You make cupcakes for the bake sale, take your friend’s late night call to talk about her marriage, pick up slack on the project at work, schedule the family doctor appointments, and generally tend to the wants and needs of others.
You do and do for others, always putting yourself at the bottom of the list. Heck, sometimes you’re not even on the list.
You’re wonderful to be there for others. To do for them. Help out. Uplift. Tend and nurture. To lighten their load.
But you matter too.
Self-care versus Selfish
So let me ask: Somewhere along the way, have you confused self-care with being selfish?
Do you act as if spending time on yourself is unimportant, self-centered, and at the expense of others?
You might think you’re doing others a favor by putting your own needs last. After all, it means you’re tending to and taking care of everyone in your life.
But I want to challenge the notion that putting everyone else first is a selfless thing to do.
Because the fact is, neglecting your own self-care is actually selfish. And has unintended consequences.
Here are 3 specific ways your poor self-care negatively impacts those around you.
Productivity and not being present
When you neglect your own self-care, it’s often in the name of getting things done and being productive, but this can leave you impatient and edgy.
By neglecting your own self-care, you’re not present for those you love. You’re rushed and frazzled. Worn out and distracted.
For instance, have you found yourself totally missing the magical moment when your kid was open to a hug or your spouse wanted to talk?
You’re not really in the moment when you’re only focused on the next thing needing to be done.
Your kids are on the soccer field. Sure, you’re watching.
But you’re also revising the email to your boss in your head and mentally cataloging everything that needs to get done before the weekend.
Putting too much emphasis on productivity, you miss out on the nourishment that comes from being completely in the moment.
Remember—part of self-care is being present. Being present. Life is not only and always about doing.
Stress-related doctor visits
A lot of women give their To Do list more attention than their own well-being.
Of course, it’s all well intended. You’re the glue. Keeping the well-oiled machine of the family running smoothly. Groceries bought, house cleaned, meal on table, doctor appointments scheduled, school supplies purchased.
But there can be serious consequences to opting out of self-care, even illness and disease.
Putting up with tons of stress and living a harried lifestyle can have serious short and long-term effects. WebMD says 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
Your ability to be there for those you love—literally to be alive and well—is negatively impacted when you don’t make your own self-care a priority.
Others are watching
When you neglect your own self-care, you model you’re not worth it. That your own needs are not as important as those of others.
Modeling this for your children is not neutral, and has far-reaching consequences.
Daughters learn from mothers about their place in the world. When you model that self-care is unimportant and others’ needs matter more, you’re sending a strong—and wrong—message.
And a very damaging one.
You’re being watched. What message are you sending when it comes to self-care?
Put on your own oxygen mask first
You’re better equipped to love, help, and support others when you come from a place of fullness.
And the only way you can be full enough to have anything to give is by paying attention to your own self-care. By filling yourself up.
- With meditation, time alone, a walk in nature, a massage.
- Saying no to drama and yes only when you mean it
- With a cup of tea and a good book. Or an afternoon spent wandering your favorite museum.
- Yes, and with bubble baths if that’s your thing. Or hot yoga or a long run.
- With your journal or a laughter-filled conversation with your best girlfriend.
- With sitting down to eat instead of on the run. And wearing clothes that make you look and feel great.
- With creativity and pleasure. Embracing ease and rejecting complexity.
- With knowing you’re worth it—and acting like it.
Make self-care a priority instead of shortchanging yourself, those you love, and the world around you.
How are you acting as if self-care is selfish? What’s the consequence of putting your needs last?
(Read more here on these 6 habits that guarantee life is a struggle.)