Self-Care is Not Selfish

You can’t bring your best self to work, support your friends and family, or find the joy in life if you are irritated, exhausted, burned out, or dead!

It is not fun to live inside a body that it is exhausted – pushing through the “mud” of overwhelm and depression is no way to live. It is also not fun to live with a person who is burned out either. You are not doing anyone — including yourself — any favours by consistently showing up for others at the expense of yourself. No one wins if you push yourself to the brink of what a human can physically and emotionally withstand.

Self-care is not selfish. You have to protect the vessel — you can’t pour from an empty cup.  You have to put your “oxygen mask on first.”

Even if self-care were a little selfish, no one should have to justify taking care of themselves. Being mindful of nutrition, getting adequate sleep, being active and staying hydrated are not “prizes” that we win “if” we are “good” in other parts of our life. If you need to be selfish every once in a while, that is more than okay, as long as you allow the other people in your life to be selfish once in a while as well. Spread the “royalty for the moment” time fairly evenly with your friends and family.

The main take-away is that you need to learn to show up for yourself.

Set up systems that ensure you get to regularly exhibit acts of self-care such as moving your body, eating well, and taking “you” time.

  • Schedule activity into your calendar. Join a sports team or get a fitness buddy. Anything important should be something you have to “opt out of” not into.
  • Make healthy food convenient and unhealthy food inconvenient. Carry almonds in your purse or car. Pre-wash vegetables for your fridge. Batch-cook healthy food to store in the freezer. Make extra dinner and bring it as your healthy lunch. You wouldn’t expect your kids (or someone you care about) to eat food off of your plate, nibble while cooking, or mindlessly grab a chocolate bar at 3 PM, but that is how many parents I work with feed themselves.
  • Consider an evening or morning routine — even of 20 minutes — where you prioritize the activities that “fill your cup.” Read a book, listen to a podcast, meditate, journal, or take a bath.
  • Basically, don’t let the bus of life drive you; YOU drive the bus.

Now, self-care is not just physical. Self-care includes how you speak to yourself — your self-talk.

Too many of us are not only cruel to our physical beings (eating bad food, not exercising), we are cruel to our minds; we make ourselves listen to such unproductive, unloving, and belittling words. Our self-talk is hurtful, harsh — harmful! We have different standards when speaking to ourselves than to a family member or friend.

We have to learn how to have empathy and compassion for ourselves. We have to care about ourselves enough to make healthy choices — in how we move, what we eat, AND how we think (i.e., how we talk to ourselves)!

You can’t be your “best” self for those you care about — let alone be happy and enjoy life — if you consistently prioritize everyone else. We can all do just about anything, but we can’t do everything. A large part of adopting a healthier lifestyle — and living a full and vibrant life — is learning how to say “no” and realizing that a “yes” to one thing is a “no” to something else. Don’t forget to say “yes” to you.

If you constantly show up for others — at the expense of your own well-being — you will eventually turn into an exhausted, unpleasant version of yourself. You are no good to anyone — including yourself — if you are depressed, wiped out, and miserable. Find some time to put you first.