Selfish vs. Self-Care

Written by Meredith Kimmel

February 5, 2020

For February, I want to examine the word “Selfish” in my blog and discuss it for each of the four Wednesdays in the month.  I want to do this because clients often say to me some variation of the following: “If I don’t do this, I’m being selfish”, “I feel that someone will think I am being selfish because I didn’t want to do this”, “if I do what is best for me, isn’t that being selfish?”.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines selfish as “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s one advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others”. To me, “selfish” is a harsh, mean, and conniving word.  Most people I discuss the word “selfish” with, including my clients, are not using it according to the dictionary definition.  Instead, they are confusing doing what is in their own best interest with being selfish. 

A selfish person, for example, would cut in line at the grocery store so they could get out the door first.  Someone talking on their cell phone during a movie and causing the rest of the people in the theater to not enjoy their experience is another example.  From what I can conclude, the people who I talk to about being selfish or who are identifying themselves as selfish, aren’t selfish at all.  I think they are feeling guilty about engaging in self-care and therefore mis-labeling themselves as selfish.

Self-care as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “care for oneself”.  Taking care of oneself is the best gift that you can give yourself.  I think you shouldn’t feel guilty about doing what is best for yourself.  Many of us are people pleasers or worry if someone is going to like us.  We think we have to do more to impress our bosses, our friends, or our family. 

We need to start looking at everything we do through the lens of self-care: “Is this what is best for me?”   By looking at issues through this lens, you will be a better family member, a better employee, and an overall better person. 

In 2019, I made an intention for myself to look at everything through a “Meredith-lens”.  This really worked out well for me, and I was able to assert myself and say no to people.  Did I feel guilty? Yes, a little initially because I was changing a habit.  Is it easy to do? It does take work, but everything worthwhile takes work.

By changing my behavior, I was able to focus on what I wanted to accomplish.  I surrounded myself with people who made me happy and challenged me to grow.  Does this make me selfish?  No, by focusing on self-care, I have been able to be a better person, and give of myself in ways that make me happy.  I made this a lifestyle choice and I encourage everyone to do the same.

Assert yourself. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it.  But if you do, do it.  If you want to do something, go for it. At the end of the day, all you need to do is answer to yourself.  Remember this is not selfish, this is self-care.

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