Self-Care Is Not Selfish
I feel like such a lazy bum. There are a million things I needed to do—I needed to finish the research application, I needed to help edit my peer’s essay, I needed to prepare my tutoring lesson, I needed to make a card for my friend’s birthday, I needed to write a new chapter for my book, and the list goes on and on….But what did I choose to do? What did I so selfishly choose to do instead? I chose to relax in my room and color. Like a child, I sat with my vast array of colored pencils and just drew, creating rainbow fish like the one from the book I loved so long ago. I know, I should not have just ignored my responsibilities. I say I want to help others and create meaningful change in this world, but then I act so indulgently, with no regard for how my actions (or lack thereof) affect others. I need to act purposefully, with the intent of aiding those around me instead of just focusing on myself.
Reading over this journal entry and the concomitant stream of self-criticism, you would have thought I would have committed some major crime, completely neglecting to think of the greater good in pursuit of my own agenda. However, what actually happened was far less dramatic….From an objective onlooker, all I did was take some time at the end of an exhausting day to unwind and focus on my well-being. All I did was choose to do something with no “greater” purpose other than to just make myself happy for all of thirty minutes. Scrambling around after a day of volunteering for 3 hours at a local school, going to 3 classes, and then suffering through a 3 hour Biology lab, was it really so wrong of me to just pause and enjoy?
No, of course it wasn’t. Somewhere along the way, I developed the flawed belief that by helping myself and practicing self-care, I was acting selfishly. First and foremost, I have always been motivated by my desire to please others and to make others happy. What I failed to realize, however, was that by fully immersing the entirety of my energy on accomplishing this one-dimensional goal, I was losing sight of who I was and who I wanted to become. By not caring for myself, I was slowly beginning to wither away—a forgotten plant starving for water and to feel the sunlight once more. And if I withered away into emptiness, how would I be able to give if there was no part of me left to give anymore? Thus, before we can truly lose ourselves in the service of others, we must find ourselves first. And in order to find ourselves, we must nourish our bodies, our souls, and our minds.
So, let’s stop dismissing self-care as an act of self-indulgence and start viewing it as an act of survival. Self-care doesn’t mean “I matter most,” but rather, “I matter too.” Self-care is not a luxury or a reward we must earn, but a necessity in order to reach our full potentials. By treating ourselves with the kindness, respect, and love we deserve, we can give the world the best version of us instead of what is left of us. So, next time you say “yes” to others, make sure you aren’t also saying “no” to yourself and your own happiness. For when you take the time to truly get to know yourself, you will find out just how amazing you were all along.
Next time I’m feeling stretched out too thin or overwhelmed or utterly exhausted, I will be kind to myself. I will allow myself the time I need to breathe and recharge and restore my energy. Whether it’s watching an episode of TV and getting a good, hearty laugh or eating a pint of cake batter ice-cream or mindfully coloring mandalas, I will take care of myself by doing things just for the sake of my own happiness and mental well-being. And I won’t feel bad for doing so. For I matter too.