Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: 3 Ways Self-Care Benefits Others

Self-care is one of the latest buzzwords, and a controversial one at that. Some people are huge advocates of self-care.  Others say it’s unnecessary. Either side of the argument boils down to whether or not self-care is selfish.

There is a misconception that self-care is the same thing as self-indulgence. It’s not. Self-care is simply providing for your own needs. One of the biggest reasons that people don’t practice self-care regularly is because they feel guilty about putting so much focus on themselves. They associate “me time” with ignoring responsibilities. But this is an over-simplified view of what true self-care really is. Putting yourself first does not mean you’re putting others last. Self-care is not black or white. And self-care is not selfish. In fact, practicing your own self-care can be extremely beneficial to the people you love! Here’s how.

Feelings are Contagious

Have you ever spent time with someone who was just flat-out miserable all the time? How did you feel after spending time with them? Our emotions are powerful. Did you know that we learn to imitate the speech and body language of the people we surround ourselves with?

Spending time with someone who is irritable, stressed, anxious, or down will likely make you feel some of those emotions too. In contrast, when you spend time with positive, happy people, I bet they build you up and you feel happy too.  Keeping your own emotions in check is a great way to help other people feel better too.

You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup

One of my favorite examples to address the importance of self-care goes like this: Imagine you’re on an airplane, and the flight attendant launches into their choreography of emergency protocols. “In the case of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Ensure you’ve secured your own mask before assisting others.” The lesson? You can’t help people if you’re dead! Okay, that’s maybe a slight exaggeration. But the truth is, if you’re burning the candle at both ends, you exhaust your own resources, which can breed resentment and lead to poor quality of work.

If you’re feeling burned out at work or home and find that you’re neglecting your own needs, you become susceptible to those negative feelings. You might feel like you’re lacking that oxygen and  are having trouble breathing. Maybe your patience is short and you snap at your spouse, kids, or coworkers. Maybe that leads to feeling ashamed of how you treat your loved ones, and you start to see yourself as a failure. At some point, you may lose confidence in yourself and stop making an effort, which reinforces the feelings that you’re a bad spouse/parent/friend.  You may justify your beliefs because you feel disconnected from your spouse and you get into yelling matches with your kids.

How might things be different if you ate a good meal when you caught yourself getting hangry or took an extra long shower when you were feeling tense? How might things be different if you affixed your own oxygen mask first?

Set an Example

If you find that you’re neglecting your own self-care for the sake of others, think about what you’re modeling. Are you telling them to pursue their dreams and do things they enjoy, while not modeling the same advice for yourself? What are you teaching others about respecting people’s boundaries when you cater to their every whim?

Particularly with kids, this can send a very confusing message. If you tell your teenagers that they should spend more time with friends, but you can’t remember the last time you went out with the girls after work, you’re not modeling the life you want for your kids. In addition, if you encourage your friend to stand up for herself, but continue to let people take advantage of you, your words are meaningless. People are perceptive. If you want to serve others in a powerful way, it has to start with you.

Change Takes Time

If you’ve been neglecting your own self-care for a while, know that it can take some time to adjust– for everyone. People may be used to you saying “yes” to every request. Your kids might act out when you tell them that they will have to wait. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It means that other people don’t know that you’re trying to make improvements. Be open with the fact that you’re trying to improve your life! Let them know that taking better care of yourself will mean that you’ll be more energized and eager to help them! If you need some help on finding some well-rounded self-care ideas, check out my 30 self-care ideas for Mind, Body, and Soul!

How has self-care affected your relationships with others? Does self-care come easy for you, or do you find yourself feeling guilty about it? Let me know in the comments!

Self-Care Isn't Selfish: 3 Ways Self-Care Benefits Others

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  • Nicol Daley Cunningham

    This is a great piece for any age. Takijng care of yourself should be priority. It’s not selfish at all.

  • Susie Liberatore

    I love this.. Self care is so important and I make sure to do it as often as I can. We all need to take care of ourselves!

  • Cat Asteriou-Bintliff

    Self-care actually does AND does not come easy to me! As an introvert, I often allow myself the recovery time I need/”alone time” however as refreshed as I feel I tend to remain a bit drained. It likely has to do with underlying things I am working on, so I wonder what I could do to work on that. Perhaps take longer breaks if possible? Great article though, little by little, I’m seeing an improvement within me as I read your blog 🙂

  • I so agree, self-care is so not selfish. I don’t get the people who say it is. Sometimes I’ll post on social media that I’m reading a book and I’ll get a comment like, “Where do you find the time to read?”Um, you MAKE it. It is possible.

  • I definitely agree that we need to take care of ourselves. Self care is good because, as you said, we cannot poor from an empty cup. I do, however, think that people sometimes get so carried away with “self-care” that they forget that life isn’t always about them. That isn’t true self care, that is selfishness. So I think that it’s important to remember that self-care is necessary. Overindulgence is not. (Also, I was not saying that your definition of self-care was over-indulgence, I just have seen people like that before) 🙂

    • Right! I think a lot of people are confused what self-care actually is! That’s why I think it’s important to clarify. Over-indulgence is equally toxic, in my opinion, as self-neglect.

  • Dannielle Alphonse

    Great great post! It is so true that many women consider self-care as selfish. (perhaps not those words “self-care”, but the actions that self-care equal”). A true theme for this time with social media and the hustle mentality. xo! D

  • “You can’t pour from an empty cup” – that’s been my life motto lately. It’s SO important.

    Coming Up Roses

  • Nellwyn

    I couldn’t agree more! It’s so true that feelings are contagious and I really notice it when someone I’m close to is going through a hard time. And you have to take care of yourself before you can be able to care for others.

  • Love this list. I couldn’t agree with your points more, especially not being able to pour from an empty cup and setting an example. I felt better about taking days for self-care when I saw that women I look up to do the same thing!

  • Ania Ewelina

    totally agree with this!!! So many people look at self care as being selfish without realizing that you can’t help others unless you help yourself first.

  • Becca

    This is such an important post! I’m so glad you shared it! I learned the hard way that it’s always important to surround yourself with positive people.

  • i agree 100% on this. i just wrote on my blog about self-care and one of the reasons how it is for others around you. sooo important!

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    Yes. Yes. Yes! Love this! Self care is so important! I notice if I don’t practice self care I am not as nice. haha When I take time to care for myself I am much more balanced.

  • I find self cafe to be crucial. We all need to recharge and have me time. I like to take walks alone. I also love to take baths.

    • Walks along are so nice. I always make sure I leave my phone at home because otherwise it doesn’t do much good for me. 🙂

  • love this! seriously, there is a reason they make you put the face mask on yourself before others! the same example we need to carry out through our lives! I love that you brought up what behaviors we are modeling!

  • Such an important post especially so many of us work a lot and handle a lot of family affairs too.

  • Self care is so important. I don’t think it’s selfish at all because sometimes you have put yourself first. If you neglect yourself it’s going to take a toll on your in the end.

  • AMEN. Can I hug you for this?! So spot on, Amanda. I love that you shared that by putting yourself first, you’re setting a proper example – love that point of view. It’s so true.

    • hahaha hugs are ALWAYS welcome, friend! Glad you resonated with it so much! I love that we both published self-care posts today. I guess we were on a similar wavelength!

  • I just did a post on self-care, never thought of it from this prespective. Such a great post, I live how you say you can’t pour from an empty cup. How can you take care of other is you don’t take care of yourself!

  • I totally agree! Self-care isn’t selfish and it’s essential. If you can’t take care of yourself, then you won’t be able to take care of others. “You can’t pour from an empty cup” should be everyone’s mantra

  • Oh my goodness yes. I just went out for lunch with my friends (after dropping my girls off at my moms) and it was amazing. Not just that, it was needed.

  • Oh my this is so important! And something that people need to really remember before feeling guilty about taking some time for themselves. It’s definitely something I need to work on, and this is the inspiration I needed to get me going! 🙂

  • Cindy Nicoletti

    So true.When you take care of yourself others see how great you look. It is a good reflection on yourself.

  • Well said Amanda 🙂 absolutely loved your thoughts. I do blogging and this is a way that I care myself … By the way your “30 Self-Care Ideas for Mind, Body, and Soul” post really help a lots.

  • Kassey Lean

    Self-care is never bad. We can care for others more if we care ourselves first. Learning to say no at times can be very difficult but it’s detrimental for growth.

    • I think you meant “essential” vs “detrimental?” Detrimental means damaging so I just wanted to double check!! I agree with you that it can be super hard to say no sometimes, but making it a habit can make everyone better in the end 🙂

  • autum

    I never knew how important self care until I became a mom!!

  • These are all such great points! We shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time for genuine self-care, because it ultimately helps others.

  • Julie Hoag

    Yes! Your post is SO true! I often overwhelm myself with too much to do and get super stressed. But if I take some time for self care, I find I can tackle my list better without the giant feelings of overwhelm. Thanks for the tips!

    • You’re welcome Julie! I’m so glad that you have gained that awareness of how much self-care benefits you 🙂

  • halley

    This is not what I was expecting when I saw a self-care article. It’s super persuasive and I think you make a great argument on the importance of self care. It’s so true, you can’t take care of others if you’re not taking care of yourself. I feel like society makes us feel guilty for doing things for ourselves, but it’s nice to do things that you make you happy every now and then!

    • Thanks Halley! That means a lot to me! I have gotten frustrated with seeing so many posts about why self-care is important but it never really answered the concern of “I feel like self-care means I’m not taking as good of care of my other relationships.” But that’s definitely not the case! I appreciate your thoughtful response 🙂

  • I needed to hear this so bad. i always feel selfish trying to do things that are good for me or that are for me. I feel like I should either be working or momming and nothing else. Thank you for giving me permission.

    • Aw I’m so happy I could help! I certainly didn’t give you permission though. I only helped you to realize you can give permission to yourself. That’s a tough thing to do when you’re so used to putting yourself second. I’m so happy I was able to give you what you needed to hear. 🙂

  • Ayanna

    Yes!!! I used to put myself on the back burner all the time once I had children. I realized it was not only affecting me, but also my kids. So now I take the time I need so I can be the best me, and there for can be the best wife and mom I can be.

    • That’s awesome Ayanna! Glad you were able to recognize that area of your life was impacting you!

  • Lovelovelove this! it’s so true. We can’t take care of others, if we’re not taking care of ourselves.

  • Great reminder that taking care of yourself really isn’t selfish. When we feel good, we do more good. Enjoyed this and pinned it!

  • shootingstarsmag

    Self-care is so important. It’s not selfish at all. I love all of your reasons – they are so true.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

  • YESSS! I needed this post today. I love my kids, but goodness gracious – I can’t hear myself think lately and have been feeling irritable. This is a great reminder that I need some time for me as well. Even just to sit in my bedroom in silence for a little bit. 🙂 Thank you.

  • These are really great tips. I especially love “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.

  • Love it. It is so important to put yourself first in order to be able to fully serve others and be present. I often use the airplane analogy too! Self-care is so crucial to functioning in the busy world we live in and it needs to be something everyone is taught to prioritize!

  • SO. MUCH. YES. It’s amazing how much you can do for OTHERS when you do things for YOU. This article is fantastic and speaks so much to me. I tend to be one of those people that pushes so hard and then suddenly I’ll realize I really need to practice some self care. When I do that I seem to do such a better job of helping others.

    Great post!

  • Lisa

    I loved how you put this. It is so well said! Self care is so important, Great post girl!

    XO-Lisa
    http://www.thatssodarling.com

  • Great post! I’m all for self-care, so I take at least one day in the weekend to care for nothing else than myself. I’m lucky, because everyone around me is ok with that. Always when I think of self-care I think of Parcs & Rec (treat yo’ self!)

  • Taylor Smith

    Self care is SO SO SO important. You said it best: you can’t pour from an empty cup.

  • Aareeba Mohammed

    This is awesome , I do what i like and this is how i self- care

  • Becca Wilson

    Your mood definitely emanates so being in control of that with self-care is so important. SO many times we try and do for everyone else and do not take the time for ourselves.

  • Feeling like you need to take care of yourself-or even admitting it out loud to someone else can make us feel stigmatized. But it is soooo super important (especially if you are a caretaker).

    • Oh for sure. I’m a therapist and a lot of people will say things like “I don’t know how you do this every day.” The answer is self-care.

  • Sarah Camille Hipp

    You make such great points here! I feel like self-care really should be considered a “no-brainer.” How can we take care of anyone else in our lives, if we can’t take care of ourselves!? A little time for myself goes a long way. 🙂
    Cheers! Sarah Camille // SCsScoop.com

  • K Shaw

    I’m an 100% the “you can’t pour from an empty cup” point. One of the best things I have learned as I got older was the word no. It might seem obvious, but when I get really overwhelmed, or have a busy week dealing with people, I am so so empty. “No” to certain engagements or activities I otherwise would have gone to and then felt even worse. In a weird way, the smarter I am about my own energy, the more I have to give!

  • stephanie seo

    I try to tell people this all of the time! It makes so much sense. You aren’t able to take care of anyone without taking care of yourself first!

  • Taylor Mead

    This post is so so important. I’m a HUGE believer in loving and caring for yourself first because everything in your life gets better when we are happy. Thank you for this <3

    xo, Taylor || The Millennial Sprinkle (thesprinkle.tayloramead.com)

  • Nicole Calvert

    Love this read! I suffer from a mental illness and it is often all too late when I realize that I need some self care! It’s hard to remember to take care of ourselves but vital to our own health and the health of the relationships in our lives!

  • Nelu

    As Humble The Poet always says, it’s not selfish to put yourself first. It’s selfish to expect others to put you first.

  • Shani Ogden

    I completely agree with all of your points! I actually remember trying to explain this concept to my mom once, who is very much a people pleaser, and how sad I was when her response to my encouragement to do something for herself was, “isn’t that selfish?” After I had my first daughter, I realized how important it was to take care of myself because as much as I loved my child, if I wasn’t getting rest or food or a little bit of me time, then I wasn’t giving my best to her and my husband.

    • Aw I’m sorry you had that experience. 🙁 But I’m glad to hear that you’ve learned the importance for self-care for yourself.

  • Sydney Pollock

    This is so important. I feel like self care is ignored and seen as this selfish thing for one person but if you’re in a good space mentally it can boost what you can give personally and professionally

  • Taylor M. Harrison

    True!! Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was mentioned in this article. My boss told me once “You can pour from an empty cup” and it has resonated with me ever since!