From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Is Taking Care of You Selfish
In this very complex world, we are often faced with dilemmas of self-preservation. We
find ourselves stretched beyond our limits, and faced with too many obligations and
demands. When we reach the "end of our rope", "run out of gas", or
become mentally and physically exhausted, this is often a time when our bodies begin to
revolt and display symptoms of stress. In the effort to practice preventive healthcare, we
must come to terms with taking care of ourselves.
- The myths and origins of self-denial. Some people have been raised with
values that place them in awkward situations. On one hand, we are encouraged to high
self-esteem, but on the other hand, if we think too highly of ourselves, we may become
"conceited". We are supposed to be assertive, but we are also supposed to turn
the other cheek, be polite and give other people their way. Confusing messages like these
are intended to give us socialization skills as children, but as adults, we often carry
them to extremes.
- The cost of People-pleasing. People often become people-pleasers in
order to gain the approval of others. Many of us fear expressing unpopular opinions, or
even standing up for ourselves. When we deny our own opinions, we reduce the risk of
disapproval, but may become very angry and disappointed. When we dedicate ourselves to
"taking care of others", we expect that others will appreciate us. If they
don't, our resentment and disappointment grows and may poison those relationships.
- Compromise vs. Self-compromise. It is not selfish to take care of
ourselves and meet our own needs. When we take care of ourselves, we are acknowledging
that we have needs, limits and boundaries. These may include such things as time to be
alone, time to rest, not allowing ourselves to be physically or mentally abused, and
deciding what is right for us at any given moment.
When the needs of our family group are most pressing, we certainly need to compromise.
But when our own needs are critical to our health and safety, it is important not to
- Listen to your inner voice. If you find yourself in a state of chronic
self-compromise, listen to your body and your mind. Be fair to yourself. Only you can give
yourself self-respect. Only you can feed yourself, breathe for yourself, protect yourself
from disease or ethical violations.
We all have an inner voice of wisdom that speaks to us through various symptoms.
Headaches, colds, backaches, ulcers, and a host of other physical symptoms appear when we
fail to take care of ourselves. Recognize that symptoms may be messages to you about your
personal survival. Respect your need to rest and to avoid toxic situations.
- We function best when our own needs are met. Sharing and caring for
others are great and important virtues, and these practices must also extend to yourself!
It is not selfish to take care of yourself... it is fair and it is critically important to
your health and endurance. Like a car that is well lubricated, we function best when our
own needs are met.
When flying on airplanes, I love the instructions that are given concerning oxygen
masks. If cabin pressure is lost, people are instructed to first adjust their own oxygen
mask, then help their children or those around them. It is logical that without sufficient
oxygen, you would quickly fail to be in a position to help others. Yet, there are those of
us who would still feel guilty for adjusting our own oxygen mask first.
ęCopyright, 1994, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated November 14, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,