Is it selfish to take time for yourself?
My perception of selfishness was shaped by the fact that my mother, who was my childhood model of a “good person,” rarely did anything for herself. She was there to meet my every need. She almost always said “yes” to others who needed her help. It seemed leisure was a foreign concept to her. I was surprised when friends would tell me about the hobbies their mothers enjoyed. Other moms intentionally did something for themselves?
I came to perceive selfishness as anything you did for your own care or enjoyment when you could have been doing something for somebody else’s. An “unselfish” person was someone like my mom. Someone who always said “yes.” I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Especially for women, prioritizing yourself often induces guilt.
In my early adulthood, my determination to live up to my definition of an unselfish, good person left me completely burned out.
Enter self-care. Let’s define it! I like to think of self care on a very basic level. Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others secure theirs. You can’t help fill anyone else’s cup if your own cup is empty. How do you fill your cup? There are a few ways:
How do you create appropriate boundaries? Internalize your value and decide how people are and aren’t allowed to treat you.
Decide to stop answering work emails after a certain hour each day. Compassionately protect your energy so that no one is allowed to perpetually deplete it – and yes, that does mean saying “no” sometimes, to friends, other people, and situations.
This is the “self-care” that most people think about. Giving yourself a break. Letting yourself have the chocolate cake once in a while. It’s also making time for things that give you joy, whether that’s horseback riding or simply having coffee with a friend.
This is the “self-care” that maybe not a lot of people think about, but it’s just as critical as the more commercial version. Self-parenting is knowing your personal goals and ambitions and ensuring that you’re taking steps to get there (even when it’s hard). It’s believing in yourself. It’s being your own best advocate, and bonding with/healing your inner child as best you can.
The funny thing about self-care is that it isn’t always easy. It isn’t as simple as getting a massage once in a while. It is, as I said earlier, prioritizing yourself. And it makes sense to prioritize yourself, even (and especially) as a busy woman with a lot of competing priorities, for the following reasons:
- Staying in Your Power – When you constantly allow people and situations to deplete you, without looking after yourself, you feel less in control. You can start to resent yourself and others.
- Affirming Your Value – You deserve to feel great. You are more than worth your own care and attention – and when you are aware of your own value, it’s easier to affirm the value in others.
- Practicing Self-Love – At its very core, this is what self-care is about. When you are in alignment and loving yourself, believe it or not, that’s when you are of greatest benefit to those around you.
A self-loving woman who practices self-care is an absolute light. She gives permission to everyone she meets to love themselves, too. The effect you have on others, perhaps more than what you “do” for them, is related to your energy. When you’ve cared for yourself, you have the energy of a “daymaker.” And making someone’s day can sometimes change their life.