Embracing Selfish for Self-Care

“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” Audre Lorde

Beyond making sure that I get enough sleep, eat broccoli, and work out on a regular basis, the idea of nurturing and caring for myself always seemed self-indulgent and selfish. During my childhood, I got the message that caring for others was paramount to care of one’s self. Not only were my parents, physicians whose careers focused on helping others, they were also immigrants from the former Yugoslavia raised after WWII. They grew up in an environment where meeting daily physical needs were a challenge, so self-care meant simple survival. When it came to their children, my parents were amazing at making sure I always had enough and would receive a great education, but when it came to self-care, things like sleeping in, getting massages and leaving the dishes when you were tired, those were the things people on TV did and deemed indulgent.

As an adult, I really believed that I had made strides in in embracing self-care because I could actually get massages and manicures without guilt. However, recently I realized that if I really wanted to embrace self-care and commit to it as an act of survival, it would mean more than simply allowing myself time to feel pretty and relaxed. In order to really own self-care and free myself from the shackles of my judgment of selfish, I would have to begin seeing myself as worthy of ‘me time’ without justification or rationalization.

In the past, I made an unspoken agreement with myself that if I could find value in something, that spending time on it was ok. For example, several years ago I picked up running. I decided that running was something that I would do just for me and even set the goal of running at least one half marathon a year. I reasoned that this selfish act was ok because I could justify it. After all, it would be good for my kids to see me, at age 39, try something new and conquer my fears.

I honestly wasn’t even conscious that I had made this agreement with myself until recently when an opportunity came up to spend a weekend going to a conference in Denver that I had long wanted to go to. Although my schedule was clear, I found myself scouring the conference schedule for reasons that would make my trip valuable. Would the speakers enrich my coaching business? Would the event somehow help me in my parenting? What would I learn that I could carry forward? I was intent on finding a reason to justify my self-care but wasn’t really aware that underneath it all, I thought it would be selfish of me to go just because I wanted to go. It wasn’t until I went to book my plane ticket and couldn’t pull the trigger that I realized what I was doing – what I had been doing all along. I was making sure that before I took care of myself, there had to be a good enough reason for me to do so.

It was in that moment that I understood that I had to go to Denver – just because. I realized that while I might not get anything out of it other than pure joy and happiness – that was enough. I realized something we all need to realize. We are all worthy of real self-care. In fact, if we really want to survive, which, for me now includes feeling empowered, having purpose and serving others, we have to take the time to find ways to honor ourselves.

This week, I invite you to stretch your self-care muscle and see in what way you can practice a new level of care you have never tried. See what you might be able to do for yourself – just because.

With love,