But Doesn’t Self-Care Mean Selfishness?
Manahil Noman (Clinical Psychologist)
Living in a culture where talking about mental health has been a stigma for years and where women are subconsciously taught to keep other’s needs before their own, people often tend to mix self-care with selfishness. When I talk about self-care, I receive questions like, “But doesn’t self-care mean selfishness?”The question arises: Is self-care really selfishness? Let’s start by defining what self-care is. Self-care means taking care of oneself in a mindful manner. It requires really paying attention to one’sself. There are a number of ways in which one can dedicate their time to herself/himself to make themselves feel whole. Take this whole as a glass full of water. When all of the mental energy within a person is dedicated to be given out, energy has to be taken in as well to make the glass full. Consider this energy to be the water. If the water in the glass starts deteriorating, eventually it will be emptied, leaving the person mentally depleted and feeling incapable of giving any mental energy out. There are ways to get indulged in self-care. It’s time for some pampering ladies!
The first step is to be aware if you are giving out more than what you have and what can be done to slow it down. For example, a woman is taking care of her ill husband for days until there comes a point when she feels mentally exhausted.This is because her emotional needs are not being fulfilled. These needs were previously taken care of by her husband and now she has started to feel emotionally depleted as she is only giving out her mental energy rather than receiving any. Her body is giving her a signal that she needs to nurture herself in order to fill her glass of water. A few minutes of paying attention to acknowledging her emotions, be it sad, anxious, or frustrated, and then taking out half an hour or however more she can manage for something she likes to do, would help her re-energize herself. This would help her resort back to taking care of her husband with a lesser intensity of frustration.
Another way to engage in self-care is to find a way to decompress. Give your mind some rest, woman. Do itthroughout the day and not just when you’re done with the day’s tasks. If you have a long day at work, take out 5 minutes to pause the mind and take deep breathes, meditate, look at photos that have a special meaning, go for a water break, stretch, or go for a walking round in the corridor. Humans need such mental pauses in order to continue working during that day with a filled glass of water rather than an empty one.
Changing a difficult situation is also one of the ways of self-care. If you’re stressed about work, you need to look into what factors would help your work become somewhat less stressful and what changes your work environment needs. Would it be helpful to break your task down into smaller tasks? Would it help talking to your supervisor about changing the place where you sit? Would it help to have a to-do list or breaks between tasks? Identifying one’s own triggers and dispositions also helps. If you feel that after a certain point in time your shoes start hurting or your clothes start feeling hot, maybe it’s time to change your shoes or wear lighter clothes. These little changes would help to keep your glass full. We don’t want the water to drip, do we?
Self-care also means having something that makes you look forward to the end of the day. This can be as simple as reading a book, painting, or texting a friend you are comfortable with. This is to keep the glass full throughout the day as you will always have something to look forward to as the day comes to an end.
The idea of self-care is basically to keep your glass of water full or at least not worn-out. A deteriorating mental energy means a lack of ability to take care of one self as well as others. When you neglectyourself, you eventually have no mental energy left to give out to others,being unable to give out positivity to others. Hence, ironically, not engaging in self-care would be the selfish thing to do! So the next time someone asks if self-care is selfish, you know what to say.