10 acts of self-care society wrongly labels as selfish

Self-care is so important, now more than ever. And it seems that we’re making progress in understanding why we need to prioritize our well-being…

But there’s also an old mindset that still lingers. 

One that can make us feel bad for sticking up for ourselves and putting our needs first. 

In this article, I’ll be exploring this further. Here are 10 acts of self-care society wrongly labels as selfish: 

1) Setting boundaries

In other words, being assertive about what you’re comfortable with and saying “no” to things that compromise your well-being.

But there’s a double standard in society. On one hand, we’re being told to look after our mental and physical health.

On the other, we’re told we’re being selfish if we say “no” when a friend keeps asking for favors, or a boss needs someone to cover overtime (again). 

Let me tell you why setting boundaries is an act of self-care:

There’s no glory in running yourself into the ground. You can’t look after yourself or others if you’re burnout. 

Saying “no” allows you to remain in control. It stops you from going through situations that could be emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. 

That’s why it’s important to stick to your limits and not just the ones that society is comfortable with. 

2) Taking time off

“I’ve not taken one day off in 12 years of working here.”

Well, good for you Karen. I’ve taken a couple of days here and there, and you know what?

It did me and my clients a favor. 

While some people will label taking time off as selfish, it’s simply not true. 

We’re only human. We get sick. We have family matters to attend to. We need a break in the way of a vacation every now and then. 

And in taking this time off, we allow our batteries to recharge. We come back motivated and energized. 

But unfortunately, society has normalized overworking. 

The last one to leave the office gets the promotion. Forget the fact they’ve probably sacrificed having any sort of social life, family time, or hobbies. 

Forget the fact their mental health is declining and stress levels are through the roof. 

3) Prioritizing your own health

When it comes to self-care, looking after your health is paramount. 

But, just like with setting boundaries and taking time off, society sees it as selfish. Let’s be real – it isn’t selfish, it’s just inconvenient for them. 

I’m lucky to have good employers now – I no longer have to feel guilty for taking a day to myself when my period starts. 

In the past, I’d drag myself to work, stuff myself with pills to keep the pain at bay, and struggle through the day. 

The same goes for making commitments

I remember a time when I’d force myself to meet friends or family if we’d made plans, even if I could barely walk.

But over time, I came to realize that I was disrespecting my body by putting it through so much, just to please others.

So take this as your cue to put your body and mind first. Don’t let society tell you otherwise. 

4) Investing in personal growth

When my cousin told his parents he wanted to take a gap year to take a few courses, travel, and decide what to do in the future, he was told to “he can’t stay a kid forever”.

His parents said it was selfish of him to want to just “have fun” when his older brothers and sisters were all working or studying. 

But they, and the rest of society, are making a terrible mistake with this mindset. 

Because investing in personal growth is investing in the future. 

Sure, a gap year to party would be a waste. But traveling opens the mind. It builds resilience, courage, and independence. 

Taking a few courses, whether it be to learn a new skill or find a new hobby, all contribute to personal development. 

Sometimes, self-care is about pressing pause and investing in your growth. Your future self will thank you for it. 

5) Solitude

With FOMO (fear of missing out) so prevalent these days, anyone who prefers to be at home alone is often labeled as weird or antisocial. 

But what some members of society forget is that many people need alone time to recharge their batteries. 

It’s an act of self-care because it’s about putting our emotional, physical, and mental needs first. 

And that comes above pleasing others or attending every social event.

Not to mention, highly sensitive people and empaths often crash if they don’t get their dose of solitude. I’m not sure I fit into either category, but I can relate.  

For me, self-care is turning off my phone, pottering around the house, and enjoying my own company. A few hours spent away from the busy, loud world we live in. 

6) Spending money on yourself

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for spending money on crap just in the name of self-care.

But when it comes to things that’ll genuinely make you happy or make life easier, what’s selfish about it?

I remember when my dad bought a camera and an expensive lens. A few family members made remarks that he was spending so much on himself.

But he didn’t sacrifice our needs for it. And that camera has given him years of joy. He even has his own photography website and has sold a number of his photos. 

And actually, forget all of the above – he’s worked hard and earned it! 

Society will tell you its indulgent behavior. I say if you really want it, go get it. Life is too short to keep putting things off. 

7) Declining social invitations

Have you ever been in a situation where you really don’t want to go to an event, but you know that everyone will label you as selfish if you don’t?

Whether it’s a gender reveal, the wedding of your annoying cousin, or a workshop your friend is dragging you to, it’s not selfish to decline the invite. 

Yes, to a degree, we should show up for our loved ones. But not at the cost of our well-being. 

So, if you know the event is going to drain your energy or stir up bad feelings, in the name of self-care, say no. 

Explain yourself if you want to, but either way, you shouldn’t feel bad for putting your needs first

8) Opting out of family obligations

“Family first.” 

Following on from the previous point, if family drains you, it’s not selfish to say no to seeing them or taking part in family obligations. 

In fact, I recently went through this myself. I visited my extended family after 8 years – they’re a dysfunctional bunch, to say the least. 

So naturally, I wanted to make my visit as drama-free as possible. I allocated just one afternoon to seeing anyone who could make it for a little get-together. 

Of course, I got labeled selfish. But I’m glad I stuck to my guns. I left the trip feeling good as opposed to run down and stressed. 

So the next time someone tries to guilt trip you into doing something with your family that you’re uncomfortable with, be strong and say no. 

Family may come first for some, but for many of us, it can be a difficult minefield to navigate, with triggers and traumas at every corner. 

9) Pursuing a passion

Have you ever been told you’re wasting your time by pursuing something you love?

Perhaps you’ve been called selfish, or irresponsible, by rejecting your parent’s plans for your future and choosing your own?

Society has a way of labeling those who choose the arts (basically things that don’t have much financial gain), as less significant. 

But if it makes you happy, that’s all that matters. 

I don’t think we were put on this earth just to slave away at jobs, pay bills, and die. 

We’re creative creatures. We should be allowed to explore our creativity without feeling guilty or unproductive. 

10) Seeking professional help

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a colleague or friend talk about wanting a break, needing to seek help, but being afraid to admit this to their employers.

Usually out of fear of being called selfish, weak, or even worse, exaggerating. 

This takes us back to what I mentioned in the first point:

Society can be so hypocritical. 

People will share posts about the importance of self-care, raising awareness of mental health, and having a work-life balance. 

But when it affects them or their work, suddenly, you’re being selfish for needing time off due to anxiety or depression

Ultimately, self-care is about drowning out the noise of everyone else. 

It’s about putting yourself first

Not neglecting others in the process, but recognizing that you deserve care, compassion, and a much-needed break from time to time. 

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a freelance writer with a degree in multimedia journalism. She enjoys exploring spirituality, psychology, and love in her writing. As she continues blazing ahead on her journey of self-discovery, she hopes to help her readers do the same. She thrives on building a sense of community and bridging the gaps between people. You can reach out to Kiran on Twitter: @KiranAthar1

If you recognise these 8 signs, your partner loves you more than you realize

If you do any of these 9 things, you’re more emotionally secure than most