Selfish v. Self-Care and What The Heck Is The Difference?

Oddly enough, “selfish” is in the dictionary and “self-care” is not. Hmm. What does that say about societal expectations? Well, I will go ahead and define what I mean here.

When I am in a state of selfishness, it means I am concentrating on my own advantage with total disregard for others. Like, get out of the way, me first, me only. I forget that we are all connected and think that I need to push others down to get to the top. When I am in this place, I feel pretty crappy about myself. I know something is off. I feel disconnected. I feel deep loneliness, a separation from humanity. I want to get what I want and just don’t know how to do it, so I plow forward in hopes that something will work out. But it really tends to backfire. Oops.

When I am in a state of self-care, it means I am honoring myself, liking (loving!) myself, and maintaining my personal needs. As in, I deserve this, I honor myself, this feels right to me, but not at your expense. And not from a place of superiority. There is no “better than” here. Just what is. When I am here, I remember, in my gut, in my soul, that we are all connected, we are all unique, and that each of us deserve to enjoy our lives. When I am in this place, I feel great! I feel refreshed, acknowledged, seen, and emotionally satisfied. And people tend to want to hang out with me more when I am like this. I wonder why…Duh.

What’s cool is that sometimes I can use other people’s reactions to be the barometer for where I am at on the selfish/self-care scale. As long as I am open to receiving their “feedback.” I also have to be careful not to make assumptions about what is going on for them since everyone reacts differently to different things.

Sometimes, I have to choose to take care of my own needs even when they personally clash with someone else’s. This is really hard and makes me uncomfortable, which is a big reason (maybe the only) why I don’t always meet my own needs. I think it is partially because I don’t want to appear selfish (image control), partially because I don’t like seeing other people unhappy (caring sometimes/wanting to feel I am needed other times), and partially because I want so desperately for them to like me and I am afraid that they won’t if I go against what they want (fear of isolation/identity crisis). But if I am in a place of true self-care, then these fear-based reasons aren’t so important because it is not what I am focusing on.

But it gets easier with practice. And what makes it easier for me is that I have noticed that when someone else is in the “self-care” mode and I am witness to it, that interaction lingers in my mind, like when I replay a movie in my mind that  really made me think long after I have left the theater. It opens me up to a new perspective and I begin to process it and apply it to my life. Even if, in that moment, they don’t do what I want, but I just sense that what they are doing it taking care of themselves and is right in that moment, I actually respect them more. And I reflect on that later. So, I am guessing that I can have that impact on others, too.

When we perform a radical act of self-love, we give others permission to do the same. Permission they may be yearning for.

Taking care of myself mostly means for me that I do what I feel is needed to care for myself in that moment to restore my balance and energy, and trust that others can manage themselves while I am taking care of myself. So many times, the reason I don’t take care of myself is because I do not trust that others can manage without me. How selfish is that?!? Pretty self-centered, too. Look at me, I am Queen of the World! Psht.

The thing is that we all want to be and feel connected, and the fact remains that I need to take care of myself before I can truly help you, and you need to take care of yourself before you can truly help me. And it’s all good because we are capable people who can manage in the meantime.

It’s the classic “put your oxygen mask on before putting it on anyone else” on the airplane safety videos. If you can’t breathe, you can’t help anyone because you will be dead. That would suck.