Dr. Karyl McBride, in “Is Self-Care Selfish?” articulates that taking care of yourself is a positive thing to do and isn’t self-centered.
“There is a difference between self-absorbed, narcissistic behavior and sound internal self-care,” she writes. “Self-care is about taking good care of our own feelings so we don’t project them onto others, act badly, or cause problems in relationships. Being in touch with our own feelings and embracing them is the healthiest thing we can do.”
Obviously, you know it’s true. So you take a bath. You go for a run. You paint your nails. You make sure you’ve gotten a healthy meal, maybe a little meditation time, maybe a little R&R.
Then your significant other (henceforth referred to as S.O.) comes in and says something. It doesn’t bother you at first. But then it does. It starts to bother you so much that it starts to bloom into an anger-cloud inside your stomach, and you feel betrayed. So you tell S.O. that what they said really irks you. Maybe you hash it out a little. Maybe they try to apologize.
But it’s too late for apologies.
What they said upset you. That moment in time is gone where there was peace during your bubble bath. The distance between the two of you grows in conjunction with your anger. Why won’t S.O. keep apologizing until you feel justice has been served? Why can’t they just say the right thing for once in their life? Why don’t they hear you when you say you’re hurt?
Listen up, buttercup. What just escalated is the opposite of self-love or loving others. It’s called manipulation. It’s called being self-centered. You see, as soon as you told S.O. that there was a problem, your job was done. You took care of yourself, you honored your feelings, and you announced to the world that S.O. said something that made you feel kind of not-so-okay.
So, now the ball is in S.O.’s court. They apologize. They didn’t even realize that they upset you!
After S.O. has apologized, trying to make them feel bad for their transgression again and again will not make either of you feel good. It’s selfish to think that the world must stop and cater to your every emotion because you feel upset. You can help yourself, but you are not supposed to manipulate the other person in your relationship. Don Miguel Ruiz explains this in his book The Mastery of Love.
“To master a relationship is all about you,” Don Miguel Ruiz says. “The first step is to become aware….you can be responsible for your half of the relationship, you can easily control your half. It is not up to us to control the other half.”
It’s easy to get caught up in trying to take care of yourself, thinking that you’re doing the right thing for you. It is okay to speak your truth (Honey, I feel exhausted right now. Could you please help me with the dishes?); it’s not okay to manipulate or hurt others just because you’re trying to pamper yourself (Honey, I wish you’d help me with the dishes more. I work all day and then take care of the kids. The least you could do is step up). Not pictured: Your honey worked a 10 hour day, walked the dogs in the morning, took out the trash when he got home, and just sat down to take his shoes off.
Real love requires sacrifice and understanding where the other person is coming from. And acknowledging that the other person doesn’t have terrible intentions just because he or she made you feel bad.
Mark Manson writes in “Why You Can’t Trust Yourself” the phenomena of the Moralization Gap.“It means that whenever a conflict is present, we overestimate our own good intentions and underestimate the intentions of others,” Manson says. “This then creates a downward spiral where we believe others deserve more severe punishment and we deserve less severe punishment.”
Dr. McBride gives direction on how to take care of yourself. While going on vacation or buying yourself a new pair of shoes can be a form of self care, it doesn’t get to the root of the issue.
“Ask your inner child what he or she needs,” Dr. McBride writes. “Listen to that every day. This is really your intuitive side talking to you. Allow the feelings to be ok. When you make mistakes, talk to your inner child and calm him or her, while you also reassure.”
So continue to take care of yourself. Say no to things you really don’t want to do when you can. But don’t manipulate or hurt others along the way.
-Catie Machuzak, Identity Graduate