When selfish is self-care

IMG_1523I was called selfish the other day. It’s one of the worst insults to me, honestly. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture. I’m certain each of us has the insult that cut us to the core, and that’s the one for me. It’s rolled around in my head a couple days, and I should have known from the beginning it would make it to the page.

If you’ve ever been called selfish, you’ve likely spent an equal amount of time wondering if, in fact, it’s true. It’s one of those insults that might as well be followed with “shame on you.” Sometimes used as an Evangelical slam, it’s often said in a way meant to say you’re not following the Golden Rule, not loving others as I love myself. Interesting, because if you follow that paradigm, you have to love yourself. Hence, if you’re not doing that, taking care of yourself, you can’t love others.

There’s great debate around the idea of self-care. The idea that you’re spending time and energy to restore yourself. Maybe that’s taking a long bath, expressing yourself creatively, taking a walk, connecting with a friend. Self-care can be time spent alone, or with other people. If you don’t have a practice around self-care, you’d be wise to develop one. Whatever it is for you that restores your heart, mind, body and soul. It is not selfish to practice self-care.

It’s also not selfish to have your own thoughts, ideas and opinions. We are made by the Creator as unique individuals. We’re here to express who we are in the world. And our ideas might not align with those around us, friends, family, loved ones. They don’t have to. There’s a myth that those in close proximity to us are going to align with what we believe. Maybe. But not necessarily. Having our own thoughts and expressing them doesn’t make us selfish.

Leaning into our integrity. Also, not selfish. If we are clear about what we believe, it is incumbent upon us to walk it out. There are times for the sake of relationship when we compromise and walk alongside someone else following their own beliefs. There’s nothing wrong with that. In the beginning, no sweat. You walk along, stretched, but still clear on your own convictions. After a while, one of two things is going to happen. You might be influenced to change your perspective, to realign your beliefs. Or, you might start to feel the seeds of discontent within you. Something you can ignore for a time, but then not. Your integrity won’t allow you to continue to compromise yourself.

That’s where it gets tricky. Being vulnerable and having a tough conversation about the misalignment. Stand in your values and express what you need to stay within your integrity. Maybe not popular, but not selfish.

Making decisions that are ultimately going to be the best for you, even if painful for a time? Not selfish. Yes, there are times for sacrifice. We can not have what we want all the time. That’s called being a human person living with other human persons. We ebb and flow. But when that’s not happening, it’s not selfish to make hard choices.

Talking about being selfish and what it is and isn’t is uncomfortable at best. To some degree, it’s subjective. What’s selfish for you may not be for me. Neither wrong. It’s not a black and white issue. What I know for sure is that anything said to create feelings of shame is destructive. Shame has no place in a healthy conversation. Chances are, if you’re wondering if you’re being selfish, you’re probably not. You’re considering other people, which is the entire point. We’re here to do our lives together. We can’t do that if we’re not taking care of ourselves, physically and most importantly emotionally, taking care of our soul.

Don’t let anyone make you feel less than, make you feel small or shameful for taking care of yourself. It’s you job. And doing it well isn’t selfish. It’s healthy. It’s self-preservation.

One thought on “When selfish is self-care

  1. Yes. Thank you for articulating this. It makes me wonder how closely selfishness, as a concept, is tied to religion. As I was growing up, again within the context of my religious upbringing, I was taught women should be selfless – which is equally unhealthy in my opinion. To this day I struggle with self-care, and I’m curious how these messages I took in as a child shaped my perception of self-care. And how all of this is rooted in shame.

    I am grateful for this blog.


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