Taking Care of Your Needs is Not Selfish, It Is Necessary (2020)

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Our society talks a lot about needing self-care, but sometimes the things touted as “self-care” are basic human needs, like showering.

If you have ever advocated for your own needs, only to have someone else tell you that you are selfish, don’t give that too much thought. There are several differences between self-care and selfishness. 

“It is so important to take time for yourself and find clarity. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.” – Diane Von Furstenberg

Is self-care selfish

We define selfishness as “being concerned excessively or exclusively for oneself or one’s own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others. Selfishness is the opposite of altruism or selflessness, and has also been contrasted with self-centeredness.”

The critical thing to note in the definition is the words “exclusively for oneself” and “regardless of others.” Yes, self-care is for you, and it benefits you, but it makes you a better person, parent, or partner. This healthy version of you affects your ability to care for others, be innovative, and impact the world in whatever way you do. 

“Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” – Parker Palmer

Take parenting, for example

According to Aimee Danielson, director of the Women’s Mental Health Program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in the District, “Maintaining the basic day-to-day with no extraordinary circumstances, keeping all those balls in the air, is a really demanding endeavor, and it leaves very little time for moms to be able to have fun, relax, rest and have downtime.” 

Parents catch a lot of flack for wanting alone time or time with friends. However, this time is necessary for their mental wellbeing. Taking care of yourself can make you a better parent because you are more likely to be engaged during the moments you are with the kids. Also, self-care increases your ability to remain calm, focused, and patient.  

Therefore, any act of self-care that parents engage in benefits their families. If your physical and mental health is robust, then everyone in your sphere benefits from that!

“To be a good parent, you need to take care of yourself so that you can have the physical and emotional energy to take care of your family.” – Michelle Obama

Self-care makes people better employees as well

Employees who practice self-care are less likely to get burnt out. Crashing from a burn out can cause employees to be unproductive and use more sick days.

Employees who engage in self-care are usually better focused at work too. They are less tired also and will not make as many mistakes. Their clear-headedness means they are more likely to understand directions the first time and complete tasks promptly.

Another problem that occurs when employees get burnt out is they turn into the office grump. No one benefits from that. Taking steps to take care of yourself will make you less irritable and more pleasant to be around.

You spend a great deal of time with the people you work with, so it is essential to maintain those relationships as you would any of the other ones in your life. 

“If you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.” – Dalai Lama

You can’t pour from an empty cup

Whether you are a parent, an employee, or have a management-level position, self-care should be a fundamental practice. When your internal reserves are depleted, you can not give any more of yourself. 

That is the crux of what makes self-care a selfless act. You ensure that you are at your best. Making healthy choices, whether physical or mental, fills your cup. This makes you better able to pour into others.

“Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there’s nothing else you can give, and nobody will care for you.” – Karl Lagerfeld

So what does self-care look like

Now that we have set the record straight about self-care being imperative and not selfish, you might wonder what you can do for yourself! It can look different for everyone, but taking care of yourself physically could like:

  • Improve your diet and gut health
  • Exercise daily
  • Spend some time in nature

Your mental health is important too! There are lots of things you can do to ease your stress and anxiety, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • Read a good book
  • Go on a mini trip
  • Take the time to get organized
  • Get a pet and play with it
  • Write in a journal

Here are some tips to making it all work:

  • Understand that it is ok to say no
  • Schedule self-care into your day and guard that time
  • Stick to a daily routine

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock

Give yourself permission to take care of you. Your body and your mind will thank you. The people closest to you will be grateful. You will notice the changes in yourself and wonder what took you so long!

Stay well and remember that you mean so much to many people in this life, and it is time you started mattering to yourself! Leave some of your favorite self-care routines in the comment section below!



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