Disclosure: There might be affiliate links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links but it will be at no additional cost to you.


Why aren’t you taking care of yourself?

Do you feel selfish for spending too much time on yourself?

Do you feel guilty for not attending to the needs of your children, family, and friends?

Self-care is not selfish.

I always find it interesting to look at moms, especially my mom. People say that giving birth can change a person. It’s true. After giving birth, their life changes. From taking care of themselves to taking care of their children, their priorities would never be the same as before.

Some mom has their children as the top priorities and never get out of it fully even when their children have grown up. I always look at my mom and wonder: I’m old enough to get food when I am hungry. I know how to take care of myself. She doesn’t have to be worried so much about me. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate her love and care, but I would rather she spends more time on herself and takes care of her own needs first.

So why don’t we practice self-care? We all know that we need to secure our own oxygen mask before assisting others if a crisis happened to the airplane.

Perhaps it’s the lack of self-love. Maybe we feel that others need more care than we do. Or perhaps self-care makes us feel selfish.

Why Self-care Makes You Feel Selfish?

When you make time for self-care, it’s easy to be misunderstood by others as selfish. Making time for something means taking time away from other things that you are currently spending time on such as your work, your family, and your relationships. People who are affected by this might not be happy about it and might make you feel guilty.

Our concerns for other people’s reactions make us feel selfish.

Take children for an example. When children are young, it’s understandable to spend more time with them to take care of their needs. But as they grew older, there’s no need to spend as much time with them. They have to learn how to be independent.

However, not all children understand this and know how to manage this transition. Some children are so used to getting time and attention from their parents. They expect their parents to behave the same way even when they grew older. When children feel disappointed or unhappy with their parents for not spending enough time with them, their parents feel guilty for not meeting their expectations.

But things don’t stay the same. Children had to learn how to manage their own expectations.

Sometimes, it’s not even other people’s reactions that make us feel selfish. It’s what we think how others will perceive us if we take time for ourselves that makes us feel selfish.

Why Are People Afraid to Be Called Selfish?

Self-care isn’t selfish. But even if it is, it shouldn’t be such a big deal. The reason why it’s such a big deal to many of us is that it affects our self-image.

Do you care more about your identity or your personal needs?

Some of us, especially the feeling types, would rather give up our personal needs for a better self-image. How we appear in front of others is important and being called “selfish” hurts our self-image. We don’t want to be perceived as:

  • a bad parent who doesn’t care about our children,
  • an irresponsible employee who doesn’t care about our work,
  • a self-centered person who only care about ourselves, or
  • an anti-social person who doesn’t care about our friends.

It’s not that we don’t care about ourselves. We are too identified with the image we created for ourselves. Our self-image is us. Looking bad in front of others hurts us. Being called “selfish” makes us feel less worthy as a person. So we avoid this by serving other people’s needs first and the best that we could.

What we didn’t know is that by doing so, we also allow other people’s opinions and judgment of us to determine our self-beliefs. When people think we are selfish, we think we are selfish.

But self-care is really not selfish at all.

Self-Care Vs Selfishness: Here’s Why Self-Care Is Not Selfish

1. Self-care doesn’t mean you don’t care about others.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary Online, selfish is:

caring only about what you want or need without any thought for the needs or wishes of other people.

Many people are quick to judge another for being selfish. But how do they know what one cares about? How do we know one only cares about themselves and doesn’t spare any thought for others? We won’t know for sure unless we are the other person.

The action doesn’t always show how much you care about something.

You might attend your son’s soccer matches or your daughter’s dance performances. But that doesn’t mean you care about their well-being. It might be just something you do out of obligation or because you don’t want to be perceived as a bad parent. On the contrary, you might be taking time off for yourself, but at the same time, you deeply care about your children’s well-being.

We shouldn’t feel selfish based on our actions. And we definitely shouldn’t judge others based on their actions.

2. Selfish is just a judgment. 

Self-care, in itself, is just the act of taking care of ourselves. It only becomes selfish when someone judges it.

What makes a person selfish? Should someone who doesn’t donate to charity be considered selfish? Should someone who spends time taking care of their own needs be considered selfish? How do you measure selfishness? What is the right amount of time to spend on ourselves and others?

There are no universal criteria to measure selfishness.

What you label as selfish may be different from what others label as selfish. Selfish is just a judgment we formed on ourselves and others. Certain self-care activities would be deemed as selfish by some but not by others. It all depends on a person’s judgment.

This judgment comes from our expectations and beliefs about people. We expect others and ourselves to do more and care more for others in a way that we think it’s right and good for others. And when our expectations aren’t met, we judge ourselves and others as being selfish.

3. Self-care and selfishness are motivated by different intentions. 

Self-care is an act of self-love. You nourish your soul, body, and mind because they needed your attention. You take care of yourself because you love yourself. You are grateful that your body is functioning properly and you don’t take it for granted. So you continue to maintain it and keep it healthy.

Self-care comes from love while selfish comes from fear. 

Selfish, on the other hand, comes from a feeling of fear and lack. You are afraid that you do not have enough time, money, and resources. You are too concerned with your well-being that you have no consideration for other people. You are afraid that other people would take up your resources for yourself, so you feel a need to protect your resources.

There is a difference between self-care and selfishness. For self-care, you do what is necessary out of love. But when you are selfish, you do more than necessary out of fear. So self-care isn’t really selfish.

4.  Self-care is being authentic.

Are you caring and helping others out of obligations and guilt or do you really mean to help them? When you need time for yourself and you don’t take it, you are not being honest with yourself.

Giving out of guilt is not the same as giving out of love.

Giving out of guilt is inauthentic and there’s no joy in it.

Self-care allows others to see your best, authentic self. When you meet up with your friends or spend time with your family, you are present. You don’t show up as an overworked, exhausted, frantic person who had no time to take care of your needs. You don’t burden the other person with the emotional baggage you have been accumulating.

When you take care of yourself regularly, you show up with the best, healthy version of yourself. It’s not only a respect for yourself. It’s also a respect for the other person who gives up their time for you. So how is that selfish?

5.  Self-care is essential.

Self-care is for sanity. As an introvert, I really need time away from people. Even if people don’t understand why this is so, I still have to do it because it’s the only way to keep me sane.

Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s essential. It’s survival. Introverts need the downtime to recharge. Moms need time away from their kids to do what they love. Everyone needs some “me” time and it varies from person to person. Take as much time as you need to find balance in yourself.

It’s your time anyway. If someone tried to make you feel guilty about how you spend your time or demand your time, know that their egos are looking out for their own needs. You aren’t the selfish one here. You cannot take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.

Allow the other party to take care of themselves too.

Not attending to other people’s needs allows them to grow. Instead of waiting for others to take care of their needs, it gives them the opportunity to learn how to take care of themselves. This is especially true in the case of parents and children. The parents can’t always be there always to take care of their children’s needs. The children need to learn the importance of self-care too so that they can take care of themselves when they grow older.

Featured Photo Credit: My Valentines / « м Ħ ж »