Selflessness, selfishness, and self-care are three concepts whose meaning people often confuse. Each one is an independent idea and can occur solely without the influence of another. What does this mean? Well, a person can practice self-care without being selfish. Similarly, one can be selfless and neglect self-care.

People primarily interpret self-care as a form of selfishness, but self-care is a discipline. It requires deep mindfulness and an understanding of personal priorities. Consider this scenario: You have an emergency to attend to, and your friend who loves fast driving offers you a ride. In the past, you have been warning him about fast and dangerous driving. He has a pile of tickets and has appeared in court for them. In this case, you can decline the offer,  considering the risks associated with fast driving. Because you are needed to attend to the emergency, if you accept your friend’s offer of a ride, you consider it to be a selfish act, because his reckless driving could result in becoming involved in an accident or being pulled over, causing you to be unable to respond to the emergency.  You should decline the offer and find take another alternative. In this case, you will be taking care of yourself and the emergency without exposing yourself to the risks associated with fast driving.

Selflessness entails caring for other people and putting their needs before your own. It requires you to be willing to sacrifice for other people’s welfare. This virtue, prioritizing others over yourself, is rather uncommon. Selfishness, on the other hand, is focusing on your needs only and at the expense of other people’s welfare. Selfish people are self-centred and absorbed. They are willing to do anything to protect their own interests.

Self-care involves minding your needs and wants without compromising other people’s welfare. People often avoid self-care because of the misconceptions surrounding it, to the detriment of their physical and mental welfare.

8 Tips For Practicing Self-Care

1. Change Your Attitude

Self-care requires attending to your well-being and doing all you can to secure it. This will only happen if you have the right attitude. Many people who have suffered pain due to negligence believe that they didn’t deserve care. Develop a mindset that values your wellness. Self-care is not a one-time activity that you do and then forget. It is a lifestyle and a discipline that you must adapt to. Changing your attitude will involve achieving a high level of self-esteem, which plays a role in valuing yourself. High self-esteem will also bring a greater degree of self-worth and encourage self-care.

2. The Relationship Between Self-Care and Selflessness

“You can’t give what you don’t have!” This phrase refers to people who believe self-care suggests selfishness. People who do not practice self-care may have numerous issues such as mental illnesses, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and stress, and run low on energy. Self-care is not a choice but an essential practice that every human being must embrace. Self-care is a method of rejuvenating and preparing yourself to be there for other people. It must be woven into your work culture.

When you treat yourself to nice and healthy routines, you are refilling your energy, love, and any other virtue you need to foster selflessness. You need to learn how to care for others by using yourself. You teach yourself how to love, share, and give your best by offering these things to yourself. After learning these essential lessons, caring for others becomes easier and even effortless.

3. Positive Relationships

John Donne wrote that “no man is an island.” We are surrounded by people who have a significant effect on our lives, especially those that we relate with either positively or negatively. Ensure that these relationships are healthy and positive. Such interactions create positive energy, which develops your resilience to life stressors, encourages a sense of community, and increases your immunity. Create ample time to interact with supportive people such as your friends, family members, or other people in the community. Psycho-social support is important for everyone, especially when you are going through a difficult situation.  

Your relation with others is part of self-care. Distance yourself from people who exert negative energy. Learn to say “no” to things that will affect your happiness and emotions in a negative manner. For instance, some people will make you feel guilty because you are treating and caring for yourself. Others are intent on intimidating or humiliating you. These kinds of malicious actions are destructive. They will affect your self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. Just block the negative energy.  

4. Adopt Healthy Practices

Self-care has both mental and physical aspects. Eat healthy diets and avoid skipping meals. Exercise regularly, particularly if you have a passive job or sit down for extended periods of time. Sleep is a basic need, and you need sufficient hours even when you are not tired. Create time to meditate in a quiet place. Get a pet or read a book. You can try a new activity like walking, jogging, or baking. It should be something that makes you feel positive about yourself.

Time for yourself enables you to plan, reflect, and review significant things in your life. For introverted people, quiet time alone is important because that is how they rejuvenate and recharge their internal strength and stamina. The saying that “health is wealth” is never more evident than when you are sick or unable to do something because of poor health. Good health gives you the ability to go about your normal activities.

5. Understand the Benefits of Self-Care

People take self-care for granted because they do not understand its benefits. Filling other people’s cups requires your own to get a refill. Self-care improves your mind and body, re-energizing you and giving you strength to serve others and express selflessness. Neglecting yourself is, in a way, being selfish—you are being unfair to your well-being. How can you love others when you do not know how to love yourself? You should love yourself before you love others.

Neglecting yourself causes negative emotions, attitudes, energy, misery, and desperation, among other problems. People who perceive self-care as selfishness are risking these negativities. If you develop them, it means you will also transmit or express them to people around you. Lacking the revival of self-care does not benefit anyone. It harms others when you transfer that negative energy to them. Selflessness begins through self-care; you can then develop the stamina and strength to care for others.

6. Accept Who You Are

The first step of self-care is to know who you are and appreciate it. There are constant characteristics that are unchangeable, and they could be abilities or limitations. No matter what it is, be comfortable with yourself and optimistic. Have a plan that will help you accept yourself. This step is essential because some people want to emulate others. Such a thing can be detrimental even when it is supposed to help you.

Accepting who you are also means that you will handle yourself differently from others. External influence without control will pressure you unnecessarily and render your self-care plan meaningless. For instance, if your friends are working out twice every day for one hour, but you are only capable of doing it once for about 30 minutes daily, don’t feel inadequate because you are different.

“Becoming acquainted with yourself is a price well worth paying for the love that will really address your needs.” — Daphne Rose Kingma

7. Create Boundaries With Your Surroundings

Your self-care is not just about physical and mental wellness. It also entails protection and taking proactive measures that do not compromise your wellness. The physical environment is also a critical determining factor for your wellness. Live in a place that will give you peace and promote your health. For instance, you may choose to live in the suburbs where you can do gardening and other hobbies suitable for such areas. It is also a good place for people who are averse to city life.

8. Involve a Professional

Do you feel lost and have numerous unresolved issues? You might want to consider working on them with a professional. Psychotherapists are able to diagnose and treat any conditions that are affecting you. The best part is that you receive help without bias and judgment. A therapist is an individual who will listen and understand you well when you believe cannot. These professionals offer programs that instill self-care. They guide you through the best ways to take care of yourself.

Self-care is critical for your survival. The body and mind are interconnected and require each other to make you fully functional in life. When one element fails, it affects the other. Some mental conditions or illnesses have physical symptoms, yet they are not physical ailments. You are essential and cannot live a satisfactory life without self-care. Put yourself first to ensure you have something to give to other people. You no longer need to view self-care as an unnecessary or selfish act. Share the experience with others and allow them to witness the essence of self-care.

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  • Marguerita Cheng

    Author, Speaker & Advocate at Blue Ocean Global Wealth

    Marguerita M. Cheng is the Chief Executive Officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. Marguerita is a member of the CNBC FA Council and a contributor for Investopedia & Kiplinger. She is a CFP® professional, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor®, a Retirement Income Certified Professional® and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®. As a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) Ambassador, Marguerita helps educate the public, policymakers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning. She serves as a Women’s Initiative (WIN) Advocate and Diversity Advisory Group (DAG) for CFP Board. She served on the Financial Planning Association (FPA) National Board of Directors from 2013 – 2015 and is a past president of the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area (FPA NCA) In 2017, she was named the #3 Most Influential Financial Advisor in the Investopedia Top 100 and a Woman to Watch by InvestmentNews. Marguerita’s mantra is “So many people spend their health to gain wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health” (A.J. Reb Materi).