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why self-care isn’t selfish


Christina Adamidou | Apr 30, 2018 | Photograph by: Wesley Quinn

If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time putting your needs in front of others.  You feel guilty for calling in sick.  You don’t ask for help when you have a huge checklist of chores.  You work tirelessly to ensure the best for your family, without thinking about your own health and happiness.  Sound familiar?  If the answer is yes, you’re not alone.

For years I found it difficult to switch off and do something that wasn’t considered to be “productive.”  While I was intellectually aware of the importance of self-care, I still felt bad when saying no to people, and felt selfish when treating myself to some down time.  These small tasks I was denying myself of were examples of self-care.

I began to realise my profound misconception: taking care of your self takes away from others.  Especially for women like me, who have been conditioned to believe that good women are self-sacrificing ones, the concept of self-care often means having to choose between their loved ones’ wellbeing and their own.

It is important to be conscious of the repeated messages many of us receive from our culture and others, which can lead us to internalise feelings and doubt our self-worth.

The next time you feel guilty about taking time for yourself, remember there are clear differences between self-care practices and self-serving ones.  Start putting you first by keeping these four important truths in mind:


Self-care is empowering

While selfishness often stems from an insecure need for self-assertion, acts of self-care teach us exactly the opposite.  Caring for yourself is a process that teaches you to love and respect yourself, which in turn allows you to become more respectful of others.

Nurturing yourself unapologetically also gives you a greater sense of security and confidence that you are enough – as long as you make yourself a priority.  Loving and respecting yourself means you no longer feel the need to compare your life to others and seek external validation, which often leads to low self-esteem.  Instead, you learn to work on the imbalances in our own life.

You become the hero and not a victim of your life story and that is an empowering feeling that makes you believe in your abilities and follow your passions.  The more confident you feel, the more willing you are to share your successes with others – and what you share just might be the inspiration someone else needs.  


Self-care doesn’t mean self-indulgent

Another common misconception about self-care is that it is too expensive and time-consuming.  And from today’s dominant cultural narrative it’s easy to see why; consumers are told they can buy self-care in the form of soy wax candles, bath salts and expensive trips to the spa.  Chocolate cake and other indulgent desserts are marketed under the popular tagline, “Treat Yo’ self.”

While self-care can indeed include those things, it can also mean shutting off your phone for a day, deleting junk mail from your inbox, or breathing in fresh air.  Such simple habits allow us to restore a sense of balance, especially during stressful times. Recognising that self-care is not a luxury, but a necessity, much like oxygen and water, is important to overcome those feelings of guilt and selfishness.


Self-care is a discipline

Nowadays, our lives can be so hectic that it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget about our vital needs.  Taking the time to step back and make the right choices for your health is not selfish – it’s mature and necessary in order to live more mindfully.

With this in mind, actual self-care has little to do with indulgent consumer goods, and is more about policing yourself to make the right choices for your long-term wellbeing.  That means no longer using your “busy” lifestyle as an excuse for procrastination and unhealthy eating habits.  It means taking care of your own needs, even if that might disappoint others.  It means prioritising some goals over others.  In many ways, self-care is a form of self-discipline that takes commitment, willpower, and courage.


Caring for others starts with self-care

As humans, we only have a limited amount of energy and resources with which to function, so taking care of ourselves isn’t a matter of selfishness – it’s about making sure our own needs are met, which makes us better equipped to support others.

Self-care gives us the time to replenish our resources, without depleting someone else’s.  As a result, we don’t burden others with our accumulated stress and emotional baggage.  Rather, we are more able to bring out the best, most genuine version of ourselves.

This then benefits the community around us, as we have more of our self to give to the people, projects, and work we care about. So while the primary concept of self-care can seem to be an exclusionary act, it is in fact one of the greatest gifts that you can give both yourself and others in your life.





Natalie Hughes founded Miss Independent in 2017, to educate and mentor women and help them make their best career and business decisions. Natalie is an experienced business woman and non-executive company director focused on organisational design, strategy, growth and innovation. Her goal is to help you think differently, work differently and feel in control of your own destiny.

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