Since self care is about recognizing your needs (and wants, to some degree) and taking care of yourself, it’s easy to mistake it as selfishness.
But while it may sound cliche, caring for ourselves really does make us better able to care for others (I give more examples of how that works in this month’s vlog). And I love Meagan’s comment on our podcast that something is only selfish if it’s hurting someone else, or putting our needs above theirs.
That said—and I very much think this is a personality thing—some of us are more likely to slide from healthy self-care into selfishness, just as others are more likely to ignore self-care for much too long.
For example, if we’re just going through the motions of caring for the people around us, but constantly grumbling or wishing for more time for ourselves—if our heart’s not really in it—then we’re not really loving our people the way we should.
It may be that we need to intentionally find time to care for ourselves so that we can recharge before pouring into those around us, or it may be that we are focusing too much on our “right” to self-care and not enough on loving our people.
How do you find that balance between carving out time to love yourself through self-care and loving the people around you?
I think an important part of this is being willing to hold onto your self-care activities with an open hand. Plan them, allow yourself to have them, but do not consider them your right or more important than the needs of the people around you. For example, I was attending a conference a couple of years ago when all of the girls suddenly started throwing up. Now, Sean is an amazing dad, but the one thing he does not do well is the stomach flu. Leaving a beautiful, quiet hotel room behind, I jumped in the car and went home to help. I could have been grumpy about it (and any other time I might have been), but because I had just experienced a miscarriage two days earlier, I was able to put it all into perspective and focus on putting their needs first.
Love involves sacrifice. There’s no two ways around it. Sometimes that sacrifice means sleepless nights with a sick toddler and sometimes that sacrifice means moving to a new place so your husband can pursue his dream. And a million little things in between.
Meagan often talks about choosing to see those things we dread as little acts of love, not only in this month’s content but regularly on Facebook and her blog as well. Whether it’s cooking dinner or folding laundry or helping elderly parents pay their bills, seeing things through this lens elevates them from something mundane, something that feels like a drain on who we are, to something we can do from a place of love. Maybe not every time because we are, after all, human, but often enough to change our perspective.
Let’s look at some self-care activities that might feel selfish even though they really aren’t:
- Putting a date on the calendar for something just for you.
- Feeding the kids an easy meal to save your sanity.
- Turning on a movie and snuggling on the couch when you need a break from the chaos and noise.
- Saying no to an opportunity or commitment.
- Stepping down from a position that’s having a negative impact on your life.
- Telling someone what you need.
- Setting boundaries in a relationship.
- Reading, taking a class, picking up a new hobby.
- Entering “survival mode” during a busy season.
On the other hands, here are a few signs that you might need to evaluate your motives. (It’s worth noting that most of these examples are from my own life. Because of my independent, introverted, strong personality, I can easily slip from self-care to selfishness.):
- You get frustrated or angry if you’re “me time” is interrupted or plans change
- You put off caring for someone else’s emotional needs because you are focused on protecting your own plans
- You consider doing things for the people you love inconveniences because they take away from what you want to be doing for yourself.
- You never ask the people you love what they need, even though you tell them often what you need.
NOTE: One thing I am feeling keenly as we go through this course is that it’s impossible to set standards or “rules” that will apply to every person. My wish for you is that this course will help develop your introspective skills so that you’re able to hear what we’re saying and evaluate for yourself whether it’s true for you or not. That is really one of the biggest keys to personal growth; unless you’re able to evaluate your own feelings, behaviors and motives, you’ll just be going through the motions and trying to fit yourself into a box rather than living authentically.
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS:
- Does fear of being seen as selfish keep you from making time for your self-care needs? How can you combat that guilt?
- Are you more likely to protect your self-care at all costs, even when it slips into selfishness? How can you reign that in to make sure you’re still loving the people in your life?