• Colleen Lennon, LCSW

Hey You - It's time to be Selfish!

“But I feel so selfish if I take time or do something for me. That’s time I should be ____ “ (insert with my children/husband/wife/partner/friends or working/cleaning/running errands, or anything or anyone besides the person themselves). This statement, or something similar, is something that I hear frequently from my clients.

The word “selfish” is often synonymous with feeling bad. Culturally speaking, we often view the concept of taking care of our needs as “selfish” and in turn, the act of taking care of ourselves is often followed by guilt.

Many of us feel that we need to put the needs of others above our own. But as cliché as the saying may seem to some, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Like the safety instructions on an airplane, we must put on our own oxygen mask before helping others. ​If you are not taking care of yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally then you will not have much left to give to others or to even the important parts of your own life.

In order to be a good mother/father, husband/wife/partner, friend, employee, etc., you need to be selfish and take care of yourself first and foremost. Self-care or selfishness can be anything from getting enough sleep, to nourishing our bodies, exercising, to taking a break during the work day, mediating, to reading a book, or even going to therapy.

​Not taking care of ourselves can also have some negative consequences. These include: increased stress levels, lower levels of self-confidence, lower productivity or work quality, symptoms of anxiety or depression, or increased risk for getting sick.

Many of the clients I work with express a sense of loss of self when they neglect to take care of their needs. Saying things like “I don’t know who I am anymore” or “I’ve lost myself”. Not taking time for yourself can lead to anger and resentment towards your significant other, children, job, or even yourself. Taking time allows for your continued self growth and our ability to continue to give to the most important aspects of our life.

​Practicing self-care can have a significant positive impact on both ourselves and what we can give to those we love. It can be helpful to think of being selfish as doing something just for you! Think about what it is that you need to recharge yourself. There are lots of ways to recharge that don’t have to take a lot of time. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Practice good sleep hygiene: set a bedtime and stick to it! Make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night

  2. Movement: take a yoga/Pilates/spin class, join a group fitness class, lift weights, run outside, dance, take a walk- getting any form of movement for at least 10 minutes a day

  3. Take a break: go outside and take a short walk or even walk around the office for a quick break or just listen to some music or sip on a delicious tea

  4. Meditate: sit in a quiet space, count breaths, repeat a mantra, or just be with the silence and let your mind be calm

  5. Read: set some time aside in your week to read something you enjoy and is not related to school/work/family

  6. Break: Make sure to take your lunch break (no working allowed!) each day. Studies show allowing yourself to take a lunch break actually increases productivity

  7. Log off: set a time each night where you “unplug” and stop checking all social media and email

  8. Indulge: get a manicure, pedicure, massage, spa treatment or just a face mask at home

  9. Self-reflect: journal or even better, talk to a therapist!

  10. Make healthy habits: eat balanced foods, drink plenty of water, set a good routine, and make sure to schedule appointments for doctor check-ups when needed

Taking care of yourself should not be considered a selfish act. We all need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves and that our physical, emotional, and mental health are our top priorities. As they say, “we can’t pour from an empty glass”.

We all want to do well and feel accomplished in whatever it is we set out to do, whether it is in a relationship, jobs, or just being our best self, and in order to do this we NEED to take care of ourselves and practice being selfish EVERYDAY!

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