“Isn’t self-care selfish?” 4 Answers

The question, “Isn’t it selfish of me to practice self-care?,” comes up sometimes in my counseling practice, and I answer it in 4 ways:

“What’s the alternative?” If we don’t take full responsibility for caring for our adult selves, who will? In the beginning, our parents and other caretakers did the best they knew how to protect, nurture, and raise us. Then they handed the keys to our life over to us, and ever since it’s been up to us to protect, nurture and raise ourselves. Hopefully we found our way into a reasonable safe and healthy community where “together we could do what we could never do alone.” But even with the support of a good community, it’s still our responsibility to step up to the task of caring for ourselves.

“Self-care isn’t self-indulgence.” I’ve got a secret – shhhh! – I like Snickers bars. My cavity-prone teeth and my expanding waistline can handle perhaps one per week. Anything more than that would not be “self-care” but more like slow self-destruction. So good self-care implies not just the impulse to focus on what gives us pleasure, but includes the wisdom to know what is optimal, that is, what combination and interaction of behaviors will do us the most good and the least harm, while keeping us well-connected with our loved ones and our Higher Power.

“Caring well for yourself allows you to care well for others.” If we want to influence others to care for themselves, the best leverage we can have with them is to model it. I’ve heard it said that the first three laws of teaching are example, example, and example. The poet Edgar Guest wrote: “The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear/Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear … For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give/But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.”

“Most often the problem is not intellectual but emotional.” The difficulty many people have with self-care is not a matter of brain-power or the right technology, but rather the voice inside them that says, “You’re not worth taking care of yourself.” If we can learn to wrestle well with our own inner demons of self-abandonment and even self-loathing, we will be better equipped to come alongside of our fellow-sufferers and walk alongside them on the happy road of self-care.

To those who really care for their loved ones, the instruction to “put the oxygen mask on yourself first” feels counter-intuitive, which is why the airplane’s flight crew repeats it so often, and why I find myself talking about it so frequently with my clients.

WHAT TO DO: It’s still early enough in the new year to resolve to upgrade or add some self-care practices in 2017. Pick one or two categories – body, mind, emotions, relationships, spirit, creativity, finances – and decide in the next 24 hours to improve or begin one or two habits. Send me an e-mail and let me know what changes you decide to make!

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Building a Solid, Stable Life: Community (Part 3)

Building a Solid, Stable Life Community (Part 3) By Dr. Jay R. FeldPart of the hard work of building a solid, stable, lasting foundation for our lives is the willingness to take your own inventory. An inventory tells you what you have too little of, too much of, and what’s just right, for right now. But how do you take an inventory of your community?

Your own personal “world wide web” Continue reading

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Building a Solid, Stable Life: Community (Part 2)

Building a Solid, Stable Life Community (Part 2) By Dr. Jay R. FeldThe storms of life test the quality of the house we’ve built for ourselves. If we’ve built well, we will be kept safe in the storm; if not, we’ll find ourselves with a leaky roof and water in our basement, or worse.

In the fall and winter of 2000, in the middle of the journey of my life, I found myself in the midst of a lot of storms.  Continue reading

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Building a Solid, Stable Life: Community (Part 1)

Building a Solid, Stable Life Community (Part 1) By Dr. Jay R. FeldNothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone;
therefore we must be saved by love.

Reinhold Niebuhr

In October 2012, the New York City area felt the fury of Hurricane Sandy. The hurricane was responsible for about a hundred deaths (one in my neighborhood) and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage.  Continue reading

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Big-Log-Removers Anonymous

Imagine an emergency room doctor trying to remove a small splinter from her patient’s eye. Big-Log-Removers AnonymousNow image that the doctor has a telephone pole protruding from her own eye! How can the doctor see clearly enough to help her patient, with a big log stuck in her own eye?

But, of course, this is something all of us do all the time – we point out to others the issues we think they should be working on, while we ourselves can’t see the same issues in our own lives.  Continue reading

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Get Ready, Get Set, Change!

Get Ready, Get Set, Change By Jay FeldYou know when to change the oil in your car, because the windshield sticker has the 3-months/3,000 miles date on it. You know when it’s time to change the baby’s diaper because … well, you just know! But how do you know when you’re ready to make an important change in your life? Here are 5 ways to assess your readiness for change.

You know you’re ready to change when …  Continue reading

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Can We Make Sense of Dating and Mating? (Part 3) – Building a Life Together

Can We Make Sense of Dating and Mating? (Part 3) - Building a Life Together by Dr. Jay R. FeldNothing helps clarify your values like being in an intimate, committed relationship.

We are often unaware of our deeply held values and goals. But when your partner-to-be says or does something that runs afoul of one of them, you might hear yourself saying, “You believe what?!” The similarity between your values and goals and those of your potential life-partner are critically important in creating a healthy relationship, especially with respect to issues such as these:  Continue reading

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Can We Make Sense of Dating and Mating? (Part 2): “It Takes a Village”

Can We Make Sense of Dating and Mating? Part 2: "It Takes a Village" by  Dr. Jay R. FeldFor most of history, your pool of potential marriage partners was limited to the people who lived in your village. You knew just about everything there was to know about each of them.

Today it’s often the case that the only thing you know about someone is what they choose to tell you in their dating-site profile, whatever you can glean from their social media and the results of a criminal background check. In a world where people hardly know each other, how can you stack the odds in favor of making a healthy, lasting match? Continue reading

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Can We Make Sense of Dating and Mating?

Can We Make Sense of Dating and Mating? by Dr. Jay R. FeldOnce upon a time, getting married was easy. Your parents chose your mate for you, you had little or no say in the matter, and you got what you got. If you were lucky or blessed, it was a good match; if not, you endured, and the whole thing was over in a few decades, anyway.  Continue reading

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Couple Therapy, Part 3: Your Relationship Dance – Injury-Prone, or Intimate?

Couple Therapy, Part 3: Your Relationship Dance - Injury-Prone, or Intimate? by Jay Feld

We watch “Dancing with the Stars” and shows like it to be inspired by the artistry of the contestants. But some of the celebrity contestants, sincere though they may be, inspire our sympathy rather than our admiration.

When a couple comes into my office for the first time, they bring with them their “dysfunctional relationship dance,” with wounded hearts rather than sore feet. Allow me to introduce you to the three phases of helping a couple turn an injury-prone relationship dance into an intimate one. Continue reading

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