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!