"Self care is never a selfish act, it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch." Parker Palmer, author, Let Your Life Speak
Why is it that we feel we are being selfish when we take the time to take care of ourselves? "Don't be selfish." This is so ingrained in our collective consciousness that it is very hard to not pay attention to it and suddenly negative self-chatter and feelings of guilt and anxiety quickly fill the space in our hearts & minds.
We grow up with an idea that in order not to be selfish we have to put other people first - it begins with our parents and our siblings, then our friends, then our partners and kids and the people we work with - we are always getting the message to not be selfish; to think of others first and to always be aware of what they need.
We practice putting others first unconsciously and soon it becomes a habit. We become so good at being mindful of what other people need, that we sometimes forget that we can also take the time to make sure we have what we need. Can we fill our cups first and then fill someone else's? Why does it feel selfish to look out for our own needs and wants.
During my year-long certification program with the Whole Being Institute, I posed this question to Tal Ben-Shahar, co-founder of Whole Being Institute and author of many wonderful books on the science of happiness and well-being. I had declared it My Year of Whittling and I was actively whittling away the things in my life that were no longer serving me. We were on a monthly conference call with the students in the program and I took a deep breath and spoke into the phone:
"Tal, this is positive psychology and I am working hard to whittle away the stuff in my life that doesn't matter, and, I have to tell you, I am feeling... kind of selfish and that feels like the opposite of positive. SELFISH is not word I want to live into - is there a better way to describe how I am feeling?"
And to my great relief, he said yes. He had actually just been having a talk with the teaching assistant's in the group that week and they were also expressing this idea that being true to yourself somehow manifested in making them feel a wee bit selfish, they also wanted a better way to describe how they were feeling and acting. SELF-FULL is the word that they came up with and he offered that to me as a better way to own what I was experiencing. I loved it instantly and began to lean into it.
Now, when I purposefully do something to take care of myself like take the time to take a really long bath, mediate in the morning and insist the TV get turned off, leave the house to work out or put myself to sleep early, or just say No to something that someone else wants me to do but that really wasn't in my plan for that day... I as soon as I feel that little irritating thought "don't be selfish" I take a deep breath and I say to myself - it's okay, go ahead, you are being self-full. And like Palmer says - self-care is never a selfish act because not only does living in a self-full way help you, it is better for everyone around you.
I am starting a challenge on February 1st called 28 days of SELF-FULL; conscious self care. Each day I will post the one thing I did that day where I was consciously taking care of myself. I invite you to join me in the challenge. As with the former daily challenges of Savoring in December and Gratitude in January - each day all you have to do is take a moment to check in with yourself, did you do something that you would consider SELF FULL. If you would like to post and share you are welcome to do that but if you just want to follow along and record your acts of Self-FULL-ness privately, as with the other challenges that is of course okay as well.
Here's to you being more SELF-FULL. If you would like to join the group in the challenge please click here