“Selfcare isn’t selfish” is often quoted these days and I truly agree. The equally popular adages “You cannot pour from an empty cup” or “Put your own oxygen mask on first” are helpful to those who perhaps have been raised, as I was, to believe that everyone else comes first and your purpose is to serve. I don’t think these were messages meant to harm us, they were meant to create “good” human beings; I guess our caregivers believed that inherent instincts would stop us taking the messages to the extreme where we would put our own survival in jeopardy.
This summer I have battled with the self-care message. I wrote my self-care charter and broke it – still a work in progress! But then I read a couple of books that (I hope) are life changing. The first, thanks to a dear friend, was “The Choice” by Edith Egar and, from a reference in that, I read Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”; and then I got confused. Clear messages from both were that how you perceive something is critical and that only you have control of that perception inside your mind; I was fine with that. The harder message is that you shouldn’t seek happiness, that happiness is a biproduct of service to a larger aim; in service of something or someone else. That shattered my little self-care campaign until I decided to order things (here I go again, there’s a theme already from my blogs)!
So, I see it as a spectrum from Selfish to Selfless; at one end I’m “all about me” and at the other end I am exhausting myself in service of others or some form of work (not necessarily paid work). But there is a happy medium. What to call this? I have seen it referred to as “Self-full”, so a place where you take care of your own needs first and from that position of strength serve others. It’s maybe my conditioning but that terminology doesn’t really appeal – to me it suggests I cannot serve others until I have done everything I need; which sounds a little bit selfish. Perhaps a more appealing term would be “Unselfish”? In my mind this suggests a sensible balance of self-care and purpose. It might also be seen as equal measures of hedonic and eudemonic wellbeing – hedonic being pure pleasure/ enjoyment and eudemonic being more about feeling worthwhile.
We need both and, I believe, our self-care charter needs both.