Self-Care IS Selfish...and it should be!
Updated: Aug 24
On my way to work, I drive past a sign propped in front of a popular wellness center and it reads “Self-care is not selfish”. I’ve seen this sentiment expressed repeatedly over the years and I emphatically disagree! Self-care is absolutely selfish and that’s kind of the point. In fact, it’s the most selfish thing you can do, and that’s a good thing. Famed writer and activist Audre Lorde expressed it this way- “Caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” Perhaps you don’t see it in quite these terms, but the sentiment is worth noting. Self-care should really be prioritized.
The questions that need to be reconciled is why is there a negative connotation associated with caring for oneself, and why is it considered a bad thing? By saying self-care is not selfish we are implying that there is some guilt associated with taking care of ourselves. The sign should read “Self-care is healthcare!” because many chronic dysfunctions of the body- everything from hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, IBS, and even mental distress- could be mitigated if people were taught that taking care of the whole body (mind and spirit included) should be part of our daily routine, not just when we get sick. Imagine how much money we could save in healthcare costs (including prescription & OTC drugs, copays for doctor visits, and insurance premiums), not to mention therapy costs and divorce court fees! Self-care has a cumulative effect and reaches beyond the individual. We have all crossed paths with someone who needed a little self-care to help them act right, so labeling it as something that is in stark contrast to the needs of the group is unfair. We all benefit when we take care of ourselves but a lot of people only associate self-care with getting a massage or taking a bath. Yes, massages and (uninterrupted) bath time certainly should be considered part of self-care however, if you are relying on a yearly massage and a 10-minute soak once a week to recharge your battery, then self-care in its truest sense is not your priority.
So, what does self-care look like? Some will say that it includes everything that will keep a person healthy by addressing physical needs like getting quality sleep, exercising, and eating well; mental health needs like reducing stress and seeking professional help when needed; social and spiritual needs including cultivating good relationships with friends and family, enjoying a hobby, and maintaining a private prayer or meditation practice. Self-care can also include the things that you exclude from your life like toxic people, unfulfilling work, or bad habits in general. There are other things that should be considered that seem negative in nature but are equally important and undeniably necessary if we are to consider the whole-person approach to lasting health and happiness.
Solitude IS Self-Care
When was the last time you spent time alone with yourself? If you have become increasingly short on patience with other people, or the nicest person on the planet irritates your soul, then it may be time to get alone and become one with yourself. Solitude offers many health benefits including allowing for creativity to bloom. It can help you concentrate by removing unnecessary distractions, allowing the brain to reboot and you to recharge. Spending alone time can also make you a better partner in your professional and personal relationships. Working through lunch may help some people feel productive and sometimes might be necessary to meet a big deadline. But for others, it’s the only time they get to themselves. I have been known to nap in my car at lunch for a change of pace and scenery and I encourage others to turn lunch time into “me time”. Whether you have 30 minutes or a whole hour, use it to relax and unwind. If you are lucky enough to have weekends off or at least 2 days back-to-back, use the time off wisely. Sure, weekends are often used to catch up on household chores, but if laundry takes 2 days to finish, you have a much bigger problem than you realize.
Divorce IS Self-Care
We most often associate divorce with marriage and if yours is a less than happy union, perhaps it would be fitting to include it as part of your self-care plan. Divorce, more broadly defined, means to separate, or dissociate (something) from something else and is especially important if you are holding onto something that has lost its usefulness in your life. What is that thing that no longer serves you? “Whatever you are carrying…whatever hurt you are holding on to…open up your hands and visualize letting it go.”
Quitting IS Self-Care
By quitting, I mean stop doing that thing that doesn’t spark joy for you. Maybe it did in the past, but it doesn’t now. We keep a lot of things long past the expiration date of their usefulness. Joyce Meyer always says, “If the horse has been dead 10 years, dismount!” I know you don’t want to be labeled a quitter but sometimes quitting is necessary for our health not to mention, our sanity. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there are some things that you’re just not good at and quitting something that you don’t like, love, or enjoy makes space for other things that will renew your spirit and maybe make you smile again.
Denial IS Self-Care
Saying “NO!” or denying access to people and things that should not have total access to you is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Turning off technology and limiting the 24-access your followers have can give you back a sense of freedom and control over your life. You can do yourself a favor and stop the habit of oversharing all your intimate details which ultimately leaves you open to unwarranted criticism and further decimates your self-worth. New rule: stop telling people what you don’t need them to remember.
Confrontation IS Self-Care
You cannot change what you will not confront, and you cannot possess what you will not pursue. Confronting those things that are negatively impacting your life is also freeing. If there is a situation in your life that is causing deep stress and grieving your spirit, confronting it and facing the fears surrounding it can minimize its effects and begin your soul’s healing process. On the other hand, holding on to resentment and pretending everything is okay or simply tolerating this spiritual abuse to keep the peace, is your condoning the situation and its inevitable, and possibly irreparable, consequences.
Self-care is not a luxury we’re only entitled to on special occasions. It is our duty and responsibility to ourselves and to the people we claim we love. Failing to take care of ourselves is negligent behavior and if committed against our children, would be a criminal act. So, why is self-care negatively associated with selfishness when at its core is the potential for broad-spectrum healing? We have demonized it and group it with arrogance and thus people have become afraid to do the necessary things that will keep them healthy and happy. There is a quote that has been making its way around the internet- “If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness”. I and its author think you should read that again.
©2023 Tasha D. Manigo-Bizzell