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Is Self-Care Selfish?

Some people are hesitant to embrace the idea of self-care because they feel it puts too much focus on them. “Self” is in the name after all.

I was raised to value the needs and wants of others above my own, and while I’ve gradually learned to be more assertive about what I need and want, it still gives me a guilty twinge sometimes. Isn’t it selfish to think about myself when there are others who may need my attention?

We also live in a work-heavy culture, where rest and relaxation beyond a certain point are considered laziness. I know several people who also feel like this, especially those who take care of others for most of their day. Those people tend to be constantly “on,” attuned to other people’s needs and willing to meet them. As a result, the people who need rest the most feel guilty for taking it.

But it’s not selfish to take rest and care for your own needs. In fact, it’s a necessity for continuing to pour energy and care into others. To dispel this stigma, let’s first look at the differences between selfishness and self-care.

Selfishness vs Self-Care

Selfishness: “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others” (Merriam-Webster).

The essential principle of selfishness here is not regard for one’s self, but disregard for others. Self-care, on the other hand, is protecting your own health and well-being, not because you don’t care about others but because you do.

Self-care says “what I need and want matters.” Selfishness says “what I need and want is the only thing that matters.”

Self-care says “I’m taking rest for myself so I can love others better.” Selfishness says “I don’t care about others unless it’s convenient for me.”

Self-care says “my well-being is just as important as that of others.” Selfishness says “my well-being is more important than that of others.”

The Need for Self-Care

As humans with physical bodies, we need to take care of ourselves in order to function. It’s not indulgence, it’s maintenance. Think of your car: it needs fuel and regular maintenance and repair in order to run. Humans are the same. Without the proper management, we won’t be able to effectively do anything, including care for others.

A Beautiful Pause has come up with a Pause Path that prioritizes not only self-care, but also the ultimate purpose of self-care. Let’s quickly review the Pause Path:

  1. Relax. (let go…)

  2. Refresh. (drink deeply…)

  3. Renew. (give back…)

In the first step, we set aside worries, stress, and anything that is preventing us from finding peace.

Next, we take time for something that restores our bodies and spirits.

In the last step, we look outside ourselves, having renewed the energy we need to love and care for those around us.

Rest allows us to give back of our best selves, not a physically and mentally exhausted version of ourselves.

Self-care encompasses many areas of life including

  • A healthy body

  • A healthy mind and spirit

  • Healthy relationships with appropriate boundaries

We hope the tools and support at A Beautiful Pause help you work toward these goals and assure you that taking rest for yourself is not selfish. Rather, it renews your ability to give to others of your physical and mental strength.

For the good of all, Pause this week and Relax. Refresh. Renew.


Hannah Rau is a Michigan-based writer and writing tutor. Her favorite self-care activities include reading classic literature, burning lovely-smelling candles, creating watercolor paintings with instant coffee, and taking rambling strolls outdoors.

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