6 important differences between self-care and selfishness

Although it’s common knowledge that humans with depleted energy can’t properly care for themselves or others, many who find themselves in that exact predicament still struggle to put their needs first. Even when we’ve given all we have to everyone else, the question “is self-care selfish?” still creeps into the corner of our minds, falsely telling us that to practice self-care is unacceptable because it sends the message to others that your well-being is your ONLY priority.

Maybe it’s us, but we don’t see how someone focussing on their emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual stability takes away from others. The distinction between being selfish and taking care of yourself is extremely important, and we look forward to the day when people can enjoy necessary TLC without feeling guilty about it.

As people, we only have a finite amount of resources with which to operate, so taking care of ourselves really isn’t a matter of selfishness — in fact, making sure our own need are met only makes us more well-equipped to support others.

The next time you’re tempted to preface your act of self-care with, “I don’t want to be selfish, but…” remember that there are stark differences between taking care of yourself and taking from others to make yourself feel better. And if you’re still feeling bad about it (as so many of us are prone to do), take a few minutes to remind yourself of the below.

1Self-care has far-reaching benefits for you and everyone in your life.

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Some people may not see it this way, but those who know how crucial it is to take care of themselves will get it. When you take time to rest and do things that help restore your energy, you’re much healthier on all fronts, which could have a positive impact on everything in your life, from relationships to job performance and negative habits.

For instance, a 2000 study found that adults over 65 who practiced self-care showed signs of improved health and decreased Medicare spending.

"Certain self-care practices appear to have significant implications for Medicare expenditures and presumptively for the health status of older adults. Such practices should be encouraged among older adults as a matter of national health policy."

2Self-care isn’t done with an intention to harm others.

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When someone behaves in a manner that’s self-serving, there’s an underlying malicious intent that simply isn’t present with self-care. Being selfish means there’s a desire to take from others to their detriment, whereas self-care is about replenishing your resources without depleting someone else’s.

3Selfishness prevents you from giving of yourself; self-care enables it.

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Having a “me-first, me-only” attitude stems from being solely focused on your wants and needs with absolutely no consideration for others. On the other hand, self-care involves setting boundaries so you don’t expend all of your personal energy taking care of everyone but yourself.

As a result, you have more to give yourself and people, projects and work you care about.

4Self-care builds strength.

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Once you get the hang of showing yourself love without apologizing for it, you’ll notice an increase in security that comes with knowing you can provide for yourself. In contrast, selfishness is rooted in an unspoken insecurity that wrongly convinces you’ll never have enough.

With self-care, you know that you are enough, as long as you make yourself a priority.

5Self-care helps bring out the best in you.

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Think of the last time you went along with something that made you feel crappy because it would make someone else feel good. For instance, accepting an invite to an event you didn’t want to attend only to show up and be a grouch, or not turning down a work assignment because you feel selfish for needing some down time, then being too tired to complete it.

Putting our needs and priorities first not only benefits us, but it allows us to put forth our best efforts in life.

6Selfishness excludes others, whereas self-care does not.

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This is a tricky one. Rest assured that even though saying no does not make you a terrible person, that won’t stop people from trying to convince you of the exact opposite.  It’s not uncommon for people to feel left out or abandoned when you don’t accommodate them, but realize it’s in your best interest to not stretch yourself too thin.

If anyone needs permission to let go of the notion that self-care is selfish, we’re here to grant it to you. What’s selfish is thinking that we were all put here to cater to others without paying any attention to our own needs. Self-care is just as critical a sustenance as drinking water and eating food, and our survival depends on it.

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