A few weeks ago I was talking with a girlfriend. I don’t remember what we were originally talking about. Somehow the conversation turned to the difference between self-care and selfishness. My friend mentioned feeling guilty for doing some basic things because she could be doing something for her parents instead. My view was that we have to do certain things to take care of ourselves first so that we can better take care of and help others. I shared this analogy that I’d heard (I’m sure many of you have heard also). Self-care is like the instructions for when there is an emergency on an airplane. The instruction is to place the oxygen mask on yourself first and then help others. If you don’t place the mask on yourself first, you may pass out and be unable to help those depending on you. It is the same with self-care. If you don’t take care of yourself, eventually you may find yourself, sick, burnt out, or in some other way, unable to care for those who are depending on you.
I think we all know logically that self-care is important, necessary, and not selfish. Yet so many of us have a hard time with it in reality. Many people in my age range are juggling multiple sets of responsibilities. We have jobs, side hustles (things like blogging, couponing, growing businesses), spouses, children, and parents. All of these people and responsibilities require our time and finances. This can lead to feelings of guilt, like my friend mentioned, when we spend time and money on ourselves.
So, how can we tell when it is OK to spend our time and money on ourselves instead of our responsibilities and loved ones? When is it self-care and when is it selfish? I don’t know if there is a one size fits all answer as all of our situations are different. I do think two basic questions can help us tell the difference.
- Will spending the time or money in question make you healthier, happier, or less stressed?
- Will my job, side hustle, spouse, children, or parents be negatively impacted 30days from now?
If the answer to question 1 is yes and question 2 is no then I’d say that qualifies as self-care. Maybe someone will be disappointed today or something at work won’t get done immediately, but if it won’t matter 30 days from now and it will make you happier, healthier, or less stressed than go for it.
Now if the answers to both questions 1 and 2 are yes, than proceed with caution. As your responsibilities and or loved ones will be negatively impacted you could be venturing into selfish territory.
Because the nerdy girl in me likes charts and graphs I made a quick reference chart (for your pinning pleasure 🙂 You will notice, I did not include a No option for if it makes you healthier, happier or less stressed. If it won’t do those things, than it’s really not worth considering.
I hope these two questions will help you evaluate some of the things you may be wanting to do but have been putting off because of all of the things you have going on. You may be surprised. Maybe that pedicure, night out with the girls, or planned day off from work aren’t selfish after all.
Do you have a hard time allowing yourself to spend time or money on self-care? How do you determine what is self-care and what is selfish? Do you like my chart? 🙂