The road to self-care is seemingly paved with selfish acts
As humans, we experience a lot of confusion regarding what is right and what is wrong, what should be and what shouldn’t be, what we gain and what we lose whenever we choose one thing above another. As much as we try to control it, this confusion is natural, as one cannot know the future or everything there is to know about the world we live in and the people we live among. There will be surprises, there will be joy, boredom, flukes and pain as less-than-ideal decisions are made that challenge us and consume our energy.
Life packs a wonderful range of experiences. The way we receive them can be majorly influenced by what we create as ourselves and for ourselves.
We are not set in stone.
Each and every one of us has the ability of extreme flexibility and openness to learn and grow, even as we are crippled by our fears and resistances. Even when a situation seems to be beyond our control to change, that is merely an illusion that proved to be useful in order for us to survive. Yes, you cannot change the reality of a global pandemic, but you can choose how to respond to it emotionally and practically.
And we do! Some of us fuel our pre-existing levels of hypochondria and anxiety and decide the end is near, while others choose to take this time for themselves and discover what else is there to explore. There’s no right or wrong choice, but the choice we need to make and that feels good in a particular moment. And it is always possible to make a choice.
We can choose to take care of ourselves.
Believe it or not, this is also a choice. It should seem like a natural and mindless thing to do, but as times grow increasingly complex and extraordinarily dynamic, there is less and less time even for our basic needs. Therefore, we find ourselves in a situation where we need to schedule eating or sleeping. We have apps that remind us to drink water or to get off the chair/couch and move our bodies. Paradoxically, our basic needs have become secondary.
‘There’s simply too much to do, I don’t have time to eat lunch.’
Most of us have said that at least once in their lifetime. Sometimes it even comes with a sense of pride, of achievement. We have a strong need to fit in, to adapt to how the world is and to its schedule. As a result, our neglect of our basic needs in order to respond to the world’s needs is becoming a virtue.
‘Angela has been working non-stop for four months now to get that promotion, despite being a single mother of two. What an inspiration.’
It’s not uncommon to hear such opinions expressed out loud. It’s very rare to receive praise for taking three days off only to sleep and eat three meals a day. It sounds unproductive, lazy and even selfish. But how did resting become selfish?
We need energy to produce energy.
We are live, perishable beings. Until we discover the secret to immortality or perpetual self-rejuvenation, we need to learn to take care of the ‘me.’ There’s no other. The issue with living in a world focused on production is that we learn how to do and less how to be. We can therefore end up identifying ourselves with our activities - mostly the productive ones. But if we lose these activities, we may as well lose ourselves.
A way to keep that from happening is to focus on maintaining ourselves. Our body needs energy to carry on. Taking a nap in the middle of the day is not selfish; it supports our capacity to keep going. It’s not detrimental to anybody, but beneficial.
Yet our minds are set on how people would react. Setting healthy boundaries and telling your life partner you need to take a day for yourself, away from them, is not selfish or cruel. Our partners cannot fulfill all of our needs. It’s our responsibility to identify and attend to those needs, but we often assume that we will necessarily hurt our partners by doing so.
We are allowed to just be. Who am I if I stop being productive? That, too, is a choice. We are many things and we can choose to be all of them or none of them. We are more than just the result of our work, than the feedback we receive, than the fears that freeze us, or the voices in our heads that criticise us. Maybe one day we will learn to contain more of what we are. But today, let’s just start listening to our needs and choose to be, no matter how lazy, unproductive, uncharacteristic or selfish it may seem to the outside world that we conjure in our heads.
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