Deep self-care begins with the knowledge that you can live life on your own terms and be present to those you love. There’s no either or. When you begin tending to your souls needs, listening to your hearts whispers and moving according to your own energetic rhythm, you naturally show up as your best self. Women know this on a deep level. So, what keeps us from adopting a consistent attitude of self-care? There are many answers to this question, but I believe one lies in the word ‘selfish’.
It’s hard to think about self-care without the word ‘selfish’ rearing its head in opposition. So, lets deconstruct ‘selfish’ and decide if it’s really the devil it’s made out to be, or just a way to keep people in their boxes.
The dictionary defines selfish as “lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” The negative and judgemental undertones practically jump off the page and, not surprisingly, the word has its roots in Presbyterianism; highly ranked church officials coined it to describe anyone who put their own needs over the church’s. They were pretty clever folks – branding people with selfishness was athe perfect way for the church to keep people serving them, rather than their highest selves, because, have you ever noticed how much people HATE to be called selfish? There is a natural rebellion against the word because it doesn’t fit any of us. Consequently,people, women in particular, would do anything to avoid this title. Interestingly, ‘introverted’ is also synonym of selfish. That means that 50-74 people are selfish by their very nature (me included) so we may as well quit while were ahead.
It’s worth examining your ideas of selfishness, and the way the fear of being perceived as selfish holds you back. Do you feel selfish if you take time away from your kids? Do you feel selfish spending an entire day reading books and doing nothing? Do you feel selfish if you say no to a request for help because you are tired? If you remove the word ‘selfish’ from these questions, you could come up with some sane reasoning as to why you’re looking after yourself: ‘I take time away from my kids so I can attend to my soul and mother from that deep, wise part of myself.’ ‘I rested for an entire day so I could regain my energy and do a great job.’ ‘I said no to that request because I’m caring my own deep needs. When I say yes, it will be a hell, yes!’
Selfishness is distinct from destructive or hurtful, and you need to be discerning when it comes to how your actions affect others. This is something we all need to weigh up on a moment by moment basis. I’ve noticed that if I tune into my soul and the direction of my energy, my actions are rarely hurtful to others. My kids might whinge that I want them to help me clean up the house then go to the beach instead of taking them to the indoor play centre, but are they hurt? My husband might feel resentful that I went for a walk instead of cleaning the house, but he’s not deeply wounded by this decision. I believe you have an inner compass that allows you to determine when it’s time to allow yourself some respite, and when it’s time to summon your resilience and strength (which is built through self-care).
In my experience, most hurtful actions have been performed by wounded people who have lost touch with themselves. I include myself here. History has taught me that I’m at most destructive when I’ve ignored my soul’s call for too long, when I feel like a slave to my family and have forgotton who I am. At this point, the wisest thing I can do take time for myself, write in my book, go for a surf or ask for help. If I don’t do these things, the resentment bubbles over and before I know it I’ve said something hurtful to my husband or kids. Who can relate?
Releasing the crushing weight of the word ‘selfish’ is one of the first steps you can take to deeply nourish yourself. Don’t use this word on yourself, don’t let it be used on you and don’t direct it at other people. And, please don’t use it on your children. Let’s lead by example and teach the next generation how to serve their highest selves and make magic in the world.
How do you feel about the word selfish?