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Is Practicing Self-Care Being Selfish?

Some people believe that anything they do for themselves is considered self-care, and on the other hand, some people think that everything they do for themselves is selfish.

Who’s right?


Let’s break this down to find out why.


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Merriam-Webster defines self-care as “to care for oneself,” specifically “health care provided by oneself often without the consultation of a medical professional.”

A simple definition, right? So self-care is intentionally focusing on and taking care of your physical needs without the assistance of someone else. For instance, if you have a headache, taking a pain reliever is considered self-care. If your breath stinks, brushing your teeth is self-care.

Taking this a step further, self-care can also be making an appointment for a check-up, and the action of physically going to the doctor’s office and waiting in the room for the doctor to appear. Self-care would then end the moment your doctor lays eyes on you because your care would then be in his or her hands, and then resume once you leave until you’re safely at your destination.

Let’s Take a Look at Selfish

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According to Merriam-Webster, selfish means “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.” Here is where it gets a little tricky because it includes the subject of well-being, which is sometimes confused with self-care, but we’ll get into that in a minute.

So being selfish means of all the cares in the world, you and your wants is the only one that matters. For instance, if you have a headache, being selfish would mean spending all of the month’s grocery budget for your family on a full day spa treatment to relieve the pain. On a less extreme level, selfish is taking over the radio in your friend’s car without considering what anyone else prefers to hear.

Many people feel guilty when providing themselves with self-care. They believe that it can take them away from the things they think are more important, like taking care of their family, so they don’t do it. Self-care is actually a vital part of taking care of your family and anything else in your life. If you don’t take care of yourself, everything else will suffer. I learned that the hard way.

My Story

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When my two younger kids were toddlers, I was working at home, full time, with deadlines to meet, not knowing that my son was autistic. It was very hectic trying to potty train my daughter, handle my son’s “moments,” work, and maintain our home. But my family was my main priority, and I didn’t have time to think about my health. Eventually, my blood pressure got so high that I ended up in the hospital for a few days. I didn’t take the warning sign seriously and went right back to leading the same life as I was before, but this time I was armed with blood pressure medication. Life went on, and about four years later, I got sick again, but much worse.

I went into acute kidney failure.

Ok, message received! That was when I realized that taking care of myself was not being selfish, but was actually a vital way of taking care of my family. I recovered from the kidney failure episode with an entirely new outlook of focusing more on my health. Of course, my family was still important, but I knew that I couldn’t do anything for them if I weren’t alive. By changing my focus to include my health, I was able to buy myself about three years before needing dialysis, and by that time I had been on the transplant list for a year after being declined twice.

Had I heeded that first warning, I probably wouldn’t have needed a transplant in the first place.


In my opinion, well-being and self-care go hand in hand, not selfishness. Merriam-Webster says that well-being is “the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous,” which means it’s about more than just physical health. It’s about mental health and personal success, as well.  I think it would be tough to maintain your well-being without self-care. Sure, you can find happiness in other places, but to be healthy or prosperous requires some work on your part, including self-care. Your well-being defines how you, and those around you live, so focusing on it would not be selfish at all, in my opinion.

The Line Between Self-Care and Selfishness

Discerning between self-care and being selfish would seem like a no-brainer at this point, but honestly, the line can be a little blurry at times. Pampering yourself can, at times, be considered self-care, but only in certain situations. For instance, it may seem like you indulge yourself with a massage multiple times a week, but your real purpose for going is for physical therapy for a back injury. So selfishness is more in the eye of the beholder in this case.

Alex Holyoake

One way to tell if you’re truly being selfish or not is to ask yourself if what you’re about to do is going to do more harm than good to the people around you. If you take a nap right now, you’ll probably inconvenience someone for a while, but you’ll feel rejuvenated and able to focus better to complete your tasks. If you’re in the middle of bathing your baby, it definitely wouldn’t be safe to leave the baby in the tub for a nap. Of course, this is dramatic, but leaving someone in a bind, or even a dangerous position to satisfy your personal desires would be selfish.

I can’t stress enough how important self-care is. We are born with one body. Just one. That’s it. So it’s up to us to maintain it and keep it as healthy as possible because if we don’t, we will die, and death is not sexy!

Mandatory Homework

Ok, so I can’t MAKE you do it, but I will strongly urge you to call and make an appointment with your doctor. If you don’t have a doctor, find one. If you already have an appointment, great! Make sure you keep it! There are so many diseases out there that are silent, meaning there are no symptoms. Regular checkups that include lab work will help either detect those conditions or avoid them. Please, do it for yourself and the ones you love, and who love you.

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