Self Care: Walking the Line of Selfishness and Self Care
Hopefully, after last week you have taken some time to evaluate where you stand in how well you love… YOU. Now to shift our focus to some practical ways to improve how we love ourselves. Something we must agree upon first. Self care is one of the best ways we can steward our own hearts. This can sometimes be taken out of proportion, but I need to clarify here self care is NOT selfishness.
The best analogy to illustrate this point I’ve heard about this comes from Bill Johnson on this topic. He talks about how when we look at a tree that is flourishing we don’t tell it how selfish it is for soaking up gallons upon gallons of water, nutrients and sunlight. We know those things are what it needs to remain healthy and as a result we benefit.
The same goes for you and I, there are certain things we need to do (self care) that help us be at our best and remain at our healthiest state. Some of these things can be (but are not limited to) sleep, prayer, good nutrition, reading, a long chat with a close friend, decompression time, play & laughter, outdoor time, workouts etc.. All these things feed our mind, body and spirit so they are strong and vibrant.
Since we know self care is important then why are we not that great at it?
We feel guilty- There need not be any guilt in this. Easier said than done right? You look at the list of responsibilities you have and it seems like the best thing to put yourself at the end of the list. Letting guilt lead your life is not a healthy way to live. No one controls your behaviors but you and to allow guilt to seep in with something like this is giving others access to authority of your life they do not deserve. To give your best you need to be at your best, which means self care is necessary. Yes this also means that we sometimes have to be flexible with when and how we are going about our self care to take into account the season of life we are in. There is no perfect self care formula for one person that never changes. Merely a list of some key activities in various order and amounts that helps us recharge our batteries and creativity. Yes you have responsibilities to others, but guilt only weighs you down and sucks your energy when it comes to something is fundamental as self care. Those in your world need you at your best.
We feel the need to get permission- Because no one is going to force you or I to have good self care you actually have to give yourself permission to do so. The funny thing about self care is it can seem counter intuitive because it can take us away (temporarily) from the priorities in our lives. For example, you have to leave home and your family to go to the gym. But if you don’t go you may end up with a short fuse, gradually grow unhealthy, and resentful if you do not go. Let me today give you permission (if you need it) that self care isn’t just a good idea but a necessary habit. Better yet, pause now and write out 10 reasons why you give yourself permission to spend effort and energy on healthy self care….. Have your pen and paper out yet? I’ll wait….
We see others take it to extremes- Often times when we see someone swing so far to the end of the spectrum of self care into indulgent pampering, we can be repulsed. This is because of a lack of self control and boundaries. Healthy self care must be in tension and context of the obligations and priorities we have in our lives. Otherwise self care does become selfishness. When we have healthy boundaries and place our self care within those we are not the only ones who benefit. We give others the permission to take care of themselves how they need it. For me, as an introvert, I need more quiet time to recharge. My husband on the other hand, well he is an extrovert and is recharged in social situations. Through the course of our marriage I have had to cut down what used to be the amount of quiet time I got as a single woman in order to spend the time with him and with friends and family. I still get down time, but when and how looks different than before. I haven’t lacked for anything, just had to adjust my preferences for the priorities in my life and we both thrive. This leads to the last point
We think our self care has to look like those around us. - We can feel bad if we need to pull away to recharge, but knowing when and how much we need of certain things is a great asset. For example, I know I need to workout consistently over the course of a week. I can’t workout less than four times a week without starting to feel a bit edgy and stir crazy. Where as for you it may be that two times a week is a stretch for you. For you to think you have to workout as frequent as I do just because you see me doing it, and it is not in alignment with your priorities then you end up frustrated. Like the tree example above, different types of trees require different amounts of water and nutrients in order to be healthy. Same principle applies to us. Because of our various gifts and talents and physical structures we all need a different recipe of self care to be at our best. There is no shame in how your specific methods of self care look, as long as the primary motivator behind taking this time is so you can hop back into life fully recharged and at your best. You don’t need to adopt what works for me or vice versa, but you need to figure out what you need.
I hope you feel encouraged and excited about uncovering what things are your absolute essentials of self care and what is your ideal state. This way you are set free to begin the journey of finding practical ways to tend to you daily so you can thrive.
Let me repeat it one more time just in case you missed it earlier. Healthy self care isn’t just for your health, it’s primary purpose is because your friends and communities are relying on you to be at your best. Why? Because there is something very specific only you can accomplish and a set sphere that only you have influence over that need what you have.
Be free to up your “As”!