Self-care: Finding the middle ground between selfishness and selflessness

The middle ground between selfishness and selflessness is self-care:  recognizing and responding to your needs and the needs of others.

Have you ever considered the impact our language has on us? Self-confidence is a virtue and self-absorption is a weakness. If we consider ourselves to be someone who cares for others, that is a common value appreciated by most people.  We believe it is important to care for family and friends, and the act of caring is a sign of love.  When a person acts in line with this value, they have a sense of meaning and fulfillment in their lives. 

Conversely, some of the same caring people are not able to turn that caring inward.  They reject the idea of self-care, perhaps considering it to be “selfish.” Modern society is very much goal-oriented and focused on achieving and obtaining for the future, often at the expense of our own self-care.   

There is a continuum between selflessness and selfishness, but many people seem to be trapped into one extreme or the other: either focusing too much on the needs of others (being selfless) or ignoring the needs of others (being selfish).  Most people will readily state that they feel it is important to care for family or friends, or the vulnerable.  But they are unable to give themselves the kindness they so readily give to others.  They may feel they are being selfish, or they may feel undeserving.   They have trouble seeing that there is a healthy middle, a sweet spot. They end up giving too much of themselves and often have negative self-talk– thoughts like “I’m not a good parent/friend/wife or ‘I don’t measure up…”  It is challenging for them to say ‘no’ to people and they can be taken advantage of and used by other people.  Eventually, they get worn out, resentful and may begin to pull away.

Finding that sweet spot is important to our mental health.  The middle ground between selfishness and selflessness is self-care:  recognizing and responding to your needs and the needs of others.  Despite what marketing executives and influencers say, self-care is not about buying luxury products and indulging in chocolate and wine.  That may feel good, but it is only fleeting.  Self-care is really about a mindset of personal growth and change. 

Learning to be kind, accepting and compassionate towards yourself is a prerequisite for happiness.  Self-hatred will keep you stuck and sabotage your healing and growth.  Self-care is about making a commitment to finding your sweet spot and beginning to consistently shift to the middle ground, and of finding balance in your life. 

People begin to flourish when they begin to embrace self-care consistently.  It can have a profound impact on them and those they love.  Relationships can become richer and more fulfilling.  Parents can be a role model for their children.  By caring for ourselves, we become more aware, not just of ourselves but also our relationship to the outside world.  We grow and develop more fully.

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