I have heard this debate frequently during various stages of my career. The numerous expressions of internally feeling “selfish” for taking time to care for oneself. Another layer of this situation is having another family member make a comment suggesting the commitment and time invested on exploring, preserving, enhancing one’s emotional well-being is a selfish act. The weight of this form of negative self-talk and/or verbal messaging of this nature is a heavy. It is no surprise why some individuals deny themselves of emotional health support.

Both within my Nursing profession and within the integrated philosophy behind the eight-limbed path which forms the structural framework for my yoga practice, self-responsibility and awareness is very much a common thread. Having this background it has naturally been an important aspect of my approach when serving others. The ideas of loving and caring for ourselves, while have the intention of not doing harm to others, is anything but selfish. It is exhausting to always feel you need to put others needs’ first and/or feel the need to sacrifice your own emotional well-being in order to avoid being judged.

Now, let’s breakdown the word selfish for a quick moment. Bring to mind the action you are debating as being selfish or not, then ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you expecting others to give themselves up for you on a consistent basis to meet your needs?
  • Do you find yourself placing the responsibility for taking care of your feelings of pain and joy on others?
  • Are you consistently making your own feelings, wants, needs and desires important without also considering feelings, wants, needs and desires of others?
  • Do you believe you are entitled to special treatment, such as not having to feel negative emotions?

So how did you feel answering these questions? And for one last round ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you find that you have the inspiration and courage to speak your truth about what you will or will not accept.
  • Do you share how you feel or remain silent to avoid criticism, anger or rejection?
  • Can you be your best friend and take your own good advice?
  • Do you have the courage to take loving action on your own behalf, even if someone gets angry with you? For example, you want to go to bed early because you plan on trying to wake up early to mediate before the rest of the family wakes up, if your partner gets angry at you for not watching a movie with him or her will you stick to your plan?

Now, did answering those questions leave you feeling differently? I recall a woman I was offering my services to and she repeatedly voiced feeling guilty for making time for her sessions. We explored her deep-rooted desire to attempt to control how people viewed her. From here we were able to shift the focus on the importance of her not only understanding, but living her life in a responsible and compassionate way. She not only understood this shift intellectually, but also physically and emotionally. Her relationships started to positively change, especially the relationship with herself.

I invite you to be honest with yourself and determine if you are being responsible, compassionate and honest towards your emotional needs. If you are stuck feeling that you are selfish for making time for your emotional health let’s challenge that thought together.

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