Me, myself and I: The difference between self-care and selfishness

My awareness of selfishness and self-care has always been in a space of ongoing tension. Growing up in my family, there was an emphasis on the practice of selflessness, that one should always think of others before oneself. As I began to mature, I became aware that there was more to selfishness and self-giving than my cautious suspicions. I started to think whether primarily looking after one’s own needs was truly selfish or was perhaps something else.

For myself, I regard selfishness as putting personal desires above all else, even if it affects others negatively. I believe selfishness denies the opportunity of giving of oneself for the benefit of others, which can be to the detriment of a selfish person, for, as stated by St Francis, “It is in giving that we receive…”.

On the contrary, self-care is in the name: caring for oneself. Self-care is part of a balanced life, and if ordered selflessly, is about giving oneself a chance to take time out of daily life to reset, recharge and renew our thoughts, so we can then apply ourselves to be more helpful in our homelife, workplace and communities. Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to indulge in bubble baths and expensive dinners (although once in a while, these can be fun!), but rather performing somewhat difficult actions such as an early morning workout, cleaning the house or not indulging in the extra bit of chocolate! It might also mean to simply find some time for prayer, reflection, or a walk.

For example, during a conversation with an attendee on a recent ACU staff retreat, they mentioned that they viewed this time as an important opportunity to rest and reflect on life and go back to work and home life revitalised. This was a good example of when self-care can be aimed toward a pattern for good. In Mark 6:30-35, there is a lovely example of how Jesus encourages a balanced life. When the apostles were tired due to teaching, Jesus said they should get away somewhere quiet, to rest and eat.

Self-care is a fundamental part of a wholesome balanced life. Each person needs to make time for themselves so that they are not giving on an empty tank. Giving of ourselves, when we have nothing left to give, is not sustainable. I invite anyone who reads this to put aside some time for some self-care so that we can love a little better than before. Ultimately, without being in physical, mental and spiritually fit condition, we give ourselves less chance of carrying out our vocation to the best of our abilities.

BIO: Hannah has been in her Campus Ministry role for 3 years. She loves building relationships at ACU. She is newly married and is attempting to become an avid gardener but is in desperate need of some green thumbs! She has a passion for beauty and design and loves to go camping, read novels and is looking forward to more travel when possible.

 

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