When Self-Care Becomes Selfish Care
As you know if you’ve spent much time around here, I am an advocate for self-care. We simply have to set some time aside to care for ourselves, to re-energize ourselves, and do what is necessary for our own mental health at times. We even, sometimes, need to stay away from people who would sabotage that. There is nothing selfish about that.
On the other hand, there is also this thread of conversation online that would cross that line for sure, and turn self-care into something that, if we all decided to act that way, would result in quite the opposite.
Case in point:
I recently saw this article, that is almost a year old now, being shared on social media.
How Being Selective About the People You Keep Around Is an Important Form of Self-Care
Now, I clicked on it expecting to see another article about finding that balance between being a supportive friend, and taking care of yourself. What I got wasn’t quite that.
Something that’s really resonated with me over the past couple years is what a friend told me she does to keep toxic people out of her life. Every now and then, she creates a list with two columns: “People Who Invigorate Me” (left) and “People Who Deplete Me” (right). She categorizes friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and those she’s newly met into one of the two sides and cuts ties with anyone on the right. That might sound a bit harsh to some of you, but think about it — why waste your energy and time on people who don’t add any value to your life?
Yes, as a matter of fact, that does sound harsh, because, believe it or not, there will be days when you,too aren’t capable of bringing value to other people’s lives, and following your own advice, they’ll cut ties to you too.
I have often wondered how, with all of the myriad ways we have to connect to people, we are now living in an epidemic of loneliness, and a complete lack of connection.
And then I see posts like this being directed at millennial women, and shared over 150,000 times, and I start to see a picture developing. It’s a picture of selfishness, and lest anyone think this is only about young people, I assure you, this type of message is all over the internet, often in more subtle ways.
I see it in the messages about “What successful people do”, which almost never include things like connecting with friends and family just because you need to, or the relationship advice about being with someone who can “hustle” with you, working on your career and financial goals all the time, because that’s what will get you to your goals, not any kind of actual relationship.
And, almost of them leave unsaid the thing that is said in the article above, because they don’t need to say it. People who aren’t hustling with you, or are not doing the same things you are the same ways, are just in your way. Lose them. As Nicole says in the article:
Life’s too short for sh*tty friends
So what does that do to a society? Think about your worst day. The day your relationship ended, someone you love passed away, your dog ran away, whatever it is. What did you do? Did you call a friend and cry about it? Quite possibly. Did you expect them to support you when you needed them, to encourage you? Now imagine your friend made one of those lists the next morning. Which side do you think you’d be on? You sound pretty “depleting” right about now.
Guess you don’t make the cut any more. You aren’t adding value to their lives.
Then, imagine you’re someone dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD from a traumatic experience, bi-polar disorder, and any number of other issues.
Right side of the list, so you gotta go. Sorry no more connections for you! Which is the absolute worst position to leave someone in.
That kind of behavior, if carried out by a large enough group of people might lead to not just an epidemic of loneliness, but a lot of stigma, leading to further decline in mental health, addiction and even suicide.
We know one of the best ways to help people struggling with all of that is reaching out and providing a connection to them. That requires you to be a friend, even when they are actually a sh*tty one right now. Making a list and cutting them out is just making things worse.
Here’s a quick example. Right now, plenty of people I know are dealing with a terrible health issue, or grieving the loss of a loved one. I would be willing to bet most of them are not exactly invigorating the lives of many of their friends and coworkers. They are probably a drain on them in many respects. If we make a list today, which side would they be on? Should we move on and cut ties with them, right when they need love and support the most?
That’s how to be a sh*tty human being. Don”t be that.