Selfcare Is Not Selfish

File 19-01-2016, 09 23 13Yesterday was the first time since I started The Good Stuff that I didn’t feel able to commit a positive thought to paper. Not because it was a bad day – quite the opposite – but because I was absolutely exhausted after a trip to Brunel University that meant I had been on the go for 15 hours straight.

When I dragged myself from bath to bed within half an hour of getting home, I remembered that it wasn’t too late to write down today’s positive note. But I also barely was able to keep my eyes open, and so I decided that the whole exercise of being positive and taking care of yourself would be futile if the amount of sleep I got suffered as a result. The perfect basis, of course, for this delayed positive thought.

Just like the art of not giving a shit, selfcare isn’t selfish. But there is a paradox looming here. Actually, selfcare is selfish because, in the first place, you should practice it for you. Because you’re worth it (a phrase that will, unfortunately, never be free from echoes of those awful L’Oréal adverts, but I refuse to have my choice of words determined by the commercial strategies of beauty product manufacturers). Because you deserve to feel well, physically and psychologically. To me, that kind of selfishness is important for its own sake.

But selfcare has an impact on more people than just you, and for those of us who worry a lot about others – who spend a lot of time going out of their way to help others cope, be well, be the best they can be, or just have little bit of a less shitty day – for us the secondary effects of selfcare are well worth remembering, because they encourage us to be selfish when it matters, instead of running ourselves into the ground.

If you feel selfish when you put yourself first, remind yourself of this: taking care of yourself is key to being able to care of others. Being well is important to how you cope with others’ problems and to the decisions you make for yourself and for and with them. But taking care of yourself can also be inspiring and infectious. It shows people that you can do your job and be well. That it’s not one or the other. That their own professional success does not depend on sacrificing their physical and emotional wellbeing. That health is a right, not a privilege.


Nadine Muller

Nadine Muller

Nadine is Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University. Her research covers the literary and cultural histories of women, gender, and feminism from the nineteenth century through to the present day. She is currently completing a monograph on the Victorian widow (Liverpool University Press, 2019), and is leading War Widows' Stories, a participatory arts and oral history project on war widows in Britain.

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1 Response

  1. 22/01/2016

    […] happy with my phrasing at times, and I’m still struggling through the logic of the “Selfcare Isn’t Selfish” post. Really, it should have read something like “Selfcare is selfish. In a good way.” […]

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