Is self care selfish?
This is a question that has plagued me whenever people have asked me what my passions revolve around. I’ve said things like wellness, and health and people as a response, which is true. But I’m also passionate about self care, but aware of how others seem to interpret it.
It’s taken me a while to figure out my thoughts on this, and maybe you have also asked yourself this question and come to your own answers, maybe ours are the same, and maybe they’re very different. I guess we shall see.
My answer: Self care is not selfish. It’s actually the complete opposite, but we’ll get to that in a second.
What is selfish though, is burnout. Working yourself all the way until you no longer have life in your bones for anything or anyone around you is not only selfish, but I’ll take it a step further and call prideful.
To understand why burnout is selfish, you have to understand how we get there. The Miriam Websters definition of burnout is “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration”. This term is most commonly used to define how people feel in relation to work, but this can exist within marriages, parenting and just day to day life. Basically, it’s us, working ourselves too hard, without rest, to the point where we are frustrated, exhausted and unmotivated. At the end of the day, getting to this point helps no one. Not your children, not your marriage or relationships, not even your job and definitely not you.
How do we know we are burnt out? Well, for starters, things you used to love feel or sound exhausting. You have no energy for basic things that used to ground you (going to the gym, reading a book, calling a friend). You may be edgier, sadder, unmotivated, particularly negative in your speech and overall outlook. I’ve experienced this in a few different areas of my life, and as much as I’ve done what most peole do; blame the job, the people, the tasks or the chores in your life, the reality is that I reached burnout because I chose to overwork myself and I didn’t think that I would suffer as a result. I thought I could do everything and that I needed to do everything. I also thought that I needed to be the one to do everything (that’s where the pride comes in).
So, what happens when you’re burnt out? Our work and our attentiveness to others suffers. You may not perform as well at your job, or in your role. You may not connect with your friends as much, you may find yourself disconnected from your spouse, kids and others in your life. Why? Because you’re disconnected from yourself and you have been for a while. Once you disconnect from yourself, your need to rest, your need for things that bring you peace and joy you end up well, burnt out.
The question here is this; if you know that burnout is the end result of you working your 40+ hours job, and pouring out of yourself for your kids, partner, home, extended family, without taking a moment for yourself, and you do it anyway, resulting in you being the worst version of yourself for everyone including yourself…doesn’t that choice make burnout selfish? And, wouldn’t a solution that not only remedies the effect of burnout, but prevents it be anything but selfish?
Note: Life is hard, and life is tiring. For those of you who are tired, worn-out and exhausted, I’m not taking a jab at you I promise. I’m saying this in love as someone who constantly fights burnout. YOU are not selfish, burnout is. YOU are trying your best and I’m here to coach you lovingly and cheer you on while I also try my best. We’re in this together.
That solution, that’s what self care is and that’s why I say no, self care is not selfish. It’s actually the best thing you can do for your job, your family, your friends and yourself.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to take nightly baths with soaks, candles and a book (I mean if you can afford it…go for it). But, it does mean that you should find a routine that suits you, something that fits into your day and your week pretty easily that you can commit to, for yourself because it’s important. For me, I’ve recently begun listening to a calming playlist and sitting in silence in my room with a journal and tea before I go to bed. Some nights its for 30 minutes and some nights it’s 15. It’s small and pretty simplistic, but for me right now it’s not only been helping me to rest and reset after my days but it’s been making my mornings feel so much better. I actually look forward to my little bit of quiet time in the evenings now and I’m a much better wife, friend, and healthier friend to myself because of it (it’s also the reason I’ve started writing again).
My advice if you’re someone who hasn’t taken the time to prioritize self care in your life, start. Keep it small, ask yourself what is one thing that would make you feel good each day. Maybe it’s taking time to moisturize in the morning or before bed. Maybe it’s putting the phone away in the morning while sipping your tea. Maybe it’s taking a walk during your lunch break during the day. Whatever you choose, if it makes you feel good for prioritizing yourself start there. Once you’ve started, protect that space. It’s yours and it matters because it matters to you. Value yourself, you’re worth it.