Why self-care is not selfish.

Why self-care is not selfish.

As we grow up most of us are taught a lot of things – reading, spelling, math, manners, basic hygiene, social norms, and maybe even how to play a sport. We move from one lesson to another, one accomplishment to another. Through all of these experiences we are taught to work hard, be a team player and always do our best.

As we grow into adulthood and take on the many responsibilities of life such as careers, marriage, children, and home owning, we apply the same principles: working hard, taking care of others and pushing ourselves to succeed.

All of this is well and good – but, isn’t necessarily sustainable.

Perhaps you’ve felt this yourself? It is extremely challenging (or even, impossible) to keep all of the plates spinning, all of the time.

If you’ve felt like that, you’re not alone.

One thing we are often not taught as we grow is how to manage and mitigate stress. We are also often not taught how to care for our mental and energetic selves. The focus is on the physical body and less so on managing challenging emotions or processing uncomfortable thoughts.

We are certainly not taught that sometimes the most important thing we can do for everyone is take a “time out”.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) defines stress as “the body’s response to a real or perceived threat”. This response is instinctual – in the cave man days it was necessary, to prepare us for the action we would need to take to get out of danger.  Nowadays, in the world of high responsibility and constant stimulation that we live in, our bodies are constantly responding to an onslaught of “threats”.

Our response to stressful stimuli isn’t necessarily related to the actual stimuli – it’s related to the feeling that the demands of the situation in front of us are greater than the resources we have to manage the situation.

I can think of at least half a dozen women in my life right now who I know are experiencing this very feeling. The demands being placed on them by their work, families and life are beyond what they feel they can manage.

That is a very hard place to be.

You have probably experienced this yourself as a feeling of overwhelm or anxiety. When our bodies are constantly facing an onslaught of perceived “threats”, it is easy for us to get caught up in a “stress loop” – a pattern in which our nervous system never truly resets back to its parasympathetic state (the state of rest, healing and rejuvenation) but gets locked into a sympathetic state (fight or flight).

Being stuck in a sympathetic state is exhausting. It literally wears the body down, prevents deep rest, healing and growth, and contributes to a myriad of health problems.

So, what do we do now as adults, if we’re caught in a stress loop, conditioned to “go go go” and just “deal with it” when it comes to stress?

We start to make self-care a regular part of our lives. 

Admittedly, self-care is one of the hardest things for us to invest in. Whether it makes us feel selfish or self-indulgent, many of us have a hard time putting ourselves first. Have you ever felt that way?

Well, here’s the thing: investing time in your own well-being makes you better in every other aspect of your life – it supports you to be a better partner, parent, friend, co-worker, customer, and teammate.

When you take a “time out” for yourself – even if it’s just 5 minutes, well spent – to reconnect with your inner most self and tap into that place within you that is always steady and at ease, you are better able to show up in your life fully as the patient, kind, generous, present being you have all the potential to be.

Yet, we constantly cheat ourselves of this time, prioritizing everything and everyone else ahead of it, telling ourselves that we don’t deserve it, don’t have time for it, and are selfish for wanting it.

Let’s get this straight: self-care is not only good for YOU, but also for everyone around you.

Think about it: how do you respond to the demands of life and the people around you when you’re feeling stretched, stressed and overwhelmed? Grumpy, short, impatient, judgemental? It’s not pretty, right?

How do you respond to the people and events in your life when you take time out to do something that makes you feel cared for, rested, centred and at peace? Big difference, hey?

The benefits of taking that “me time” ripple out and positively impact every other aspect of your life.  And the best part is that self-care doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or time consuming. It can be as simple as 5 minutes outside in your favourite place in nature taking deep, conscious breaths. Or 5 minutes snuggling your dog and being fully present in that moment. Or 5 minutes in the shower enjoying the warmth and cleansing of the water. Whatever gives you some time to yourself and makes you feel good.

All you have to do is give yourself permission to let go of whatever ideas you have attached to self care – release them – and let yourself embrace the absolutely necessary practice of taking time for YOU, knowing that when you do, it’s great for everybody.

Is self-care a regular part of your life? I would love to hear your favourite self-care activities – share them below!


ps: if you could use self-care support check out the Nourish: Self-Care Circle.


Add yours
  1. 5
    Andrea Buchanan Smith

    My current 1 step to self care is my nightly bath whether or not I want one I choose essential oils to counter or enhance my emotions whether they are positive or negative and I soak in Epsom Salt for as long as I need to.
    I am learning to say “no” to my kids too, not an outright no but more of a “yes in a minute” Instread of snapping to attention at their requests and also asking them to do more for themselves or work through what they think they need help with.
    To avoid the grumpy momma coming out I am also trying to set my task times for realistic times where I won’t be interrupted. Sometimes this means going to sleep for a couple of hours and then working for a couple later at night I know it sounds nuts but it is working and it’s not every night.

    • 6

      I actually read an article a little while ago that actually said that a natural sleep cycle was 4 hours of sleep, awake for 2 and then 4 hours of sleep (I’m paraphrasing).. I will try to track it down. But, perhaps you’ve just intuitively tapped into that wisdom!

+ Leave a Comment