Debunking the Myth – Self-Care is Selfish- Myths and Misconceptions About Self-Care Part 1

Myths and Misconceptions About Self-Care

Do We Need Self-Care?

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about self-care. I have believed, wrestled with, and reframed many which I will talk about in this series. Maybe you have read/heard some of the myths and misconceptions and you are mentally wrestling with them yourself. I’m going to tackle one myth today. Won’t you join me?

Before we begin, let me ask you a question -Do you think self-care is selfish? Do you think self-care contradicts servanthood, Christianity, or just being a good Mom or person in general?

One teeny assignment -before I get into the meat of “The Myths and Misconceptions About Self-Care” -I’d like you to do a little exercise with me. All you need is a pen and paper or your notes app on your phone.

The Exercise

Ready? List everything you have done in the past week. You can read my list below to start the gears in your brain. Feel free to be more detailed than I was. I didn’t include every pilates workout, when I prepared food, cleaned, did laundry (you get the point). The more detailed your list is, the better for you. It’s a great way to see all you do, especially if you are raising kiddos with a trauma history or who have a capital letter syndrome (ADD, ADHD, SPD, ODD, FAS, FAE, on the Spectrum, etc…)

I’ve had a busy week, including :

  • A trip to IKEA two hours away
  • A leaf-peeping hour drive up to Thomas to grab coffee at the Tip Top Coffee, and a hike
  • Kayaking with a friend
  • A mammogram (can anyone say streessssfullll?)
  • Helping my hubby clear baneberry bushes and roots out of our yard
  • Not to mention my regular job of – revising, editing, and writing. 

Just typing this list makes me want more coffee.

Are You Tired? Worn Out?

Are you tired? Worn out? Does listing your reveal some clues about your exhaustion? Do you want a nap now? I get it. We work hard. We fill our schedules to the brim. We do all the things and many of them are GOOD things, celebrations, outings, and feeding our families. BUT WE ARE EXHAUSTED AND WE FEEL GUILTY FOR BEING WORN OUT AND BURNED OUT. After all – isn’t this what we asked for? A home. A family. Children. We adopted/fostered because we love these kiddos. But it’s the hardest work we’ve ever done and some days we just want to say, “Stop the world, I want to get off.” And that’s okay. Say it. And then read what Jesus has to say:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Self-Care Is Not Selfish

Let’s look at the definition of self-care

self-care

/ˌselfˈker/

noun

  1. the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.
    “autonomy in self-care and insulin administration”
    • the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
      “expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care”

Imagine your child coming to you and saying he is hungry, tired, or angry. Or if you are raising a kiddo with a trauma history or capital letter syndrome, you’re watching for signals or have a timer set for snacks, water, and rest. When the child comes to you or your timer goes off, you tell the child. “You don’t need to eat healthy foods or stop and rest or acknowledge and sort out your feelings. That’s selfish. We don’t do that.” Sounds downright wrong, doesn’t it? 

When I Believed the Myth: Self-Care Is Selfish

I rushed around the table making sure all my kiddos had dinner and were eating it before we rushed out the door to the church. Like a jack-in-the-box, as soon as my butt hit the chair, I popped up again and met another need. And I barely took a bite.

Here’s the thing, I thought I was being a good mom, setting my need to eat aside so I could hover around my kids (that’s another post for another time) and make sure they ate food. Then I loaded everyone in the car to go to Wednesday night service so I could teach lady’s Bible study and my kiddos could go to class. I got home hours later, empty, depleted, and feeling as if I had done the holy and right thing.

And that’s what I have done to myself for YEARS. How about you? Do you deny your own needs? Do you think self-care is selfish? Do you not take the time to care for your own body? Do you stuff a few bites in your mouth while making sure you feed the rest of the family? Do you neglect yourself and call it self-sacrifice? Raising my hand here. Read the verse again and look at the phrase “Burned Out on Religion.” Hover there for a moment.

Self- Sufficiency is Not Holiness

I used to think being self-sufficient meant being holy. Self-sacrifice meant offering every bit of my energy and then some to the task at hand or life in general. And then I physically couldn’t do anything anymore. I don’t want you to go there. Jesus promises rest. He promises to teach us the “unforced rhythms of grace.” His burden is light. It’s not harsh, hard, or pressing. Self-care is recovering your life. Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is simple practices such as:

  • Eating healthy foods
  • Resting
  • Hydrating
  • Acknowledging, and sorting out your feelings

*I’ll go more into detail pertaining to these practices in later posts.

Basically, what you do for your kids is what you need to do for yourself. We can serve others if we running on empty. In fact, when we are running on empty, we are more tempted to sink into bitterness, anger, depression, and an overall gloomy outlook (more on that in another post). When we are rested, we can approach life with a more positive and energetic outlook.

Summing It Up And A Prayer

Take one last look at the list you made. While you are adding up the activities, ask yourself, did I feed myself nutritious food, hydrate, rest well, and add some joy into and in between the work? Did I believe the myth – Self-Care is selfish? Are you tired and worn out and rethinking the limiting belief? I’d like to pray with you before you go.

Dear Jesus, show me how to take a real rest and walk in the unforced rhythms of grace. Thank you that you won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on me. Help me not to wallow in guilt, shame, or the habit of self-sufficiency or the kind of self-sacrifice that doesn’t serve you or anyone. Help me to take a deep breath right now and walk away lighter, fresher, and full of grace.

*Join me next time when I tackle a Misconception – Self-care is doing whatever you FEEL like doing.

Thoughts on Unselfishness

 

I was messaging a wise mentor the other day and she told me to read Titus 2, “don’t just read it,” she said, “read it word for word.” In other words, study it. I know that chapter, I thought. I really know it. Pride. So, I set my pride aside and I have been studying it. I copied some of it last week and the more I read it, the more I am challenged.

“3 Bid the older women similarly to be reverent and devout in their deportment as becomes those engaged in sacred service, not slanderers or slaves to drink. They are to give good counsel and be teachers of what is right and noble,

So that they will wisely train the young women to be [a]sane and sober of mind (temperate, disciplined) and to love their husbands and their children,

To be self-controlled, chaste, homemakers, good-natured (kindhearted), adapting and subordinating themselves to their husbands, that the word of God may not be exposed to reproach (blasphemed or discredited).” – Titus 2:3-5

To modern culture, these words seem outdated. Words like: reverent, devout, sacred, sane, sober, self-contolled, chaste, good-natured, adapting, subordinating, seem like something out of an ancient book. They are. An ancient book with words as powerful as they were  when they were first penned.

Hubby Jerry and I were in a conversation about modern humanism and how it values the lives of animals above those of the unborn. A turtle egg is protected, yet an unborn human has no guarantee of not being ripped from the womb. The truth is humanism cannot protect anyone from consequences, no matter the belief.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.- Newton’s third law

This is a scientific law. It cannot not be ignored, bargained with or denied. What does this have to do with a bunch of supposedly outdated ideas from the Bible? If you are practicing the opposite of all of these words, the reactions will not be null and void. Loss of control will give a chaotic reaction. Being bad natured will cause everyone to not want to be around you. If you don’t adapt to your surroundings, you die. Adaptation equals survival. If one acts insanely, he will not have sane results.

I know of a woman who was a devout church goer and schooled in theology. She married and had children and heartily believed that divorce was wrong. It was a rule she was determined to keep. Yet, when it came to his family, she  often acted (in the early days of marriage) with little self control and selfishly thought the marriage would be held together by her belief that divorce was wrong, not by kindness, behaving prudently, and sound in the faith, in the love, and in the steadfastness and patience [of Christ].

It’s a hard thing, this dividing thoughts and motives. We seem to be fine at dividing them for other’s, not so much for ourselves. The women in the story is me. I am often selfish and I expect an unequal reaction, that is I wish my family to love me, to be kind despite my unkindness. I have so much on my plate, they should understand, right? No.  Love is not based on work load.My responsibility is not lessened because I want it to be. Responsibilities are not based on our moods. What we should be sowing is not based on the weather. I need grace, that unmerited favor, that power to overcome my weakness and help in my time of need.

Unselfishness requires me to measure time and determine what sort of workload I should take upon myself. Is it unselfish to take on more than I can  bear and blame my crankiness on my family? Is it selfish to say “no” when I know if I skip the event I will be kinder, sweeter to my family? No.Unselfishness is not giving oneself with no regard to the consequences (reaction). That is actually selfishness. That is idolatry. Setting your plan above health and sanity is selfish and cowardly. Men balance us, women. When I ask my hubby if I should lead another group, join another organization, travel to another _____, he often says, “no”. Not because he doesn’t want me to live out my dreams. He just understand the nightmare after I overextend myself with the agenda of helping others.

A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others.“- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

keepers at home

Let’s re-evaluate our definition of unselfishness for the good of our families, ladies.We can adapt to our husbands by not taking on more than we can handle physically and emotionally. We can be keepers at home by unselfishly not saying ‘yes’ to every outing, but by a healthy ‘no’ when needed. We don’t have to teach every class, join every bookclub, go on every field trip, speak every time we are asked, serve every time we are wanted. If our motives are awry, then our opposite and equal reaction will be frustration, not joy. Joy and unselfishness do not coexist.

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday. Join us!

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