Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

The Difference Between Selfish and Self-Care

Posted on 29 Oct 2015 in Coaching | 2 comments

The exasperated parent at the end of their rope. “I never take time for myself, it feels so selfish…but I’m just so tired.”

The frustrated executive facing another meeting, who spends his alone time hiding in his office. “It’s the only quiet time I get. I’m not really working, I just can’t handle more of other’s problems.”

The lonely stay at home parent who feels like life and career choices are passing them by. “Sometimes, when the kids are asleep or at school, all I want to do is cry. I can’t though, because there are dirty dishes in the sink and clothes that need to be folded. I just want a day where I’m not buried behind the things I should be doing.”

Do any of these sound familiar?

We all get there at one point, that moment where we aren’t sure we can put one foot in front of the other. Where all we want to do is hide in a hole and not come out. The breaking point.

Call it what you want, you know what I’m talking about.

A Gross Misunderstanding

We reach this point, often, because we misunderstand one key aspect of our humanity.

There is a big difference between being selfish and practicing self-care.

Frayed rope isolated over white background

Selfish – Concern for yourself, at the exclusion of others interests resulting in the detriment of close personal relationships.

Self-care – Showing high regard for your personal health, resulting in healthy personal relationships,  the benefit of others, and holistic leadership development.

Being selfish means you care only about yourself. You are willing to trample others to get what you want. You don’t care who you hurt. It is defined by looking out for number one.

But self-care is entirely different. Good self-care is not about taking care of ourselves by hurting others, it is honoring our need and desire to rest, rejuvenate, and recharge. Self-care means we take care of ourselves so that we are better able to take care of others.

Our ability to give and serve an full capacity is only possible when we practice good self-care. Your ability to stay healthy is directly proportional to your desire to recharge. My leadership capacity is tied intimately to my ability to find time away, to reflect, to challenge myself, and to grow in the weak areas of life.

Practicing self-care, is not selfish, it is vital to sustainability and growth.

Determine today to break the limiting mindset that says otherwise. You don’t have to be at the end of your rope, you don’t have to live out of desperation, you don’t need to reach the breaking point. You can experience a life full of vitality and purpose.

If you’d like help exploring what great self-care looks like, fill out the coaching form below. I’ll be in touch and help you thrive in all areas of life.

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Justin Hiebert

Coach - Change Catalyst - Speaker at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I'm here to help you break free of the stuck areas in your life. As a coaching catalyst, I'll help you discover your Life Purpose, live with greater passion, and develop clarity. I specialize in leadership development, holistic health, burnout, and relationships. I frequently write, speak, and teach in these areas, and would love to help you however I can. Outside of work, I love my wife, children, and the great outdoors. I can frequently be found reading a book or riding motorcycles.

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  • don n

    Justin, I appreciate your differentiating between selfishness and self-care. As a therapist, I do often encourage clients to learn to be more “selfish”, especially when they have lived a life with unhealthy boundaries around self and a limited ability to value their own well-being. I do clarify this to mean self-care as you describe it. A favourite quote of mine for use with clients in from Parker Palmer in his book “Let Your Life Speak” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1335101-self-care-is-never-a-selfish-act—it-is-simply). Especially with Christians I sometimes use the “selfish” language initially to be able to challenge some of the unhealthy aspects of Christian focus on self deprecation and sacrifice, which fail to value our basic needs for human existence.

    • Don,

      Thanks for sharing this. Palmer’s book is fantastic and well worth a read. I like your challenge to this more ‘selfishly’ as a way to spur on growth and live more health. We often want to think that we can give all the time without recharge, and it’s left us in a precarious position as leaders and influences.



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