We remember being brought up singing a song at Vacation Bible Schools and Christian camps that had a chorus, “J.O.Y. – Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last.” That last part is a mantra that social pressures also give young men and women. In order to succeed, you must meet all the expectations of others in your life.
When Did Self Care Become Narcissistic?
Somewhere along the way, we began to believe that anything other than meeting the expectations of others meant that we were selfish, self-absorbed, or narcissistic. We do our very best, at the expense of our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health, to perform up to expectations at school, home, work, and in our social group.
Over time, we ended up trying harder, occasionally failing, trying even harder, and occasionally failing and trying even harder. Women focus on being perfect in their jobs, marriages, parenting, churches, and social group. Men focus on meeting the expectations of leader, husband, father and masculinity.
You Can’t Take Care Of Others If You Don’t Take Care of Yourself
“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” – Parker Palmer
When you focus solely on taking care of others and meeting their expectations, you will inevitably end up empty. You will not be able to care for another because all that you have is gone. You end up resenting others demands on you and are more likely to do something to hurt or damage yourself or your relationships in some way. You cannot pour into others if your cup is empty.
Do You Take Care Of Yourself?
A team of researchers at the Traumatic Stress Institute developed the following Self Care Assessment tool (adapted from Saakvitne, Peralman, & Staff of TSI/CAAP (1996). Transforming the Pain: A Workbook on Vicarious Traumatization. Norton.).
Physical Self Care
- Eat regularly
- Eat healthy
- Get regular medical care for prevention
- Take time off work when sick
- Get massages
- Dance, swim, walk, run, play sport, sing or do some fun physical activity
- Take time to be sexual
- Get enough sleep
- Wear clothes I like
- Take Vacations
Psychological Self Care
- Take day trips or mini-vacations
- Make time away from phones, email, and the internet
- Make time for self-reflection
- Notice my inner experience – listen to thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, feelings
- Write in a journal
- Read literature unrelated to work
- Do something I am not an expert in or in charge of
- Attend to minimizing stress in my life
- Engage my intelligence in a new area (art show, sporting event, theatre)
- Be curious
- Say no to extra responsibilities occasionally
Emotional Self Care
- Spend time with others whose company I enjoy
- Stay in contact with important people in my life
- Give myself affirmations, praise
- Love myself
- Re-read favorite books and re-see favorite movies
- Identify comforting activities, objects, people, places and seek them out
- Allow myself to cry
- Find things that make me laugh
- Express my outrage in social action, letters, donations
Spiritual Self Care
- Read the Bible and inspirational devotionals
- Listen to inspirational Christian talks, music
- Make time for reflection
- Spend time in nature
- Go to church and be in community
- Be open to inspiration
- Cherish optimism and hope
- Be aware of non-material aspects of life
- Try to not be in charge or the expert
- Be open to not knowing
- Identify and notice what is meaningful to me and its place in my life
- Have experiences of awe
Relationship Self Care
- Schedule regular dates with my spouse
- Schedule quality time with my children
- Make time to see friends
- Call, check on, or see my relatives
- Spend time with pets
- Stay in contact with far away friends
- Make time to reply to personal emails and leters
- Allow others to do things for me
- Enlarge my social circle
- Ask for help when I need it
- Share a fear, hope or secret with someone I trust
Workplace or Professional Self Care
- Take breaks during the day
- Take time to chat with coworkers
- Make quiet time to complete tasks
- Identify tasks or projects that are rewarding
- Set limits with clients and colleagues
- Balance my caseload so that no one day or part of the day is “too much”
- Arrange work space so it is comfortable and comforting
- Get regular supervision or consultation
- Negotiate for my needs (benefits, pay raise)
- Have a peer support group
- Strive for balance within my work-life and work day
- Stave for balance among work, family, relationships, play and rest
What do you have to say?
We love to hear from readers. Do you find that most people are not taking care of their self, but instead focused on meeting expectations of those around them? Is it good stewardship of what God has given you to not take care of yourself? Is self care selfish? How did you do on the assessment? Did you find that you could do more to take care of yourself so you can take care of others better?What would you add to the content of this article? Do you know someone you need to forward this to?
This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2016. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at Secret@LifeTogetherForever.com.