Lately, we here about self-care on our social media feeds, on our skin care products, yoga poses or nutrition supplements. This concept became so commercialized in the beauty and wellness industry that we began to lose its real significance.
The concept of self-care originated in medicine and it should be incorporated in all of our efforts to take care of ourselves. From the attention we give to our body to the spiritual dimension.
Self-care started as a way to physically take care of our health and evolved into taking care of our emotional well-being as well.
But sometimes when we take care of ourselves it feels like we’re doing something selfish. Saying no to someone, declining an invitation or just calling off dinner might leave us feeling guilty. It’s like we’re unequipped to handle that day or as if we failed to make someone happy despite the fact that our mental health is suffering.
In short, we’re used to feel as if we’re selfish if we prioritize ourselves and our own path to healing.
The real problem is that we should redefine what selfish means. Because most people believe that if we think of our own interests, then we’re just self-centered, self-involved and self-serving. But the idea of us living for the good of all humankind is just unhealthy.
Selfish means to only be concerned about your own profit or pleasure while lacking consideration for the others. It doesn’t mean that you’re selfish if at some times you put yourself first. In a plane emergency, for example, we’re told to adjust our own oxygen mask first and nobody will consider us selfish if we’re following these instructions. In the same way, if we see someone being hurt, we should first make sure that the scene is safe and then help the person in need. This doesn’t mean we’re selfish, it’s just self-preservation and common sense.
We cannot see everything just in black and white. There is a whole spectrum when we refer to putting our health and well-being first. So, repeat after us: I am not being selfish if taking care of myself is necessary. There are times when the right thing to do is to prioritize our needs before everyone else’s.
Here are some of those times:
1. You need help
Acknowledging we need help doesn’t mean that we’re weak or needy but that we are mature enough to know what’s happening with ourselves and to understand that we can’t cope with a specific situation without help. When we need help but we’re not asking for it, we just add unnecessary stress to the already stressful situation. So don’t be ashamed to ask for support or to seek therapy, whenever you need help.
2. You need to rest
Sometimes we all need to rest so don’t feel bad to cancel some plans if you’re emotionally, physically or mentally tired. Lack of sleep can lead to a weak immune system, can cause memory issues or trouble focusing and it can even affect your relationships. So make it a top priority if you need a rest. This doesn’t mean you need to sleep but to take a time off from everything, from work, friends and why not even your partner. Don’t feel obligated to do something just because you should, get that extra rest that you need without feeling guilty. It is essential to rest if you feel in pain, if you’re exhausted or fatigued or if you need to heal or recover from something.
3. You just need alone time
If your friends don’t get if when you choose to stay home instead of going out, is just their own problem. Wanting to be alone is something natural and there’s no shame to do this, especially if social interactions are exhausting you. Sometimes, when we need to reevaluate our relationships, when our mood is out of whack or when we’re just tired after attending so many events, the best thing is to unplug and plan some time alone. So don’t feel guilty for your “me time”, if you’ve been craving some lately.
4. It’s time to end a relationship, job, or living situation
Breaking up with your partner, quitting your job or moving to another city are very stressful situations but sometimes we need to put ourselves first, especially if the relationship or the job we have affects our well-being. When you work for an abusive boss or when your relationship doesn’t make you happy anymore, it might be time to rethink them or say goodbye.
5. Give is being significantly outweighed by take
If all you do is give or take in the relationships you have, it might be time to make a change. You cannot be the one that always does chores and errands while the other just comes home and puts their feet on the table. Every relationship needs balance of give-and-take to avoid the both fatigue and resentment. So, depending of your situation, talk to your partner or take time to recharge and prioritize your own needs if they are not being met. On the other hand, if the significant other is causing you more harm than happiness, you might want to cut them out completely.
6. To avoid burnout, after work or in your personal life
Sometimes the job we have can be very draining and affect both our professional and personal life. So if you feel that you are susceptible to work exhaustion, it is imperative to practice self-care. Snooze your emails, turn off all the notifications from work and decide to handle all of them tomorrow instead of doing it in the middle of your dinner. No matter what job you have, you need to separate your personal time from work and to create a life-work balance that brings happiness in your life and not exhaustion.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish. Focusing on your own physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is something you need to take into consideration now and then, even if this means to prioritize yourself and not others. Remember this and practice some good old self-care with meditation, yoga, a better sleep routine, a nice hobby or enjoying some relaxing time on your own. It’s never selfish to do so.