Self-care or Selfishness?

self care or selfishnessSelf-care.

Like almost every principle of recovery, this concept was something that I just didn’t get before hitting my rock bottom.

I am ashamed to say that in my former life I would sometimes feel critical or even superior to other women when I would see them taking time out for themselves.

Instead of seeing self-care, I judged jealously.  I interpreted selfishness.

This was a gross misunderstanding on my part of what my roles and responsibilities really are, and what emotional health looks like.

Before recovery, I believed that my job was to “lose myself in the service of others.”  Especially as a wife and mother, but even in other areas of my life, I had internalized that my role was to sacrifice myself to meet others’ needs.  Deep down, I felt responsible for others’ happiness.

Trauma was the gift that made this co-dependent and faulty way of thinking truly unmanageable.

Now, I understand that an empty cup has nothing to offer.  I understand that the best thing I can do to be of service to others is to ensure that I am connected to my Higher Power so His love and compassion can flow through me.  This connection does not happen without time, effort, and deliberate attention.

Self-care facilitates my ability to feel serenity; God at my center.

Self-Care Suggestions

In her book, What Can I Do About Me?, Rhyll offers the following suggestions for Self-Care:

  • Take a Walk
  • Listen to Soothing Music
  • Cry
  • Take a 20-minute Power Nap
  • Sleep
  • Eat Well
  • Make Time for Meditation
  • Slow Down Your Life
  • Don’t Compare Yourself
  • Do Something Just For You
  • Be Present
  • Write in Your Journal
  • Study Your Scriptures and Pray
  • Dailies

To this excellent list, I might add from my own recovery:

  • Practice Yoga
  • Meditate on/Visualize being in a “Safe Place” with my Higher Power
  • Stop Whatever I am Doing and Practice Deep Breathing
  • Choose to do something that is just enjoyable, NOT productive
  • Make a phone call or go on a walk with a friend
  • Cuddle my kids and allow myself to give and receive physical affection from them, especially when I feel physically unsafe with my husband
  • Take time to develop talents that feel freeing and allow me to express myself

For me, it is also important to make the distinction between self-care and self-indulgence.


Coping mechanisms like watching Netflix for hours, eating an entire pan of brownies, downing 44 oz Diet Cokes daily, or exercising compulsively leave me feeling more numb, isolated, defeated, or fearful.  Although I may have seen these indulgences as Self-Care in the past, I am learning that true Self-Care always helps me feel more connected to myself, others, or my Higher Power in positive ways.

I have also learned as I practice Step 10 with nightly check-ins, that the days I feel burdened with feelings of overwhelm and eventually resentment are usually the days that I failed to take the time for Self-Care.

I have become a true believer that to be most useful to God and others, to be able to feel serenity and love others freely, to be freed from feelings of resentment and victim, Self-Care is a crucial element of my daily routines.

What are some of your ideas for practicing Self-Care?

How do you keep Self-Care as a priority in your busy life?

7 thoughts on “Self-care or Selfishness?

  1. I keep self-care as a priority in my busy life by realizing that I am worthy of love. Self-love is the first step to self-care. Take a long hot shower or bath. Do my nails, get a haircut. I deserve to be taken care of.

  2. Self care is SO important to me. I’m really good at scheduling self care, but not so good at self care in moments when I’m feeling unsafe or overwhelmed. Those are the moments when sometimes I choose to numb out and forget how important it would be for me to take a step back and breathe do something to replenish myself and put God back in my center. How cool would it be to have a watch like a Fitbit but instead of tracking our steps and sleep it can detect when we need a time out to breathe and do some self care and it beeps like crazy to remind us. Lol mine would be beeping all day long!!!!!! Thank you for this discussion post and the reminders it gave me!

  3. I love the clarification that “Self-Care always helps me feel more connected to myself, others, or my Higher Power in positive ways.” I’ve recently discovered the beauty of bubble baths after my kids are in bed with a really nice smelling soap. I just stop and breathe and relax. This was a great post for me to read this week. Thanks!

  4. I’m feeling stuck… I feel self hatred , at not knowing how to help myself out of tv brownies cycle…

  5. One thing my counselor said that really stuck out to me is that we love ourselves by honoring our commitments and being rigorously honest. It sounded kind of hokey to me at first–or at least, in my shame, I took it as “One more thing on my to-do list of things I’m failing at.”

    However, I tried it. At first I made a big list of commitments that I failed to do 100% of the time and went into more shame, more drama, and another pan of gluten-free brownies.

    When it finally clicked for me was when I chose one simple thing that I chose as a daily. If I did that one thing that day, I was 100% on my commitment. I didn’t do it 100% of the time at first, but then I set an alarm to remind me of my commitment. Over time, I got to where I was 100% at that one simple thing. And she was right. I started to gain confidence in myself. I felt empowered, because there was “evidence” that I was showing up for myself.

    Long story short, that one simple thing is now something I don’t have to remind myself to do daily. It’s just part of my day. And there are other simple things I’ve added. And as I show up honestly with myself, I trust myself more. It’s like Brene Brown’s “Anatomy of Trust.” Anyway. Don’t know if that will resonate with anyone else, but it’s worked for me!

    1. This is such a great way to approach self-care…”showing up for myself.” I have never thought of it that way before. And starting small and simple. Great stuff. Thank you!

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