-regulate well, we are better able to control the trajectory of our emotional lives
and resulting actions based on our values and sense of purpose.”
~Amy Leigh Mercree
3. You Have Only One Body
Another fact. It’s not like we can trade in our body for a fresh model when we’re burnt out or so ill we can’t even take care of ourselves.
Everyone is given just one vessel in this life, which is why you should protect it the best you can from feeling depleted. A whole slew of symptoms can arise from allowing your body to become used up and abused.
Your body is a machine, just like a car. When your car has been fully serviced, you can be confident that as you start your car the gas goes to the engine. The oil lubricates all the engine parts and you can easily put it in drive and take off on your day. That’s how it can work when you are fully serviced too.
“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.
Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
~ Parker Palmer
4. Self-care Isn’t Selfish—It’s a Judgment
Many times, others who feel they are being neglected because you choose to spend time alone may call you selfish. Worse yet, they may say nothing at all and behave in a way that is intended to make you feel guilty.
They are judging you. This is their problem, not yours. It demonstrates their definition of selfish when for you it is self-preservation.
As you get crystal clear on why you need self-care, it won’t matter what others think. You will be able to dismiss their behavior and do what you know is best for you. Remember, you are the only one who can truly take care of you.
“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
5. It Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Care About Others
That is so far from the truth. Actually, when you learn to love yourself enough to take care of you first, it means you care deeply that those in your inner circle get the very best of you.
Unless and until you can show up at your best, everyone around you will suffer the consequences—yourself included.
“Learning to love yourself is like learning to walk—
essential, life-changing, and the only way to stand tall.”
~ Vironika Tugaleva
6. You Can Give From a Place of Love
Doesn’t it feel better to be relaxed, with a sense of inner peace, because you have spent the time you need to nourish yourself? The more you practice, the better able you are to show up in love. Empathy comes more easily. Patience and compassion ooze out of you. People notice. They respond.
At some point, they may also notice when something has shifted in you because you have neglected yourself and your self-care practice. Next, they may be buying you a gift certificate for the day spa and encouraging you to take the time you need.
“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy,
care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”
~ Jean Shinoda Bolen
7. It’s Empowering
And, it’s motivating. Feeling good about yourself because you have integrated a self-care practice into your daily routine—or at the very least, weekly—allows you to step out in confidence. You become a role model for everyone around you. Some may even ask about your secret. Share it.
People will see qualities in you they will admire and want to mirror. Having a little more of that in our world is not a bad thing.
“People who love themselves come across as very loving, generous and kind;
they express their self-confidence through humility, forgiveness, and inclusiveness.”
8. It Moves You From Surviving to Thriving
Going through the motions day-to-day is called coping and surviving. It is all you can do when your energy is low. When someone asks for help, you are hard-pressed to muster the where-with-all to offer assistance. Is this where you want to stay?
Establishing a consistent self-care practice that feeds every part of you, allows you to respond to any request with patience and clarity. That’s what your loved ones need from you—and you want to give. You can change the mode of your life if you choose to. Don’t just survive. Thrive. Who doesn’t want to be in that mode?
“The only person who can pull me down is myself,
and I’m not going to let myself pull me down anymore.”
~ C. JoyBell C.
9. It’s Not Optional
Focusing on self-care can be hard to accomplish consistently. Don’t beat yourself up over it, yet try your best to be regular about it.
If you’ve ever said, I’ll do it later, or there are not enough hours in the day or I’ll get to my self-care practice once the kids are in school or I get home from work, you have chosen to put yourself last. A self-care practice is non-negotiable if you need energy, patience, and love to be there for yourself and those you care about.
Take time each morning to decide what you need to do for yourself today. Make it a priority. In the whole scheme of things, you come first. The airline industry got it right: put your oxygen mask on first before you help others. Do something every day that your future self—and those you love—will thank you for.
“Self-love is asking yourself what you need – every day –
and then making sure you receive it.”
10. You’re Worth It
Limiting beliefs come up often when a self-care practice is under consideration. The biggest ones are I’m not worth the time or my family/career/friends need me more.
I’m here to challenge you to bring your limiting belief front and center. Ask yourself if it is really true. It may be something you’ve believed in the past, instilled in you from childhood. But, is it the truth you want to live by now? Do you really believe that you’re not worth your time and effort to take care of you?
Self-care is not selfish and you deserve it. You are worth it.
“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go
is attainable, and you are worth the effort.”
~ Deborah Day
There are so many more reasons why self-care is not selfish. After reading through these, I’ll bet you can come up with a few more personal reasons that apply to your life. Do that. Make this personal.
Step Onto Your Bridge
When life-changing moments flip the world upside down, I create a bridge for women so they can turn chaos into calm, build resilience and learn to live a life guided by their own values and vision. Self-care is a big part of this journey. If you’re ready to take the first step onto your bridge and explore how change can impact you and how to move through it with more dignity and grace, get my free ebook From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition now.