A Step at a Time Therapies with Nicky Edwards

Why self-care is NOT selfish

  • 20th October 2017

Every day I hear mums and my professional clients utter the same words ‘I can’t be that selfish’…. In fact it’s probably the main thing that they have in common, a belief system that looking after their own emotional health and well-being is ‘selfish’.

Having worked in the teaching industry for many years i’m quite accustomed to skipping meals, working ludicrous hours, cancelling personal engagements to opt for lesson planning and marking and collapsing in a heap at the end of term wondering what way the steam train that hit me had gone in…

So why is the main thing that I am accustomed to hearing ‘I can’t be that selfish’.

Perhaps it’s an archaic belief system, maybe a new one from the unrealistic expectations that we have placed on life, but is it time to acknowledge that selfceare is NOT selfish?

How is looking after your emotional health selfish? We cannot function without it?

How is taking time out to engage in therapy to support our mental well-being selfish? We cannot possibly care for anyone else if we don’t care for ourselves?

How is taking 90 minutes a week to tackle trauma or emotional distress selfish? When without it our professional, personal and social lives will suffer?

How is taking an hour a day to eat healthily or exercising selfish? When we would be setting a better example to our children?

How is taking a day off sick when we are will selfish? When it would prevent you having to take off a whole week a few day later from ‘overriding’ your body’s needs?

How is calling self-care selfish teaching our children and teenagers to look after themselves? When we could be setting an example that we need to prioritise our emotional and physical wellbeing?

Many career paths seem to be in a state of panic that we need to achieve impossible targets, jobs pile on more and more jobs and responsibilities in the same hours, or cut positions and expect employees to achieve the same work of two people. We reduce or remove therapists from educational facilities yet expect our children to manage in a world which is causing fear and worry. We pile on extra stress to our teenagers who are navigating a world we didn’t have to… but still we refer to looking after ourselves as selfish.

At some point we have no doubt heard someone refer to the mum who has prioritised exercise as ‘selfish’ for putting her child in the creche for 60 minutes. BUT emotionally she is no doubt more rested for taking 60 minutes to herself.

Have you heard the professional who left on time muttered about for ‘not caring’ for leaving at the time their contract ended? When their time to rest and recuperate from their day will no doubt have made them more productive in their work hours than the person who stayed late ‘from obligation’.

Maybe you have even referred to yourself as selfish for wanting to

  • take an early night
  • see a therapist
  • get your haircut
  • go to an exercise class
  • put the kids in the creche to go and get coffee

What if instead of shaming ourselves for being selfish we recognise that self-care means:

  • We are more able to meet the needs of our children because we are happier and more relaxed
  • We are more aware of our surroundings and the behaviours of others as we are more balanced emotionally and mentally
  • We are more content and fulfilled as we live in the now not in the past or future
  • We are more supportive of our loved ones as we are less stressed and more reflective
  • We are happier because we have met our basic needs

So before you tell yourself you are selfish for self-care remind yourself that your selfceare makes you more able to manage life day to day.

And if you find it difficult?

Treat yourself with the same advice you would give to a good friend.


Further Support 

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