Healthy Selfishness (Self-FULL-ness)

A theme that often arises in my work as a bodywork practitioner is that of self-care.  Women, in particular (but men, too), often reckon with how to care for themselves and not be perceived as “selfish.”  Many people have a hard time knowing what it feels like to RECEIVE and to surrender to that receiving. Receiving wholeheartedly means saying YES to help, YES to nurturing, THANK YOU to a compliment, YES to caring for yourself, and YES to a time-out.

I’ve been dipping my mind tentacles into a lovely book called The Woman’s Book of Creativity (by C. Diane Ealy, Ph.D.) and was inspired by her section called “Healthy Selfishness.” Ealy writes:

To begin bringing balance into our lives, we need to exercise what I call healthy selfishness. This practice starts with recognizing that only by taking care of ourselves can we have anything to offer anyone else. We will surely fail to encourage creativity in our employees, students, or children without being creative ourselves.

What Ealy describes is that great often-used metaphor of putting on your oxygen mask before helping someone else put on their mask. But I think full self-FULL-ness goes deeper. I think it means realizing that self-care is not a luxury. It is not “extra” or “pampering.” Self-care is essential.

Did I make anyone feel uncomfortable with that? I’m feeling slightly itchy by having just written it. But let’s go with it for now.

If, in your head, for example, a massage is considered an extra treat, a form of luxurious pampering then how often are you likely to “treat” yourself to this “selfish” activity?  After all, there are more important tasks that need completing and money needs to be allocated elsewhere and goodness, if I get this massage I am going to feel guilty.  Gulp, that treacherous G-word.

Receiving bodywork is seen as much more essential in people’s minds in recent years as more information about the positive mental and physical effects of massage have been studied. Now I have clients who see their weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly sessions as their touchstones for holistic health and well being.

What if you viewed a walk or a bath or dancing or reading a book or drinking a cup of tea as just as essential — not “extra.”  We all need to charge our batteries and we each do this in different ways. I know some people run marathons to power themselves up. Others garden or do yoga or take long naps.

The key in whatever you choose to do is that it is indeed your CHOICE, even if what you do is for someone else. Ealy writes:

When I decide I’m choosing to do something because I want to, my decision comes from within. I still may not like what I am doing, but when I realize I choose to do it, I’m in charge. My motivation for action comes from a place of doing something for me and perhaps for someone else. I may be doing a favor for another person, but if I’m motivated by feeling good for having done it, I’m practicing healthy selfishness.

What Ealy brings up is a healthy balance of giving and receiving — of the masculine and feminine attributes within us.  When we feel depleted is it because we are feeling like a victim of giving parts of ourselves away to others?  When we make the choice and understand why we are giving what we are giving, we are empowered. Huzzah!

Our personal evolution is counting on our being a little FULL in the self department. As Ealy writes, “Only by renewing ourselves” can we change, transform and grow, and “Growing takes energy!” Indeed!

Where do you find yourself in the balance of giving and receiving?  Are you able to fully surrender to a receiving experience…or are you creating a “to-do” list in your head as you relax?  What would you LOVE to add to your self-care repertoire?  And remember even the teeny-tiny acts of self-care count, too. One afternoon I spent fifteen minutes touching and examining the rocks and stones in my yard. Very grounding!

What can you do today to nurture yourself? How can you feel FULL in yourSELF!

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About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
This entry was posted in bodywork, creativity, healing, inspiration, personal growth. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Healthy Selfishness (Self-FULL-ness)

  1. Pingback: Selfish Selflessness « The Blog of Eric Schleien

  2. Pingback: You Deserve to be Loved | Jeannine K. Vegh, M.A., I.M.F.T.

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