Self-care is selfish

 And here’s why that’s totally okay!
Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash

Someone asked on Reddit:

When does focusing on yourself turn into being self-centered?

The question stuck with me for a while. I guess, especially because I had thought on and off about why it is often so hard to be nice to ourselves?

The Reddit question included a bit of a back story about divorce, not knowing what one was all about after marriage, and basically having difficulties answering basic questions like “What do you do for fun?”. So the Redditor started a journey towards self-care and self-improvement to regain confidence and self-worth. 

Triggered by another Redditor, they got unsure though: 

When you focus exclusively on yourself and liking yourself again, how fine of a line can that be to being self-centered?

I’m still thinking about that question while writing the article. However, I got more confident about my answer to this.

Yes, self-care is a little selfish — and that is a good thing!

Because what a lot of people miss when they comment about self-care being self-centered is the following:

The person who just begins to explore themselves, who works towards self-acceptance and self-love was often all about other people beforehand. 

They might have learned while growing up that love and care are attached to certain conditions. And that caused them to bury their true self and live as a different version of themselves. Maybe a person that tries to please their caregivers, peers, and partners. Maybe a person that is loud to gain some attention.
And even though there might be tons of different expressions of growing up with conditional love the result is the same: 

You don’t know who you are. 
You have little clue about what you love to do.

Another way of looking at the unsympathetic comment of that other Redditor is how a lot of us are thinking about self-care and self-compassion. 
There is a (very long but interesting) article about the misconceptions that stop us from being kinder to ourselves which you can also read if you want to dive deeper.
For those with less time, here are a few typical things we attach with it: 

  1. Taking a rest and showing yourself some compassion when something didn’t go well is plain lazy. Get onto the next thing. There’s no time to slack off.
  2. You appear overly dramatic or self-pitying. So stop whining and get over it.
  3. If you need to take care of yourself, you’re too weak. Toughen up a bit!
  4. You’re being self-centered and on the edge of narcissism. Get over yourself.
  5. You don’t consider what other people need and are plain selfish.

Anything feels familiar to you? Is there something you remember being said to you when you were a child? All of them, even if we are not fully aware of it, can cause us to react negatively to others taking care of themselves.

It’s about time to bury these beliefs. It’s totally okay to be selfish when it comes to self-care  — for once — if it means you will be you finally

Obviously, we don’t need to talk about that this is not about starting to manipulate people Machiavellian style to get what you want. Your intention is to get to know you and to take care of yourself. 

There’s only one of you in this world. And I think it comes with an obligation to try to be yourself fully. 

It takes time and is a lot of work. And that means you will have to say no to everything and everyone that stands in the way. 
Yes, some people might call you selfish for that. However, what you’re actually doing is working on the best version of yourself. The one that is settled in themselves, calm, confident, kind, empathetic, energetic, creative, solution-oriented, patient, and as good at taking care of themselves as of others. 

So go on, spend time with yourself, get to know yourself, be kind and compassionate to yourself, and grow. 

Let me know how it’s going at carolin @

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