Taking “Taking Care of Yourself” Too Far (when does self-care turn selfish?)


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“Take care of yourself as much as you want to be taken care of.”
   S. Kim Henson

“You have taken ‘taking care of yourself’ too far,” he said.

If you’re like me, this kind of accusation can wreck a week.

It can happen even when we have a plan – one so important we think nothing can make us stumble. Before the wreckage, we’re stirred and determined. From now on, we’ll take 20,000 steps daily, eat chia seeds on everything, pay off all debt. We’ll go to the gym four times a week, write 500 words a day, and learn to knit and paint.

For a moment, we have boundless energy. Our lives seem all about us and what we want to accomplish. Until we let “thinking we’re selfish” derail us …

Chaos calls and we should help.

A loved one disagrees, so we shouldn’t do it.

His or her ideas supersede ours and we let them.

We deflate and so do our plans.

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Even during my teen years (when we’re expected to be selfish), I didn’t do what I wanted. I turned down a motorcycle ride with the cute guy because Dad witnessed a fatal motorcycle accident. I stayed home from spend-the-night parties if I thought boys might drop by because of Mom’s fears. I didn’t cut school to go to lunch with friends for fear of getting caught and disappointing my parents.

People pleasing seemed an unshakable flaw. Whatever I did at home and work, I did because I thought someone else wanted me to do it. On the other hand, if you didn’t like it, I didn’t do it.

I’ve been stirred and determined for a while now to prioritize self-care. About the time I asserted myself, I was told I was taking it “too far.” My thoughts went to failure, I’ll never take care of myself without feeling wrong and selfish. It’s too hard.

I remembered what a friend said, “Just because they don’t like it doesn’t mean you’re wrong. You can do it anyway.”

The first time I heard “do it anyway,” it sounded like treason.

This time around, it sounded like freedom.

“You’re going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she said.

Since there will be push back from people at home, people at work, people in the church, and voices in our heads, how do we figure out if it’s discomfort or if we’ve crossed the line to selfishness?

I wonder if it’s even possible for someone like us (people who worry about being selfish) to take “taking care of ourselves” too far. It’s like a conversation I heard between a newcomer in recovery and a seasoned member. The newcomer said, “It scares me to let go of others and take care of myself. I’m afraid I’ll be selfish and let go too much.”

The fellow she was talking with looked amused, I think because he knew there was little chance she’d be selfish. He said, “Why don’t you give ‘taking care of yourself’ a try. You’ll know if you’re taking it too far.”

In other words, if you’re worried about taking “taking care of yourself” too far, you probably won’t.

In This Together,

Thanks so much for permission to use your photography, Rhonda Hensley. This probably wasn’t one you expected to see on my blog, but it fits the post perfectly. To see more of Rhonda’s photography, go to her Facebook page by clicking Inspiration Images and Media.

Thank you for the pencil sketch, Abigail Sawyer. Abby is a 16-year-old homeschooler and a self-taught artist whose family realized her talent when she took a painting class. She hopes to attend art school and draw for Disney. To see more of Abby’s artwork, check her out on Instagram @abigails_art13.


10 responses »

  1. Thanks for bareing your soul like the Psalmists, Kim. When you bare it, you can turn it over to God. You are helping others to know that they are not alone with their feelings just like the Psalmists did. Anyone who has never had a messy life has not lived long enough. Lent is a great time to work on cleaning up.

    Love and Peace

    • Amelia, even though I haven’t thought about it until you commented, I relate to Lent being a time to clean up. That is such a good way to approach the season. I shared a post from a friend’s page about their Lenten commitment – to put one thing a day from their closet into a bag to give away at Easter. They (and I) will be cleaning out 40 things, which is something I can follow through on and give up. And it fits right into what you just shared = confirmation.

      I’m humbled by being mentioned in the same sentence with the Psalmists. A big, huge thank you, knowing I have a long, long, long way to go with my writing. I am doing my best to say what I think God wants me to say, which is sometimes hard since I’m tempted to think more about what others think than what God wants. Please say a prayer for me and this blog.

      Love to you! ❤

  2. From Facebook ~

    Jenine Marie Howry and Peggy New like this.

    Kim Henson Thanks so much for the photo, Rhonda C. Hensley. I love it! heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

    Kim Henson Rhonda C. Hensley, I included your FB page link in the blog post. If you have a website, let me know and I’ll add it.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

    Kim Henson Thanks for the sketch, Melanie Brumfield Sawyer. Tell Abby again how much I love her artwork. Is this pencil or charcoal?
    Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

    Melanie Brumfield Sawyer Hi Kim! Thank you so much for using another piece of her art work. She used a special art pencil for this one. She was just trying something new. She is super excited you used it!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

    Kim Henson Melanie Brumfield Sawyer, it fit in this post perfectly. I’ll probably use it again because I can think of other posts it will also fit. I need to get on Instagram to see more of her artwork. It’s hard to learn something new when you’re old. LoL.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

    Melanie Brumfield Sawyer Your not old , just wiser! wink emoticon and I totally understand. I’m that way on Twitter. Lol I need her to post some more of her stuff too. I’m behind.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

    Kim Henson Melanie Brumfield Sawyer, thanks! Wiser is so much better. smile emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

  3. From Facebook ~

    Mary Lancaster, Summer Turner and 2 others like this.

    Elizabeth Lisa Mealey Fithian
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · 23 hrs

    S. Kim Henson Thank you, Elizabeth Lisa Mealey Fithian. I must have been on your page (looking at a redbird in snow) while you were here. heart emoticon Yours is such a great post.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

    Elizabeth Lisa Mealey Fithian You’re most kindly welcome
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · 23 hrs

    Summer Turner Nice post. I think that sometimes when we do something differently, it rocks the boat for the other “passengers.” Or, to pile on the metaphors, when people are used to pushing a button on the vending machine and getting a candy bar, and now suddenly th…See More
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · 23 hrs

    S. Kim Henson Summer Turner, oh, yes, it relates and perfectly. That’s what I’ve experienced – they push a button, don’t get what they want, and they kick the machine and scream, “I want my candy bar.” I’m usually dealing with adults, so we all clean up our reaction…See More
    Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

  4. From Facebook (comment about writing on a post besides my blog) ~

    JoJo Silver Hippie Wow! Who couldn’t buy this book after reading this description! Thanks for sharing, Kim Henson.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 5:11am

    Kim Henson I thought the same thing, JoJo Silver Hippie. I can’t think of a friend who can’t relate to at least one thing she mentioned and the feelings that go along with it. She’s quite the writer – transparent, funny, loving, relatable, …
    Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

    JoJo Silver Hippie I’m excited & apprehensive at the same time. I know I’m going to be floored, and have to deal with some deeply buried “emotions & topics” that need to be delt with. I love that I’m taking this journey by choice. Thank you for your guiding light. You’re an amazing writer and support system for many. I appreciate you!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 16 hrs

    Kim Henson JoJo Silver Hippie, awww, thanks so much. heart emoticon Friends like you help me have courage to write just one more blog post -that’s what I keep telling myself. I can write one more. smile emoticon I’m a bit apprehensive about the book also, but, at the same time, I love this sort of thing. I’m in awe of what Glennon is doing so women don’t feel alone, but empowered and in safe company. Love her writing.
    Like · Reply · 13 hrs · Edited

    Kim Henson JoJo Silver Hippie, I can’t read the description without crying. Hmmmm, what’s that mean about the book? LoL.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 15 hrs

    JoJo Silver Hippie Kim Henson I believe it means it’s moving you, in a good way, into a more positive and free place. I feel better already, just talking with you.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 13 hrs

    Kim Henson JoJo Silver Hippie, I can’t wait until it’s in print and we can compare notes.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 13 hrs

    JoJo Silver Hippie Absolutely! Kim Henson
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 13 hrs

    JoJo Silver Hippie Kim Henson ((((((Bug Big Hug)))))
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 13 hrs

    Kim Henson xoxox

  5. From Facebook (Karen Rice’s page) ~

    Short read, important meaning.

    Janet Foley I am seeing a therapist now to determine how much is too much and to learn to say no! He cracks me up, I told him people were concerned I was too stressed out about my eye and he said after talking 15 minutes I had stressed him, do not listen to these people! I forgot how much I missed therapy! Lol!
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · 18 hrs · Edited

    Kim Henson Thanks so much for passing this along, Karen Rice.
    Like · Reply · Just now

  6. Thanks for another excellent post that goes right to the gut (in a good way). The self-care question is a constant one for many of us, and especially for those who are caregivers. I remember many years ago in the early years of my marriage, I thought I should come first and take care of myself no matter what. Once, my husband went to the ER with stomach pain. After they sent him home, I announced that I needed to get to work to teach a class (which my co-worker had offered to teach for me), and then left him to suffer alone. And yes, I was severely criticized for that action and likely deserved that criticism. Over the years I have realized that some of my early behavior in the name of women’s rights was really just a female version of being an ass. I think I’ve corrected that wrong in recent months and am trying not to go to the opposite extreme. You help me stay on track!

    • Mary, you’ve done more than your share this past year. The scales have tipped in your favor … you’re redeemed. 🙂 I’ve admired your dedication and the dignity with which you have handled everything you’ve needed to juggle. ❤

      There are times when self-care isn't nearly as easy and you're in one of those places. Sometimes that's when it's most important to take an afternoon away and breathe. I know, easier said than done.

      I've been in a recovery program for years to learn how to stop enabling and start being able to have my own life. I look forward to the day (just one day) when I take it too far. 😉 I’ll be sure to blog about it.

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