The following weeks, I will be writing about how to look after yourself by doing different things for yourself. This week, we will be looking at the importance of looking after yourself and what this might look like in a world where we are told that this is “selfish”.
I want to start the series by challenging the idea that looking after yourself, or self-care, is selfish. The following definitions might shed some light on the crucial difference between self-care and selfishness, and why it’s more than OK, in fact essential, to look after yourself:
www.dictionary.com defines “selfish” as:
1.Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
2.Characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives.
The word that sticks out for me the most here is “only”, followed by “regardless of others”. So, somebody selfish is someone that doesn’t care what happens to others as long as they get what they want.
On the other hand, the Self-Care-Forum defines self-care as:
The actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness.
This definition speaks about an individual doing something for themselves in benefit of
their wellbeing. It doesn’t say that they do it in spite of others or in disregard for others.
Self-care is just that – care for the self.
So somebody that is self-caring is someone that is getting what they need without disregarding others.
I noticed, as I was writing the last few sentences that, when talking about someone selfish, I used the word “want”, and when talking about someone that is self-caring, I used the word “need”.
So, another aspect of self-care that puts it miles apart from selfishness is that self-care relates to someone’s basic needs – the need to be alone, the need to re-energise by sleeping, resting, engaging in hobbies, working out, re-thinking relationships…the need to restore wellness and wellbeing.
Self-care doesn’t mean the person is isolated, it means the person will do what they need – alone or with others – in order to feel recharged and better about and within themselves, which will in turn allow them to feel better about and within their relationships.
A selfish person, in turn, will not care whether their relationships are better or worse as long as they get what they want, which might meet their needs in some way, but it will be at the expense of others.
Society tells us that we should put others before ourselves, that we must always come second. Well, we will run out of emotional, psychological, physical fuel if we do that.
On a personal note, the work (care work, counselling, teaching) I do wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t look after myself. It has been a journey to know how to do this, and striking a balance between self-care and giving of myself to help others has been a steep learning curve at times, but the proof of its benefit is immense!
Our ability to care for ourselves with sensitivity and self-awareness, will in turn help us when it’s our turn to care for or help others. Self-care is beneficial for the person looking after themselves, as well as for the people around them. So if you see someone practicing self-care, give them time and notice how much more engaged they are with themselves, their world and their relationships afterward.
Go on, try it out this week.
Do something that’s for you and you alone, and that won’t affect anyone else but will definitely benefit you and those relationships after you’ve done it.
Go for a meal on your own or with friends, read that novel that’s accumulating dust on your bedside table…say no to someone when you don’t feel like doing it…
Do something different for yourself, notice what happens and leave a comment below to let me know how it went!