Self-care Guilt

By Phillip 

I often hear from friends and clients how they would feel guilty when they engage in self-care practices. Why would someone feel guilty to take some time to take care of themselves? The guilt appears to be stemming from the belief that if they take time for themselves they are being selfish. The thought then, is that they should be helping someone instead of caring for themselves.  Yet, care-taking roles are oftentimes one of the more stressful roles to be in. So would it not make more sense that they would take more time to care for them-self to ensure they can provide care for others?

It is also interesting how—in a related concept— in our society, we expect everyone to be “productive, contributing citizens”. Organizations push their staff to work hard and to “do more with less”. Yet, we are not machines. Similar to a car, without fuel it would not function. We need to take care of ourselves in order to be productive, contributing members. We need to nourish our bodies.

Self-care does not necessary mean that we should treat ourselves lavishly to spa every day (though that can be nice and we should be able to treat ourselves without feeling bad about it). Daily self-care reflects a healthy, balanced lifestyle (mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually). It can also be as simple as ensuring that we are eating properly, having enough sleep, and feeling energized. It is through these features that will enable us to be the best we can be in the activities that we engage in.

For those who have been on an airplane, they would have heard about the “oxygen mask” speech from the flight steward. Essentially the speech is as follow: if the oxygen mask is deployed, you put the mask on yourself first. Once you got your own oxygen mask on, then you can help your neighbor—be it a senior, child, or loved one—put on their oxygen mask.  The reason is that if you don’t have your own oxygen mask on, you would not be in a position to help others out. In fact, you would have had passed out, and be in no place to help those that you care. This practice relates well with self-care because if we do not care for ourselves first, we would not be in an optimal place to support others too.

So, take care of yourselves. You are important. Your own health matters. If you do not take care of yourself, you would not be in a place where you can help other out either.


About Phillip

Phillip is a Master’s of Counselling student with Athabasca University. He had previously volunteered with The Landing: A Safe Space for Sexual and Gender Diversity, as a Community Education Facilitator and co-facilitate the Queer/Trans Person of Color (Q/T POC) support group. He had also volunteered as a Camp Counsellor with Camp FYrefly. He enjoys working with youth and adults and how we can all bring forth personal and community resiliency. 


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