How to practice Self-Care without feeling selfish

A young woman sits taking time out for herself reading a book and drinking a glass of wine

Sometimes the hardest thing – especially for us women – is to take time for ourselves, to practice self-care.

There have been countless times I’ve wanted to just sit & breathe.  But there is always something to do, someone to help, somewhere to be.  If I took 5-minutes for myself, my inner-critic would rear her ugly head to chastise me for my selfish laziness.  Sound familiar? 

But by me neglecting my own needs, what was that saying to others?  

What was it saying to myself?  My needs don’t matter.  And if you buy into this notion, you’re only headed in one direction… burnout. Maybe mentally, maybe physically, maybe both.  

However, it really doesn’t need to be that way.  We all have the ability to build some level of self-care into our lives.  In fact, it’s something we should all be practising daily.  

the importance of showing yourself some love displayed as a written reminder
A little reminder…

Yes you know it, I know it…

We shouldn’t have an excuse now for not being aware of it.  The population is becoming pretty savvy on what self-care in all it’s many forms involves.  Yet you still don’t instil it.  Why?  Well unless it’s a case of self-sabotage, the answer is most likely guilt.  

We feel guilty for taking time-out to meet our own needs! We perhaps view it as self-indulgent.  This mindset has to stop right now!

Let me pull out the poster quote of the self-care movement… 

Self-care isn’t selfish.  If anything, it’s mandatory.  

Read it multiple times, repeat it often aloud, write it down, make it your mantra.  You have to come to accept this fact.  Once you do, it becomes far easier to practice.  Know that taking a daily amount of time for yourself isn’t going to turn you into a big selfish A-hole.  It’s actually going to make you a more satisfied, grounded, happier being.  And when we’re that person, the positive benefits spill over on to those around us.  

I appreciate it’s not second-nature yet.  As with anything worthwhile, it takes practice & time. 

If self-care & guilt go hand in hand for you at the moment, here’s my advice to brake the self-imposed stigma…

Prescribe it:

View self-care as a prescription - take a break!
Doctors orders!

Self-care is like medicine for your soul.  It’s a tool many use in their wellness toolboxes to help keep anxiety at bay.  I personally function so much better when I get to sit with a mug of coffee watching a comedy show each morning – it’s calming & grounding – this for me is a daily self-care practice.  Take it away, and I don’t feel as good.  

So let’s imagine it as medicine.  Something you have to take every day.  Doing it will make you feel better, will help you function better.    If the well-being doctor had to prescribe something for you – what would it be?  The next time you feel any guilt in taking time for you, remind yourself of what the doctor has prescribed and ensure you take your medicine! 

Have more than one option & tune in to you:

Different illustrated options for self-care

I mentioned my daily ritual above.  But life is busy & we do need to be flexible at times.  Although this doesn’t mean self-care should go out of the window.  Having a bank of self-care options always comes in handy.

Additionally, what’s been working for you might not be what you need at a particular moment on any given day.  Maybe you need something more?  Listen to what your mind is telling you & be responsive.  This way you’re getting the most from whatever you do and won’t feel like you’ve wasted time.  

Don’t justify it.

Guilty as charged!  I had a horrible habit of justifying it.  Justifying breeds feelings of guilt.  And you shouldn’t feel guilty for looking after yourself.  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard other mums, for example, ‘justify’ sitting down for 10-minutes when their kids are at school.  This is crazy.  You’re allowed to sit down.  You’re allowed to rest.  

Maybe if we all stopped trying to justify our need for self-care, others would feel less guilty about looking after themselves too?  Why don’t we try to just give everyone a break on this and foster a culture of self-care encouragement?  The next time you feel yourself justifying to someone – stop! 

Rest when you need too.
Rest if you need to!

Owning your ‘no’ – setting boundaries.

Self-care may feel selfish when in order to enforce it we have to say ‘no’ to some things. It’s wonderful to be able to please everybody but at what cost?  If something is asked of you and it compromises your well-being learn to politely say ‘no’.  Saying ‘no’ occasionally will not make you an unkind or unhelpful person.  Setting boundaries makes life clearer & easier for everyone, it’s a form of self-care in itself.  

Here’s a tip…if guilt is particularly weighing on you, switch your focus from what you said ‘no’ to, to what this now means you can say ‘yes’ to.  For example, I said ‘no’ to the meeting so I can say ‘yes’ to more quality time with my partner.  I said ’no’ to the party so I can say ‘yes’ to a much-needed early night.  

Food for thought:

What often happens is, we feel guilty due to the judgement of other people, not because we’re unhappy with our choice.” 

Chloe Brotheridge

A final note on self-care…

I just want to highlight that self-care is about doing things that help you feel nurtured & loved.  Everyone has a basic human right to feel this.  It doesn’t make you selfish, lazy, self-indulgent [insert other negative descriptive of the type of person you believe it makes you here] to practice it.  It’s not all about bubble baths & candles (unless it really is for you).  It’s about finding out what makes you feel good inside whatever form that takes and allowing yourself to feel happier daily.  Let me tell you, there is no reason to feel bad about that! 

Are you kind to yourself? Read: The Importance of Kindness

How to practice self-care without feeling selfish. Practical advice on how to remove feelings of guilt surrounding looking after & loving yourself. #selfcare #selfworth #selflove #kindnessandcompassion #wellbeing #livehappy
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Do you feel selfish or self-indulgent when it comes to practising self-care?  Or do you understand it’s importance to your overall well-being and ensure you practice it daily?   Whatever you’d like to say (or ask!) please do get in touch via the comments box below!  On a slightly separate note, the book Brave New Girl, has an excellent chapter on ‘Discovering the Power of No’ which I highly recommend.  You can find out more via my affiliate link below*.  

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2 thoughts on “How to practice Self-Care without feeling selfish

  1. I never thought about how much I internalize guilt with things that I consider self-care. But you’re right that we shouldn’t feel guilty. Also, that last quote you included REALLY hit home – sometimes even just the fear of being judged can impact how I think about my own form of self care. Need to stop doing that to myself!

    1. Yes, I think that’s why we try to justify it so much. Truth is, people will judge however they want to judge regardless, it’s pointless acting to please them and really we should focus on ensuring we’re meeting our own needs. Thanks so much for sharing xx

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