Self- care is different from being Selfish
If you ignore your finances, exercise or happiness because you think you’ll then get selfish, then you are just foolish. The airplane announcements beseech and infinitum that in case of emergency, mothers need to first put on the oxygen mask on themselves before they take care of their baby. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will? If the mother desperately tries to protect her child first, she’d likely become a martyr. Is it reasonable to expect the child, now safe with the oxygen mask, to put it on the mother who is gasping for breath? As the mother struggles for her life, she might begrudgingly sigh at her child’s indifference to her helpless condition. But the poor child knows no better, and it’s the mother’s responsibility to do the needful. The busy Anup’s of this world need to pause and ask if they are okay to die unsung martyrs and if the answer is no, they need to care for themselves. If they want to exhaust themselves like a candle that melts away even as it brings light to the room, then they better learn not to complain. After all, nothing comes free; know the price you are paying for your decisions and be happy about it.
If you desperately try to save others from drowning but haven’t learned swimming as yet, then forget saving the world. You can aspire to contribute and give back to your family, community or the Nation but you can only give what you have, not what you don’t possess. To provide care and empathy, you also need to receive care.
To actively protect one’s well-being and happiness, especially during periods of stress, is a sign of maturity, not selfishness. It’s when we are inconsiderate to others’ needs and can’t think beyond ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ we are selfish. Otherwise to care for self is not only natural, but it’s also an absolute necessity. Anup believed his happiness lay in his family’s well-being, but the fact he is miserable proves his theory wrong. The converse theory holds true for the likes of Anup: your family’s happiness lies in your well-being!
Anup needs to be kinder to himself. If his care doesn’t include himself, that service is incomplete. The words of Christopher Germer, a clinical psychologist, meditation practitioner, and author echoes in my heart, “Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”