Self-care is Not Selfish But You Might Feel Alone

Social circles of Influence

Many times I feel like a stranger because I don’t want to do what they want.  

Pilot was perplexed and sad. 

This is familiar to me.  There are lots of these times.  When I was a kid I didn’t know to call feeling like a stranger, “normal.”  I didn’t know I wasn’t alone.  I thought feeling like a stranger was qualified bad.  In the older Me, part of Me knows.  The rest of Me is conflicted.

Talking about self-care is like that sometimes.  I don’t know yet how to consistently teach others without hurting them.  

Self-care is not selfish, I say, but it doesn’t make sense.  

They hear me and the long anticipated enemy they knew would come suddenly wears my face and uses my mouth and voice.  People look at me in horror.  I watch their faces blanch and despair, as if they know they are holding a fork and knife to defend against magic and they will die a martyr’s death.  

No.  It’s not like that, I say.  

But they don’t hear more.  They crouch in a thicket.

Researcher, Jennifer Walters, describes how social influences such as team-based competition leads to a healthier BMI (basal metabolic index) and weight loss.  We may say, “Um, yah!?!” as if everyone knows that from Biggest Loser.  But just like holding an apple looks like crunchy food to Mary, John see’s a projectile.

It must be researched.  It must be said.

We don’t believe that taking care of Me is selfless.  We are scared.  To love ourselves means being alone and feeling the stranger.  Taking care of others “first” intuitively tells us that we are connected and right. This is a distortion.

I argue that this intuition to care for others first is not our friend.  The intuition to care for others first is not friendly when it is driven by fear of being alone, fear of being the stranger.   At some point in the timeline of selflessness to selfishness we find that we cannot.  We have ruined and thereafter cannot care, serve or do much for anyone but take. Now we, without getting consent from those same others, are in a place of being served.  We didn’t ask our loved one(s.) 

Would you like to take care of my wasted self?

We didn’t ask if it was ok with them that they be put in the position of now being our own caregivers. To answer their wants before our needs is a trick on them, an exchange for us taking care of them now for them taking care of our needs later when we cannot.  But we didn’t ask. We didn’t make a transparent negotiation.  If they knew we were taking care of their wants before our needs or wants, if we knew, would we un-crouch, step out, hear and consider?  However, we responded before we felt alone.  We gave before we felt the stranger.  We didn’t ask, we didn’t consider and now we cannot.

Growing healthy involves the sometimes happy journey towards a knowing that giving to self long enough becomes someone who gives to others; long enough a stranger to grow familiar.  And it isn’t selfish.

Caregiving for others starts with caregiving for Me.

Question:  How does becoming your own friend separate you from those you want close?  How do you survive feeling alone long enough to know that you are not?  When the stranger becomes familiar, does it make that time and difficulty worthwhile?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Remember, self-care is not selfish, even when you feel alone.

Take Care of Yourself And You Will Be Taking Care of Others – “Care-Givers”

Caregiver is a name that many of us own.  From basic parenting scenarios to families complicated with end-of-life, spinal cord injuries, congenital diseases or employees of group homes – care-givers is the generically applied term.

Is it difficult to ID care-givers that “did it right.”  Seeing them is a muscle that operates better by practicing the magical and material skills of empathy, doing rather than saying, so to speak.

By the way, I’m on hold right now with the service provider for our currently nonfunctioning internet.  The hold-music is so bad that I had to put the phone in a closed drawer to muffle it.  #selfcare.  Much better.

There are many people who have cared for me and do care for me.  You for starters have cared for and do care for me in your reading, your time, your thoughts, and comments, you are my givers of care.

I am cared for, and you know I get all fluttery when I start talking about you so I’ll stop before you throw-up.  Unless it’s too late.

There are others who gave and give care, obvious names like parents, spouse and friends. And there are many less obvious names – my dogs talking to me when I get home, the lady who came up to me in the 99-cent store and handed me $20.00 to buy treats for my kids, my psychotherapist who told me to “grow up.”  All these and more have and do care for me.

But do we call these people, (or other living creatures,) caregivers?  Is that a name for what you do for me? Not traditionally but it really is.

The differences are found between those who believe they take care of others when they don’t take care of themselves and the inverse – those who take care of themselves, and as part of that effort to be their own friend see caring for others as a natural maturation of their own needs(Remember, agendas again.) In any other design, taking care of others when we don’t take care of ourselves is not sustainable nor congruent with our intentions.  We become the hare who lost the race to the turtle, angry and confused by our results.

Care for the Caregiver Day
Image by Christiana Care via Flickr

I agree that this attempt to share space with the angels who so lovingly nurture and give to those who can’t give to themselves can be perceived as arrogant, ignorant and other names – creep, idiota, a– h—, pompous, fools, bigots, oblivious, uninformed, (this is fun), benighted, blind, old gum under the picnic table jerks.

Be that as it may, please believe that we speak of caregivers without malice.  And if we are ignorant, please let our flaws inspire you to grow us as empathically as you would like us to grow you.  I know it takes a lot of love to deal with someone like us and it is much easier to walk away.

Questions:  Where do you find yourself in the care you give to others?  What helps you remember your intentions to love yourself when stigma or guilt bang you upside the head?  How do you see that caring for yourself is consistent with your goals to serve others?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Care for yourself and you will see yourself giving care to others.

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Still Interested In Self-Care?

Working for Peanuts

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Self-Care Tip #131 – Start all your efforts and end all your efforts accountably with yourself.

Self-care is:

For many of us, we wonder what self-care is.  Obviously being subjective, it is something unmeasured and changes between us.  It doesn’t interest or make sense to many, depending on their religious biases, culture, temperament and other things.  But others of us, for maybe the same reasons, find self-care to be the place from which our axis swings.  We have together, here at FriendtoYourself.com, through the past eight-plus months, agreed on much of what self-care is and is not.

It is not selfish-care, alone-care, sacrilegious or Godless-care.  It is more than any one thing, for self-care flattens knowledge.  It is not weak but rather courageous.  It brings us to humble accountability for our lives, not erasing our history but still being free to start over any time.  Self-care is living consistent with the belief that the success of our health (emotional, physical, spiritual) begins and ends with Me.

Despite the chorus of boos, we say that we serve God and man better by taking care of ourselves first.  We attack guilt, we stand up to shame, we live as we choose despite stigma and we work harder than we ever have on perhaps the hardest job of our lives.  This is, Self-care.

Are you still interested?

Question:  How do you define self-care?  How is it played out in your life story?  Please tell us.

Work Hard to Take Care of Yourself If You Want An Easier Time Taking Care Of Others

Self-Care Tip #174 – Work hard to take care of yourself if you want an easier time taking care of others.

My marriage has never been better.

Freedom Press (UK)

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Kirsten had good posture.  She made eye contact and she wasn’t fidgeting when she told me about the changes in her life.  I hadn’t seen her in clinic for two years and apparently in that time she had set her husband free.  She was seeing less of him than she ever had and they were both busier than any other time in their lives.  Yet their marriage was at its peak.  I felt like I was getting off the point of why she came and wondered if asking her for details was unprofessional.  I did want to know.  Lucky for me, she wanted to tell and I just let it happen, as if I was doing her a favor.

I admit, sometimes I get something out of my clinicals.  I’m not always the best therapist.  I don’t always keep things about my patient when I let myself receive, or even actively take from them.  None of us are that altruistic.  Therapy is supposed to be one place any of us can go, and know that when we go, we can expect to receive everything except the fee-for-service.  Therapy should be the closest thing to a one way street in this non-altruistic world.

To my rescue, Kirsten said,

He has been meeting with friends, exercising, eating out and working the 12-Steps twice a week.

Yes he was sober, but he was also a bunch of other stuff.  Taking care of himself, he became a better husband.  Better body, clearer mind, happier, more attentive, less angry; she could hardly stop listing.

Freedom is useless....

Taking care of himself took a lot of work but it made taking care of her a lot less work.  True, she wasn’t the center of his life, she gave up on some fantasies, she didn’t ask him for more time, but all those in the past had only grown her own point of anger and blame and not the marriage dreams she thought they would – letting them go was a good thing.  Yet, cutting him free still felt risky to her.  She came to me because she was becoming more aware of what that fear was doing.  When she was afraid, she was sabotaging herself.  Bits of herself recognized that she could feel as free as her husband did.

To be free of fear for Kirsten, she needed medical help.  Kirsten’s fear came from nowhere, out of the blue and was not only triggered by suspicions about her husband.  To be free for Kirsten’s husband required other forms of self-care.

Question:  What kind of self-care does your freedom need?  How has your hard work on your own self-care spilled over into less work to care for others?

“You” Are The Best Gift

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Self-Care Tip #123 <–> Take care of yourself.

Before I was found by my man, my brother Vance Johnson used to tell me, “Become the woman whom the kind of man you hope to marry some day would want.”  It was one more thing that helped keep my focus off of searching for boyfun-friends and on to living my life.

Of course it doesn’t end when we get what we want.  When we stop growing, we stop living – as Sarah said in the blog-post, “You Are Enough.”  Regardless of where we are in life, we are responsible for being the person that the people we want in our life want to be with.

Many of us deteriorate under the guise of service, employment, obligation, parenting, care-giving or whatever reason.  We neglect ourselves and then give that battered up self to our hopes and to the people we love.

Don’t be misled.  If asked, those very people we are serving would say, “Just take care of yourself.”  If you don’t believe it, reverse it.  What do you want to say to the over-extended people you love?

Jennifer who is a stay at home mom, tells me that she feels so guilty when she takes time to go for a run.  She laughs, saying her husband wants her to go.  He comes home and tells her, “Go!  I’ll watch the kids.”  Yet she still feels bad.  She thinks about her husband’s long day at work and the kids moods, their needs, what she could do for them, and she can barely force herself to leave.  Once she does, she says she always feels great about herself and them, and comes home having more than she did before to offer.

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Taking care of ourselves, is giving the best gift to the people we love.  “Me.”  Taking care of ourselves might be the most selfless thing we could do.  It keeps us connected to our life journey, which by definition includes keeping us connected to the very people we love.

Keep on!

Question:  Where are you in your journey?  Taking care of yourself, connected, disconnected?  How does it affect those you love?  Please tell me your story.