Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: How Putting Your Needs First Is the Ultimate Act of Love

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Have you ever felt guilty for taking time to prioritise your own needs?

You’re not alone. Self-care is commonly equated with selfishness.

But what if I told you that putting yourself first is not only essential for your well-being but also the ultimate act of love?

Let’s dive into why self-care isn’t selfish and how it’s actually the key to unlocking a deeper, more authentic capacity to love yourself and others.

In this blog post I:

  • will address what self-care is.
  • debunk 5 common misconceptions about self-care.
  • also explore the myth of self-care being selfish or indulgent, where it comes from and how to let go of that belief.
  • explain the importance of prioritising your own needs.
  • and I offer practical steps to reframe self-care as an act of love.

1.  What is Self-Care?

Self-care goes way beyond the occasional spa day and treats. It is the fundamental and intentional practice of nurturing body, mind, heart and spiritual well-being, which ensures balance and self-connectedness. It’s not just about temporary pleasures or escapism but rather about building well-being strategies to navigate life’s challenges. These deliberate actions that prioritise and maintain well-being are essential for overall quality of life. It can be as simple as getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, or taking short breaks throughout the day.

The holistic approach to self-care is a deeply personal journey of self-love and self-preservation. Apart from the physical aspects of self-care, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries to protect your time and energy is vital. It’s about cultivating self-compassion, acknowledging your worth, seeking help when needed, prioritising your needs and valuing your health and happiness enough to prioritise them in your daily life. The essence of self-care is treating yourself with the same kindness and compassion you offer to your close friends. However, several misconceptions abound and I address the myth and reality around 5 of the common ones next.

2.  5 Common misconceptions about self-care

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🔶 Self-Care is selfish:
Myth: It is a common belief that prioritising self-care means neglecting responsibilities or being selfish.

Reality: Self-care is not selfish; it’s self-preservation. As explained in point 1, self-care is not a selfish act, but rather an essential aspect of taking care of oneself so that you show up to your full potential in life. Taking care of yourself enables you to better care for others – just like putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others on a plane.

🔶 Self-Care is indulgent
Myth: Self-care activities are viewed as excessive pampering or indulging in unhealthy habits and indulgent luxuries that only a privileged few can afford.

Reality: Self-care is not about indulgence; it’s about meeting your fundamental needs for long-term well-being. Self-care encompasses a wide range of activities, from basics such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, hydration and engaging in activities that promote relaxation, creativity, personal growth and recharge your energy.

🔶 Self-Care is time-consuming
Myth: It’s commonly believed that self-care requires a significant amount of time that they simply can’t spare.

Reality: Small intentional acts of self-care can make a world of difference to your well-being – whether you are time poor or not. It’s about making the most of the time you do have and prioritising activities that nourish your body, mind, heart and soul – like taking small breaks throughout the day or cleaning up your bedtime routine.

🔶 Self-Care is a one-size-fits-all solution
Myth: The misconception exists that self-care looks the same for everyone and involves specific activities and practices.

Reality: Self-care is individualised and varies for each of us, depending on our needs, circumstances and design. Exploring and experimenting with different self-care practices to find what works best for you is essential.

🔶 Self-care is only applicable during crises
Myth: Self-care is only applicable during times of crisis or extreme stress.

Reality: Self-care must be a proactive and consistent practice regardless. By consistently prioritising self-care you build resilience and self-connectedness over time, ensuring you handle challenges easier when they do arise.

It is clear then, that self-care is essential for leading a balanced and fulfilling life. But where does the idea that self-care is selfish or uncaring originate?

3.  The myth of selfishness

In our society the belief that self-care is selfish, self-centred or uncaring is pervasive. This misconception leads us to neglect our well-being out of fear of being perceived as self-centred or uncaring. As children we are taught that selfishness is bad – sharing is caring. While this is not a bad lesson to teach, we were not taught that caring for ourselves is just as important and essential for our overall health and happiness.

So we learnt that self-sacrifice is virtuous and self-indulgence is shameful or bad. In addition to this, social norms pressure us to constantly strive for productivity and achievement which creates a sense of guilt or inadequacy when we take time out for ourselves. It’s essential to challenge this myth and reframe self-care as an act of self-preservation rather than selfishness.

The myth of selfishness surrounding self-care undermines its importance and causes us to neglect an important aspect of our well-being. By challenging our beliefs around this myth and embracing self-care as an essential practice for holistic health, we cultivate greater compassion, resilience and self-love. This comes from prioritising our needs.

4.  The importance of prioritising your needs

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Prioritising your own needs is essential for self-preservation and living authentically. By prioritising your self-care, you invest in yourself so that you create the foundation for a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life. Self-care routines help you replenish your reserves and prevent physical, mental and emotional exhaustion and burnout. You are better equipped to handle life’s challenges and feel more contentment. Your overall well-being depends wholly on your investment in yourself: physically, emotional, mentally and spiritually.

As I’ve pointed out above, self-care is not selfish, but essential for maintaining healthy relationships. Setting boundaries allows you to communicate your worth and set an example to others around you. Taking your personal priorities seriously creates a ripple effect and inspires others around you to do the same. Especially for those who look up to you or depend on you. When you live in alignment with who you are and your personal values, you pursue activities that bring you joy and satisfaction and have a positive impact on the world around you. You are empowered to know what matters to you and make choices that align with your true self.

This self-love helps you build resilience which allows you to bounce back easier when you are challenged. In addition, consistent self-care enables you to develop and nurture this inner strength that you draw on in times of difficulty. Instead of floundering around during challenges, seeking only external support, you know and draw from your inner fountain of strength too. This self-reliance creates a deeper level of self-love and acceptance and enables you to experience life more fully. Through building this inner well of resilience and self-reliance, you honour your worth. So, neglecting self-care leads to resentment, burnout and diminished capacity to take care of others.

Prioritising your needs is not selfish but essential for your self-preservation and well-being. Making yourself your priority is your responsibility and is not a negotiation.

5.  Practical steps to reframe self-care as an act of love

It’s evident from the discussion so far that self-care is not just a superficial activity of the occasional walk in nature or a relaxing massage, it runs much deeper. Shifting your perspective on self-care is essential to embed it as a life-long practice for yourself.

Here are a few practical tips:

💚 Cultivate self-compassion: Recognising that taking care of yourself is not only acceptable but necessary for your long-term well-being. When you prioritise your own needs you demonstrate respect for yourself and your boundaries, which in turn fosters a healthier self-relationship and models the behaviour for others around you.

💚 Shift your perspective: When you view self-care as an act of self-love, you automatically approach and apply it with greater compassion. This offers you a renewed perspective of self-care as an essential, as opposed to a luxury or indulgence. Letting go of the guilt or shame of self-care allows you to lead a more fulfilling life and enables a healthier contribution to the world around you.

💚 Healthy personal boundaries: With a renewed perspective and approach to self-care, you’re empowered to set and maintain healthy boundaries and prioritise your needs without guilt. This allows you to create space to protect your physical, emotional and mental well-being. It doesn’t serve to keep others out as such but teaches others how to engage and treat you, reduces stress, improves relationships and empowers you to prioritise your self-care. Failing to set and maintain your boundaries will leave you feeling overcommitted, overwhelmed and burning/burnt out. Read more here.

💚 Nurturing relationships: Self-care is an important aspect of our relationships with others and ourselves. By prioritising our own well-being we fortify our capacity to show up fully for those we care about. We cannot care for others authentically and compassionately if we don’t prioritise our needs first.

💚 Cultivating gratitude: Rather than focusing on your “flaws” appreciate the beauty of who you are in this world. This might be difficult for you to do, but start small: i.e. your physical body, healthy mind or ability to love. As you go deeper into your self-love journey it becomes easier to recognise and honour the beauty of who you are in this world.

💚 Inner healing: Reframing our perspective of self-care invites us to approach it as a form of healing and transformation. We acknowledge that taking time to rest, recharge and engage in activities that bring us joy and satisfaction for our well-being are also essential for our growth.

💚 Self-acceptance: By embracing our self-care journey fully we learn to embrace all aspects of ourselves. We learn that there are always opportunities for growth through our daily experiences and challenges. This process also helps us treat ourselves with the same compassion and patience we would offer to a close friend.

💚 Self-expression: When you embrace self-care as an act of love you are empowered to express yourself authentically and unapologetically. You recognise that prioritising your needs is not selfish but self-affirming your worth and dignity. Understanding what the things are that drain you and saying no to them and saying yes to those that nourish you is an expression of self-respect and self-love.

Reframing self-care as self-love transforms it from obligation or a once-in-a-while treat to an expression of self-love, compassion and acceptance. When approached with love we honour our worth and settle into a deeper sense of well-being and satisfaction in our lives.

6.  Takeaway

I hope that you have been inspired to embrace self-care as a vital practice for nurturing your well-being and growing your capacity to love and care for others.  Remember, start small and build your practice gradually.

I invite you to register for my Free 5-Day Self-Care Course that takes you on a journey of small steps to start your self-care practice.

7.  Reflective prompts

🟩 As self-care is a fundamental and intentional practice to build well-being strategies to navigate life’s challenges, which areas would you like to improve or make adjustments in?

🟩 What are some of the self-care activities that you enjoy and replenish you?

🟩 Reflect on a time when you felt guilty or selfish for prioritising your needs.

🟩 What beliefs or societal norms influenced these feelings?

🟩 What fears or beliefs are holding you back from fully embracing a self-care practice?

🟩 How would you approach this situation knowing what you know now?

🟩 Consider the boundaries you’ve set in your personal and professional life.  Which of these need adjustment or reinforcement to better support your well-being?

🟩 How can practising self-care strengthen your personal and professional relationships?

🟩 What steps can you take to move closer to your ideal vision of self-care as an act of self-love?

Keep shining!

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p.s.   if you feel like you need a little extra support with building your self-care practice, I have your back. In my Perfectly YOU 6-Week Programme I teach you how to implement your individual self-care practice in a journey from who you’ve been programmed to be to your authentic self where you:

  • Love, appreciate and accept yourself unconditionally
  • Feel more confident and at home in your body
  • Improve your body image and self-esteem
  • Know and value who you truly are