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Self-Care vs. Selfish

One of the main lies my Awfulizer tells me is that self-care is selfish — that taking the time for myself to write, go to therapy, work out, or just sit and read a book is wrong. That is a lie, but it’s one I have believed for a long time.

I think that may be why self-care is always the first thing we drop when we get busy or stressed out. Which is funny, because it’s probably the more important thing to keep in your life when you are. Once our self-care time goes, I think we can all attest, the spirals into unhealthiness begin. Taking away that time for yourself opens up the gates to be overtired, overemotional and overwrought.

I always justify that I am actually helping myself by filling up my self-care time. I can get a task done sooner if I just take this meeting. Oh, it’s just this one time; I’ll go back to it next week. Really, the task is more important than yoga (or therapy, or writing time) so I should stop being selfish and just get stuff done.

Why do we think taking time to recharge or rest is selfish? I’ve been trying to figure out when this started for me. I’m not sure, but I think it started with my grandmother, who would watch us when we were little. I don’t remember a lot of my childhood, but when I sit and think about it, I do see her face. She has also become my scapegoat for a lot of my trauma thoughts, so I can never be fully sure. Maybe it’s because I had one parent who was really good at taking self-care time, and one parent who was not. Maybe it’s the people-pleaser in me that feels like I must always be doing something for someone else. No matter how I got here, I am here.

I carry this false belief that I should be able to do it all, alone, with no support and no “me time.” Guess what? That is impossible. I think now that I am healthier, I realize this and have started some healthier habits, but relapses or backslides are inevitable. And as I have previously shared, I am in a serious backslide. The problem (and it is a good problem to have) is that I am aware now that I am in a shame spiral. I recognize the negative thoughts, the urges to self-medicate in unhealthy ways and the fact that I do not have to feel this way. That just makes me feel more shame sometimes. My therapist calls this the Recovery Police, and it is pretty fitting.

One insight I had is that when you are in a shame spiral, the last person you want to hang out with is yourself. I am bad and have no worth, so why would I make time for myself to hang out with myself? That self-dislike, probably subtle and buried, makes the excuses to not take self-care time all the more reasonable or understandable.

But not taking that time makes it harder to get out of your shame spiral. It’s one of those things where you have to draw your line in the sand and say: “Today. Today I am taking 30 minutes of self-care time.” It’s hard and awkward, but it means the next one is a little easier. The one after that is even easier, and so on.

I say this as I am taking a full afternoon and evening of self-care because my husband is awesome. I had a therapy session; now I get to blog for a few hours, then go to a group therapy session this evening. Then I am going to not one, but two yoga classes this week. I am slowly making the climb up and out of this shame spiral.

It has been hard, and it has been uncomfortable, but it has also been informative. I have had some new insights. I have grown in a few more areas, and more importantly, I have started to use some strategies to get back into a healthier spot, and they are working. Seeing the other side of this is the most exciting thing for me, and I am proud of myself. That feels weird to write, but it is true and so I am keeping it. Go me ;).

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