Is self-care selfish?

Tags: anticipate joy, wellness, mental health

By Anticipate Joy

As a physician you may be struggling with caring for the needs of others, while prioritizing your personal needs and you may be asking, “Is self-care selfish?”

It’s a common question.

From a young age we are taught to love our neighbors and put others before ourselves, so it may be an easy conclusion to reach that if we are putting ourselves first, we are not putting others first, and that must be wrong. The fallacy in that statement is that self-care and caring for others cannot coexist. The truth is, self-care and caring for others can coexist. 

You’ve heard the saying “You have to have your cup filled before you can pour into others,” but what exactly does that mean?

You might also be familiar with the instructions by flight attendants to put your own mask on first before attempting to aid in placing a mask on anyone else.

If you prioritize yourself by filling your cup or placing your mask on first, does that mean that you care more about yourself than other people?

Absolutely not!

It means that you are putting yourself in a position to be able to help others. The same principle can be applied to self-care.

Self-care is not about over-indulging yourself or ignoring others for your own good, it is enabling yourself to rejuvenate and recharge so that you can help others. So, do not think of your self-care as selfish, think of it as finding your strength so that your cup can be refilled, so that you can, in turn, pour into others.

Working as a physician, attending to the care of others day after day can become grueling. In a study involving more than 300 family medicine and internal medicine physicians, researchers found that although 80% of physicians say practicing self-care is “very important” to them personally, only 57% practice it “often” and about one-third (36%) do so only “sometimes.”

Lack of time is the primary reason physicians say they can’t practice their desired amount of self-care (72%). Other barriers include mounting job demands (59%) and burnout (25%).

When you are proactive about engaging in self-care, you can reduce your level of worry, stress, and burn out. If you struggle with ideas for your personal self-care, a therapist can help you find forms of self-care that are tailored to your well-being. TAFP has partnered with Anticipate Joy to make it easy for you to access convenient online counseling with licensed mental health professionals at a significantly discounted rate to you. Our licensed therapists can help you begin your journey in self-care.  Click here to access TAFP’s special discounted rates for members.

Many people feel that they give and give until there is not much left, whether it is to their family, friends, job, et cetera. This is a form of emotional burnout. Check out this short self-assessment to find out if you are taking care of your emotional health.

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