Is Self-Care Selfish?
If you are a well-intentioned person who finds themselves saying “yes” far too frequently when you don’t mean it, this article is for you. Most of us are conflict-averse, meaning we do our best to stay out of arguments. Most of us are also taught from an early age that selfishness is a bad thing. We equate selfishness with saying no. How often have you heard or said: “Quit being selfish”? It is important we teach children compassion, empathy, and sacrifice. These traits are glue in adult relationships. But when there is no balancing thought, such as, you must always take good care of yourself, we grow up believing that we should put ourselves last. As a result, we enter adulthood programmed to put ourselves last, say yes to almost anything, and avoid – *gasp* – arguments.
Clients ask for help when they notice they are overcommitted, overspent, and resentful as a result of not being able to set boundaries and tackle disagreement confidently. Though therapy can offer useful tools for handling conflict, communicating assertively, and saying no, clients stumble because they are afraid that being more concerned about their own welfare than others is against the rules. It translates to being a bad person. Setting boundaries, standing firm, and saying no elicits guilt and shame.
In this article, I talk about how self-care fills your cup. A cup that is full has much to share, whereas an empty vessel is plain out of the good stuff. Your happiness matters. It is from a stance of self-love, inner calm, and happiness that you can be of most use to the world and people around you. Keeping your cup full prevents a drought; the onset of anxiety and depression. Protecting your body and soul from the insults of stress makes it more likely the you that presents to the world is well rested and rooted. Let’s talk about how to balance a life where you Do No Harm but also maintain good personal and relational boundaries.
What is the difference between self-care and selfishness?
Setting good boundaries so that you can stay well and
People who are selfish do not consider the needs of others and may even consistently violate others rights. If you consider the needs of others when making decisions, if you respect others rights and opinions, if you can empathize with what others are going through, you’re not selfish.
Holding yourself in high regard is not the same as being narcissistic. Thinking highly of yourself is one hallmark of robust self-esteem and good mental health. When you hold yourself in high regard you recognize your strengths but you also have the humility to recognize your weaknesses.
I’m confused. Isn’t self-sacrifice a spiritual goal?
When you start to put yourself first, you have to deal with guilt. It takes practice to deal with the guilt that’s a result of boundary setting. It takes practice to manage the thoughts. Experiencing guilt emotionally and in your thinking does not mean you’re doing a bad thing by taking care of yourself.
When you set good boundaries you are re-calibrating for a life you can function the best in. By saying “I need ____ to do well and feel good”, you begin to understand how to shape your self-care. When you function at your best you can contribute more and live squarely and fully in your purpose. This is when you can be most inspiring. Setting boundaries
Others might not always understand why you need to do something to take care of yourself. The important thing is that you’re in touch with why this matters for you.
Self-sacrifice can be a form of self-abuse, if not applied in moderation. Self-sacrifice is seen by some as a desirable spiritual path and a character trait of the highest order. I do not know of any religious reference that says you must abandon your health, joy, family, and sanity to put others first. You can sacrifice for the ‘greater good’ sometimes. You can do this wisely and in a measured way. You must never sacrifice your integrity. You may be an accidental hero, someone who goes above and beyond on an occasion, but this is different from living a life with consistently poor boundaries that
What if people get mad when I set boundaries or take care of myself?
Most of us strive to be kind. Most of us want to avoid conflict because it causes anxiety. It is impossible to live and maintain relationships where no one ever gets mad. I have a pet peeve with the word ‘nice’ because we often strive to be nice, rather than being clear, principled, good, or just. Being nice is superficial if what is underneath is an iceberg of resentment. When you make wise decisions with patience, care, and reflection, and communicate those decisions with love, you may be caught off guard when some people are still offended and angry. This demonstrates that we cannot always avoid making someone angry.
Final words on self-care
Do your best to be a good person, to understand your own needs, to not cause intentional harm, and to model forgiveness and humility. Care first and foremost for you, and from that
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ~ Rumi