Is there so much on your plate that you feel you don’t have time to take care of yourself – and hence would feel guilty if you took the time?
It’s a common problem – one I hear from my clients often. And it arises from a bunch of interconnected beliefs that are difficult to separate and deal with. Beliefs that limit your ability to take care of yourself even though you want to do so (and believe you should be able to).
Why You Feel Guilty About Self-Care
Conventional wisdom says that acknowledging the necessity of self-care will help you get over the guilt. But that’s not enough. I’m guessing you understand the necessity of self-care – but it’s not doing much about the guilt you feel.
Self-care guilt arises from many different – yet interrelated – factors. And to shake it, you must identify and deal with each one. Today I want to focus on 5 common reasons why you feel guilty about prioritizing self-care and what to do about them.
Reason #1: You don’t understand what self-care is.
Self-care isn’t about doing something to make you feel good, to escape, or to indulge. Yet that’s what most people think that it is. And it’s also not about putting a bunch of to-dos on your list. In fact, it’s often about taking things away from your to-do list.
Self-care is simply about taking care of yourself physically, mentally/emotionally, and spiritually so that you don’t feel a need to escape your life. The point of self-care is to take care of your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
What’s selfish about that? Here’s your answer: nothing.
Self-care isn’t about adding a bunch of stuff to your to-do list. It’s primarily about your mindset, what you believe about yourself, and how you live your life.
And all this worry about being selfish? If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll become needy. And needy people are always selfish. So, by NOT prioritizing self-care you’re actually being selfish. How about that for a big “aha” moment?
Reason #2: You believe that prioritizing something means you must do it at the expense of something else.
There’s a common belief that prioritizing something means that something else won’t get done. That it comes at a cost. But that’s not necessarily true. And it’s especially not true when it comes to self-care.
Here’s the equation most of us work from:
To-Do List Obligations = Work Obligations + Family Obligations + Chores + Friends + [Other Obligations]
There’s no room for self-care because we believe that adding it means taking something away from the equation. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll have more stress and less energy. And your ability to get stuff done decreases. You won’t do a good job – and you might even drop the ball entirely.
So, self-care is necessary if you want to do all the things in the equation above. And it’s especially necessary if you want to do them well.
Here’s the thing: self-care isn’t even a part of the equation above. It comes into play before the equation ever comes into the picture.
Reason #3: Your self-worth is determined by your external achievements and how productive you are.
Is your self-worth determined primarily from what you achieve – and even how productive you are? Is it determined by your outcome? The problem with this is a lack of control. Although you have control over your input, you don’t have control over much of what affects the outcome.
Wouldn’t you rather base your self-worth on how you live your life – how you behave and treat others and whether you honor your deepest values? These are things that you do have control over – and it’s ultimately what will make you happy.
For help with how to clarify and honor your values, grab my Inner Compass Values Assessment workbook here:
For obvious reasons, self-care is a necessary component to your self-worth. You’re more likely to treat others well and have clarity around (plus be able to live) your values when you’re taking care of yourself.
But there’s more to it than that.
Self-care is about self-respect. If you respect yourself then you’ll take care of yourself.
And there’s no shame in asking for help. People are here for a reason – to connect with and care for others. This isn’t a one-way street. You too are meant to be cared for. So, let other people care for you by asking for help from time to time.
Reason #4: You don’t say “no” even when you want to.
This one is a biggie for the majority of my clients. They feel “obligated” to say yes – especially if being asked to use a skill or talent that they’re good at. Please don’t let others use your talents and skills against you (it’s not a requirement that you do everything you’d be good at).
Learn to say “no”. I know this is hard – I coach on it often. But start rethinking what it means to say no so that you can create strong boundaries for yourself. Because when you set and uphold strong boundaries you’re respecting yourself.
Saying “no” is really saying “yes” to yourself and those you love most. When you say “yes” to things you know you shouldn’t (and really don’t want to be doing), it’s limiting the amount of time you have to do the things you love – including serving those you love most.
One reason it’s so difficult to say “no” is because you’ve been convinced that you’re supposed to do “it all”. I’ve talked about this before: not only is doing “it all” impossible, you don’t even want it. Go back and read (or re-read the article) if you need to. It’s the biggest “should” of all time. And it’s time to drop it.
Reason #5: You treat your time as though it’s not yours.
News flash: your time is yours. No one else owns it. Act like it.
This is so simple – and obvious – yet often not fully appreciated. Stop giving your time away as though it’s endless. Because it isn’t. You won’t ever get it back once spent.
People spend a lot of time focusing on time-wasting (especially through social media). And rightly so. But just as important is how you waste your time by giving it up freely to others when you could be doing something much better for yourself.
Use your time wisely, guard it, and treat it as the precious commodity it truly is.
Practicing Self-Care is the Best Way to Honor Yourself
The best way to love and honor yourself (and treat yourself as the worthy human that you are) is to practice self-care. When you learn to prioritize it, it’ll become natural to you and a part of who you are. And you’ll be happier, healthier, and feel more you – without the guilt.