Ever since Sigmund Freud coined the terms Ego, Superego, and Id, most people have come to believe that it is Egotistic to focus on themselves.
But what Freud developed has been greatly misunderstood by most as Ego is actually the accepted center of who we should be. So the word egotistic actually means to focus on one’s own needs, not necessarily to ignore others or not give of yourself.
What I have learned to be true is that, if you don’t take care of yourself and help yourself first, then it is nearly impossible to help or take care of others. As was found by Harvard researchers in looking at the issue of self-care in their research book “Work and Family – Allies or Enemies?: What Happens When Business Professionals Confront Life Choices”, by Stuart Friedman and Jeffrey Greenhaus, the more time working mothers take care of themselves, the better the emotional and physical health of their children.
This finding is not new. It was referred to in the Bible as the quote “physician heal theyself”. I interpret that to mean that we must all care for ourselves first, before we can care for others. Ask yourself, if you don’t like or even love yourself, how can you give that same feeling to others? This is not selfish, but selfless, as you are a better person to others, when you first focus on yourself.
With this in mind, there are several concepts that I have learned by working through my own self-worth issues that help me realize that it is not selfish to take care of myself, so I am better able to care for others.
1. You Must Not Just Like, But Love Yourself First
For most of us, this sounds like a selfish statement. But here’s the plain truth. There is only one person that must like and love you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, your whole life. That person is YOU. As slam poet, Shane Koyczan shares, “if you don’t like who you are when you look at yourself in the mirror, get a better mirror”.
This will not happen overnight and you must test this idea to find out how to do this. Remember, it is not egotistic and there is nothing wrong with you finding a way to put yourself first to be healthier to help others.
2. Be Honest With Yourself And Your Wants And Needs
Many of us think it is selfish to say no to doing things when we are invited. The truth is that you must find a way to do the things you want and it is OK to say no if you don’t want to do something (of course we are not necessarily talking about work). The more you say “yes” to doing things that others want you to do, the more you will become resentful.
If you are in situations that you “have to” do, then find a way to tell yourself that you find enjoyment in doing these things. If you tell your brain that you can enjoy it, your brain will give up the fight eventually.
3. Take Yourself Out On A Date
Probably about now, you might think I’m crazy. What does this mean? Most of us that have had issues with not liking ourselves have not really spent time with ourselves. So do spend time with yourself.
Go to your favorite restaurant by yourself. Take a hike by yourself and really look around at the beautiful world around you. Do anything you want, but do it alone and learn who you really are. You will be surprised to find that you may not have known yourself at all and start to find that way to love yourself again.
4. Exercise, Eat Right And Practice Mindfulness
When I was at my lowest point in stress, anxiety, and depression, I was given wonderful advice that any life coach, therapist, or psychiatrist would tell you as well. You have to start to do three things to help you take care of you.
The first is exercise. Many of us sit at desks all day and the human body and mind were meant to be active. Exercise releases endorphins, which bring happiness to the mind. Not only will you start to be healthier, but your mind will actually teach you to enjoy this exercise time. Trust me, I speak from experience spending many years being an exercise hater, but now just finished my first half-marathon. I can tell you I felt great about myself at the end.
Eating right might also be hard. You might be used to eating fast food and saying to yourself that you don’t have time to eat right. Make the time, because food feeds your brain as well.
Practicing mindfulness is the new research rage that has been proven to have benefits.
Doing activities like Yoga and Meditation can have great benefits about helping you understand and love yourself more. It is also another way to spend time with yourself.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” ~ Gautama Buddha
Nothing above is new or breakthrough information, but most of us fear having to do these things as we are forced to confront and help ourselves first. But all of the research and findings say this makes us healthier as a person and it gives us the opportunity to be better at helping others.
So how can taking better care of ourselves be seen as selfish. It is not and the research shows it actually has the opposite effect. From that, I can speak from my own experience that it is the truth.