Is it selfish to take time for yourself?
We all have someone in our lives who we feel deserves our utmost attention. Someone we put before all others, including ourselves. Be it child, spouse, parent, friend, significant other, we somehow think that their needs come first and if we take time for ourselves, that makes us selfish. Taking time for “me” may be last on our priority lists. Why?
The dictionary defines selfish as: “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others”. So is it really selfish to take time for ourselves? If we take time to write, to exercise, to take a walk, to pamper ourselves for a little while, is that truly being selfish? I don’t believe it is. I think the key here is “without regard to others”. If we take time for ourselves are we acting “without regard for others”? When did sitting down to read a book or taking a walk become acting “without regard for others”? Are we being neglectful when we care of our needs along with everyone else’s?
I believe it is not only healthy, but imperative to make time to do something for ourselves. If we are always giving, giving, giving, and never taking any time to recharge, we are going to burn out. We are going to lose the juice in our batteries and become resentful of the people we are trying so hard to be there for. How does that serve our purpose? When we become resentful, yet still give, give, give the resentment grows and can ruin the relationship. It can weigh on us so heavily that we give up completely. We lose ourselves in the process of trying to be everything to someone else and find that we are no one to ourselves.
It is so important to do something for ourselves, whether it is take a bubble bath, exercise, write, read, walk, listen to music or whatever it is that we enjoy. Solitary time gives us time to rest, relax, rejuvenate and, most importantly, think. How can we be our best selves if we don’t tune in and listen to ourselves once in a while? If we don’t cultivate our own interests and pursue our own passions, we are not truly being who we are. How can we be there for others if we can’t be there for ourselves? Doing things for ourselves makes us happier, healthier people; it makes us more patient with those who need us and puts us in a better mood for interactions with others. No one likes to be around someone who is constantly unhappy, who acts like a martyr.
Perhaps it is all about a sense of balance. We can’t stay on one end of the spectrum all the time. We should not focus only on our own needs, but we should not neglect them, either. It makes life lopsided, unbalanced, uneven and unhappy (notice I did not say unfair, here. I am not saying that life has to be fair, just balanced). Taking care of others and taking care of ourselves must balance out for emotional stability. When talking about balance, the subject of multi-tasking needs to be addressed. Are we actually doing something for ourselves if we are doing something for someone else at the same time? Can we rejuvenate if we are not concentrating on our passions, our needs, our wants for some small period of time? Multi-tasking has its purpose and its place. We can multi-task when we walk and listen to a book on tape, or when we read a book in order to learn more about our craft, or when we exercise with a friend in order to get some social time in. If we concentrate on doing what we need, when we need it, it becomes much easier to do for others and not become resentful in the process. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a very nice way to go through life, but don’t forget to “Do unto you, as you would do unto others” as well.