When is it that self care becomes selfish?   And what is ok?

As you might expect, Webster 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.”

Then look at Webster’s definition of self care: “care of the self without Medical or other professional consultation.” That definition doesn’t match at all what I was thinking!

So I checked Wikipedia, and here is that definition: Self care is personal health maintenance. It is any activity of an individual, family or community, with the intention of improving or restoring health, or treating or preventing disease.” This definition aligns much more clearly with the Big Fish concept of self care, especially around “improving or restoring health.”


Because self care and selfish both include a focus on your own self, it is easy to get the two confused in our minds, and for us to judge any self-centric  behavior as negative or wrong.   I challenge all of us (myself included!!) to work at suspending judgment here and giving our friends, colleagues, and ourselves space for self-care.

So what makes self care different from selfish behavior?

I have been thinking about this a lot recently, and I think the differences are about INTENTION and COMMUNICATION.

Genuine self care might mean that you stand firm in saying “no” to requests that ask you to give more energy than you have, or to do something that goes against your values, or to take too much time away from your own rejuvination activities.   The INTENTION there is to be gentle with yourself, then honest with those around you by COMMUNICATING your reasons openly and compassionately.

Self care is meeting your own needs while still considering the impact on those around you. It does not mean you need to do what everyone else wants or try to make everyone else happy — that’s not possible anyway!  — but it does mean acknowledging that your choices have a ripple effect to those connected to you.

Last week Jen Louden (@jenlouden) tweeted a quote about self care that I just love:

“Self-care is staying on your own side, proceeding at the pace of your heart, honoring what’s true for you.”

Although staying on your own side can seem selfish, it is so important to your own health, the health of your business, and the health of all of your relationships. You will sometimes get pushback from those around you when you need time alone, or when you need to say “no” to something you usually would take on, but if you respond out of compassion, you will show that you’re honoring relationship with that person also.

Since our business challenge this month is Revisit Your Goals, make sure to review your self care goals and revise them as necessary!

I would love to hear your hear your thoughts and experiences around this topic:

  • Do you make time/space for your own self care?
  • How do others respond to that?
  • What are your suggestions for self care activities?

Post a comment below so we can all learn from each other!