I was talking to my Mom the other day and she said “you know, I am just going to have to be selfish and take care of myself.” I immediately got defensive, and it isn’t her fault. I just hate that our society has skewed things so that when we take care of ourselves it is considered selfish. It isn’t that this is a new trend, it is just that I am more aware of it, and I despise it more the older I get.
You know what’s selfish? NOT taking care of yourself. Not eating well. Not moving your body. Not taking time for yourself. Not resting and recuperating. Knowingly engaging in these activities: that’s selfish. It is one thing if you are trying your best to eat well but are simply misinformed. It is another thing to know you should take some time for yourself, but not doing that. It is one thing to eat a cupcake or some nachos from time to time. It is another thing when you know that sitting down and eating a pack of Cinnabons is terrible for you, but you do it on the weekly.
When you don’t take care of yourself, someone else will eventually have to take care of you. When you don’t take the time to nourish your body, your kids and family will miss out on time with you. When you don’t take the time to de-stress, you have less tolerance for those around you and have a shorter fuse. You are also probably spinning yourself into a ball of stress, making you pretty tough to be around.
Outside the logistics of being a normal human being, is it selfish to train for big events, such as a marathon, Ironman, Crossfit regionals, or really any kind of competition/race? I think it definitely takes a level of self-absorption, but why is that negative? Training is very consuming. If you don’t train properly your biggest risk is injury, and you are also looking at a longer recovery.
For example, when I trained for my marathon, there were several aspects of my life that were impacted. I had less time to work, but I had a lot more time to brainstorm (when you are running at least an hour most days, a lot of brainstorming happens. Especially when you run without headphones). At the time, I was only able to do exactly what needed to be done to keep my business afloat, but at the same time, I have implemented so many new programs and ideas since training, which I thought of during my training. My family was also impacted. I spent 2-3 hours running on Saturday mornings. Even though I would leave early in the morning, I was usually returning right around the time my son was going down for a nap. Then I had to stretch, shower, eat, and hydrate. Our Fridays also revolved around my runs. This takes a lot of time away from my family, but it also gave my husband and I time to ease back into living together after 6+ months of him being on deployment. When we had discussed it, I thought I was choosing a poor time by not devoting all of my energy to his return. He disagreed and thought it would be good for him to spend time one-on-one with our son. This worked out great for our son. He got special time with Daddy; he got to see his Mommy put in the work to meet her goals; and he got to see us being smart about our time back together. So yes, there is definitely a level of dedication and self-absorption that comes with training for something, but I don’t think that is entirely selfish, or that the level of self-absorption is negative.
I think it is so important that we as adults put in the time and effort to take care of ourselves. Where else will our kids learn to care for themselves? Our kids learn from what we do (not what we say – very disappointing, I know). I am not saying you need to make fancy, gourmet, healthy meals every night, or that you have to spend six hours on Sunday making 30lbs of grilled chicken to have with steamed asparagus and brown rice everyday. I am saying, eating General Tso’s chicken EVERY NIGHT because you can’t be bothered to find something more nourishing (whether you find it eating out or cook extras throughout the week) is selfish if you know you don’t feel well after and that it is not good for your health.
I am saying that it is not selfish to take 30-60 minutes most days for yourself. Whether you use that time to workout, or just relax, everyone deserves time to de-stress and that is not selfish. I am saying that despite the level of dedication it takes to train for a big event, as long as you have an honest discussion with your family before plunging in, it is not selfish to set a goal and work toward it. I am saying that it is appalling that when we decide to take care of ourselves, we feel the need to apologize.
What do you think? On some level is it selfish to take care of yourself, or is it more selfish to disregard yourself and take care of others?