The idea that self-care is selfish is a pretty pervasive one. Lots of people look askance when someone chooses to have a lie-in rather than getting ahead with the housework. But why the raised eyebrows? What’s so wrong with knowing your physical and emotional limits, and taking steps to stay within them?
Part of the problem is that we often confuse self-care with self-indulgence (which it isn’t – or it shouldn’t be). And that leads us to think that self-care is selfish. But it really isn’t. Read on for our top three reasons why self-care is not selfish:
Stress is contagious
One of the first things that will happen if you’re not practising enough self-care is that you’ll get stressed. And stress is extremely contagious. If you’re a parent, stress can cause you to act tense and irritable. This will in turn upset your children. In the workplace, stress can lead to panic, frustration, snappiness and anger – all of which make your colleagues stressed out as well. The best way to stop your stress from spreading is to cure it. That’s what the medicine of self-care is for.
Caring for yourself and caring for others are not mutually exclusive
Practising self-care does not mean that you don’t (or can’t) care for others as well. In fact, acknowledging your own needs often makes you better at caring for others. Self-care gives us energy and lowers our stress levels, making us able to do more (and to do it with a positive attitude).If you’re pushing yourself to the point where you’re damaging your health and lashing out at others – well, that’s not good for you or anyone in your circle. Understanding your limitations and taking positive steps towards your own wellbeing is one of the best ways to ensure a positive outcome for everyone under your wing. At the end of the day, it’s the outcome that’s important.
Self-care is self-knowledge
This all boils down to one important thing: self-care is self-knowledge. Understanding where your stress points are, where you need to draw the line, and what you’re just not capable of is really important. Driving yourself into the ground through lack of self-knowledge (or fear of judgement) isn’t altruistic. It can impact badly upon you and everyone around you. Respecting your limits and taking time out for your health and wellbeing (despite what others may have to say about it!) is much better for everyone concerned. You can’t be kind to others if you’re not kind to yourself first.
Everyone knows that if you’re on a plane and the oxygen masks drop down, you have to fit your own before helping others. Why? Because you’re no good to anyone else if you’re incapacitated yourself. Sure, once you’ve got your own mask on you can help as many people as you can reach – but there’s nothing selfish about making sure that you’re in a fit state to do that first. Think of self-care as like that oxygen mask.