Self care? Isn't that selfish?

t’s so easy to advocate or see value in others, especially our children. But what about ourselves? Do we not value ourselves in the same way? Is it arrogant to do so?

What about the impression we are leaving on our kids about self worth? Did you know that the way we treat ourselves will indirectly have a HUGE impact on the way our kids start treating themselves? My mother taught me to be a servant. To focus on others feelings, to give to the needy, and to love our “neighbor” as ourselves.” But what started happening is that I started loving my neighbor OVER myself. My mom is a huge servant of others, but as I got older I realized that she has a hard time pouring into her self. Did I subconsciously learn that to self care is to be selfish? I’m not sure…

Can I be selfish? Ask my husband?! Yes of course I can. But there is a difference between being selfish and treating yourself with value. I started letting people take advantage of me, I let people disrespect me, I let people define me! The only way I knew to stand up for myself was by getting angry and using my anger in an inappropriate way to fuel my words and actions. But this expression of thoughts and behavior just left me embarrassed and without my goal being met.

So why is it so easy for me to be able to provide wisdom, strength and advocacy for others, but feel in adept when put in the same situation myself? Maybe it was modeling, maybe it’s genetics, or maybe my environment produced it? Regardless, I do know that I am modeling this for my own children, and I see it in other parents I counsel.

Parents come to me and beg to know why their beloved children, whom they have loved, praised and nurtured, hate themselves? Parents want to know where they went wrong, what they can do to fix it. One of the first things I do is ask about how the parent is taking care of themselves? This takes the parents aback, “wait, I’m here for my child, not for myself!” I explain that our actions always have an audience. Children have watched us since they were infants, and mimic us as their standard of behavior.

So what model are we giving? When a dress doesn’t fit after the holidays, and we announce that we are fat and need to go on a diet. When a car cuts us off on the highway and we discuss the intelligence of the driver in question. When someone tells a crass joke or makes an obscene gesture and we laugh with them. When the computer doesn’t load fast enough and we start mumbling like the guy from “Office Space.” When you notice someone getting picked on, and you walk away because it’s not your business. All of these and more are conveying a message to our children about how we value ourselves, and others.

Self care and self worth are something that must be learned. For me, I’m still learning. I combat the idea that in order to be the best mom and wife I must put myself last; trying instead to believe that being the best mom and wife I need to take care of myself first, so that I have something to give to them.

What are some areas that you could start advocating for yourself or practicing self-care?

Paige Clingenpeel

Teen Therapist working with teens and parents on TV, Radio, Web-Based Media, Blogs, and Print. Presently a monthly contributor to the women's parenting & marriage site iMom.com, and host of TBN's Tween show iShine K'Nect. Paige also provides individual therapy at LifeSprings Counseling Center, and works at Parkview Health as a student assistant counselor assigned to Carroll High School. Paige is married to Ryan and has two daughters and two sons!