For some people, the concept of self-care and establishing boundaries is a difficult one to grasp.
Not because you don’t think you deserve it or need it, but because you feel guilty making time for yourself.
This is especially true for empathetic people who connect to others easily emotionally.
When you can feel how much other people need you or are hurting, it’s difficult to step back and take care of yourself and your needs without feeling guilty and like you are acting selfishly or self-absorbed.
There is a difference between putting yourself first and acting selfishly or being self-absorbed.
A person who is selfish will often see the needs of others but actively choose to ignore them and take action to meet their own wants above all others.
A self-absorbed person tends to do the same but not out of a disregard, rather, it is because they truly don’t see the struggles other people are going through because they are so focused on themselves and their situations.
They would probably care if they noticed, they just don’t.
Conversely, taking care of yourself and putting yourself first does not need to be a selfish or self-absorbed act.
At the end of the day, the only person you can rely on and expect to take care of you and ensure your needs are met is you.
It is no one else’s responsibility, that obligation is up to you because only you know what it is you need to have a happy, healthy life.
If you have been denying yourself self-care and healthy boundaries because you feel guilty and don’t want to fall down that selfish slippery slope, there are ways to do it without becoming self-absorbed.
Here are 3, easy ways to put yourself first without becoming self-absorbed:
Take space when you need it.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, we all need space every now and then.
That space is vital to process our emotions, our situations, and plan on what we want to do or where we want to go.
That space can be solitary, or it can be space with a confidant.
However that space looks like for you, just getting away from the world and all the external demands is crucial to maintaining emotional and physical health.
Taking space doesn’t mean giving up on your obligations or the people who depend on you, but it does mean setting a boundary.If people or situations are demanding your attention but you are feeling overwhelmed and need to take some space for a little while (a few hours, a couple of days, whatever you need that is reasonable) then you need to communicate that.
Let others know that you are taking some time and will be able to work on the problem, offer input, or spend time with them when you are ready.
The act of communicating your need to take space is what helps you alleviate your guilt and concern of being self-absorbed.
Self-absorbed people wouldn’t bother to communicate because it wouldn’t occur to them that their sudden absence or lack or response might have a negative impact on others—and selfish people just wouldn’t care at all if it did.
You are absolutely allowed to take space and recuperate for some time, but let people know that you’re taking care of yourself and aren’t ghosting them, ignoring them, or dropping the ball completely.
Say “no” when you mean it.
For such a small word, “no” packs quite the punch.
It can be upsetting to hear and even more difficult to say.
No one wants to disappoint people or hurt their feelings, but we all have boundaries, moral codes, and limitations that we have to enforce with that little word.
It might feel selfish to decline people or tasks, but every now and then we have to do exactly that.The key is not to just throw “no” around casually whenever you just don’t want to do things because it seems boring or difficult or you have nothing to gain from it.
Say “no” when you mean it.
If you are swamped and already doing all you can to keep your head above water, say “no” to taking on that extra project.
When you’ve got deadlines at work you have to meet, say “no” to getting that drink with your friend.
When you’re asked to do something you don’t morally or ethically agree with, say “no” and don’t compromise yourself.
When your friend dumps all their problems on you and asks you to solve them, say “no” and don’t assume a responsibility that isn’t yours.
When you’re sticking to your diet and you’re invited out for ice cream, say “no” and keep taking care of yourself.
Saying “no” is vital for maintaining our goals, our health, and our boundaries.
It’s not selfish or being self-absorbed to decline offers, requests, or situations when you truly cannot handle it, have reached your limit, feel like it is compromising you on a personal level, or genuinely aren’t interested and don’t want to.
Remind yourself that you matter.
The biggest way you can put yourself first without becoming self-absorbed is to remind yourself that you matter, too, and hold yourself to the same standard that you hold others.
Would you expect your friends to drop everything every moment of the day and rush to your side? No? Then don’t expect yourself to do the same.
Would you expect your coworkers to do the job of 5 people without a pay increase or time off?
No? Then why should you?
Would you expect others to feel guilty for taking a night to themselves and turning off their phone so they can relax? Absolutely not.
So draw yourself that bath and watch your favorite movie undisturbed.
You matter just as much as all the other people, things, and situations in your life matter to you.If you wouldn’t hold someone else to the same level of self-sacrifice that you are holding yourself to, then you are no exception.
Don’t make excuses about not taking care of yourself because you absolutely matter, too.
The line is to recognize that you matter the same amount—not more, not less.
Your needs matter, your health matters, and your wellness matters just as it matters for everyone.
That doesn’t mean you can turn a blind eye to others’ needs in order to prioritize your own, and it doesn’t mean that yours are more important.
But, it does mean that others are just as responsible over their own self-care as you are.
Help when you can, but don’t sacrifice yourself and your wellness to do it.
Taking care of yourself is not a selfish act.
Putting yourself and your needs first does not make you self-absorbed.
We all have needs and we can only expect ourselves to provide those.
That means, while you can and should do your best to help others when possible, don’t do it at your own expense.
Understand your own limits and boundaries and work within them to provide for others while maintaining care for yourself.