I had the same conversation last night that I have had 146,292 (or so) times in my career.  I was talking with an intelligent, articulate, loving, self-aware client (I am so lucky that ALL my clients are like this!) and she was describing her struggle over a decision she made this week regarding her husband, which she deemed “a big mistake”.  As I sat there waiting to hear about the affair, the expensive purchase she made instead of paying the mortgage or some other such error it did not occur to me that I was about to hear the EXACT SAME THING I had heard 146, 291 other times.

“I said no.  “I was selfish”.

After almost 20 years in the business, it still shocks me to hear this.  Now let me tell you that this woman is like most others I know.  She is constantly putting the needs of her friends and family before her own.  When she decided to put her own needs first this week, she felt awful and was met with judgment and reprisal.  These reactions led her to the conclusion that she had made a mistake.  When I asked what had made her finally say no, she said “I have been working on quieting my inner critic a lot lately.  I was feeling vulnerable and I was trying to protect myself.  But I guess I really messed up”.

My heart began to hurt because I have heard this all too many times.  As women we have been socially trained to believe that when we put our own wants and needs first, we are SELFISH.   We are taught that our worth is based on our ability and willingness  to consistently put others’ needs before our own. We have been led to believe that when we choose to honor our inner desires it is selfish behavior. These beliefs have caused so many of us to feel guilty, to question ourselves, to deny our own happiness and to set up our relationships as one way streets.  These beliefs have NOT served us well.

The truth is that when we practice SELF CARE we are better mothers, daughters, friends, spouses/partners and business women. When we fill up our wells, we are better able to serve and nurture others while also enjoying the bliss of self love. It is a win-win situation (and you know I am a huge fan of setting those up!).

If you struggle with these false and limiting beliefs about honoring your wants and needs, here are some reframes that will serve you far better;

1.  Selfish is choosing to consistently only think of your own needs and wants.  Selfishness never yields joy, peace or love.  It creates an internal and external experience of isolation and loneliness.  It does not create the ability to share, nurture or serve.

2.  Self Care is choosing to honor your inner wants and needs in order to fulfill your potential, discover your purpose and experience joy.  Sometimes that requires putting yourself ahead of someone else. Self care allows for more sharing and nurturing because there is plenty to give without being depleted or exhausted.  Self care allows you to serve others well because you have acknowledged your own worth and cultivated ways to fill and refill your well.

When I chose to reframe my belief system and the thoughts I had around self care, a profound shift began to emerge.  I let go of resentment of others, I stopped being a victim of others’demands, I began to experience joy and happiness and the quality of my relationships skyrocketed.  I set limits and boundaries in these relationships that allow me to both give AND receive, thus safeguarding both of us from resentment and bitterness.

My challenge to you is this.  Sit and take a few minutes to journal, meditate or simply think about how your beliefs about self care have affected your feelings and actions.  Have these beliefs allowed for more love or for more strife? If the latter is true, there is good news.  YOU CAN CHANGE IT ALL by simply changing the way you think about the word selfish. You have already started just by reading this article!

Leave a comment below about how you are going to cultivate self-care or tell me about your struggle with this so I can support you!

Much Love,


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8 thoughts on “Selfish Vs Self-Care: Know the Difference

  1. Yep! I agree. This used to be a struggle for me but now, saying no is VERY easy AND it gives me energy when I DO say it. What I learned was that when I took care of myself, I was actually doing something GOOD for the other people in my life. So actually, I was doing them a HUGE favor by telling them no. I was re-energizing myself for me AND for them…Win/Win!!

    Posted on February 18, 2015 at 5:59 pm
    1. I SO agree Wendy…total win-win. Isn’t it amazing when we make the leap from being afraid of NO to empowered by it? Remember NO is often an act of kindness for both people.

      Posted on February 18, 2015 at 7:10 pm
  2. Hi, Kelly – I hear the same thing in my coaching business and with friends and family. We women have been conditioned to think of ourselves, if not last, then a distant second.

    Thanks for writing this blog and hopefully at least one woman will read it and take a step closer to loving and caring for herself!


    Posted on February 19, 2015 at 1:44 am
    1. Thank you for the comment and YES that is my hope!!!

      Posted on April 5, 2016 at 6:42 pm
  3. I’m still struggling with this concept. I continue to search for the explanation that will give me the ah-ha moment. I will journal and ponder on self….maybe Then enlightenment will come. Thx for writing about self….
    Working with many tools to help correct the learned thinking…..most of which comes from abusive upbringing.

    Posted on April 4, 2016 at 12:19 am
    1. A traumatic background can lead to so many challenges in adulthood. It is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about being a coach with a therapeutic background and training. Learned thinking can be UNLEARNED…the same way we learned it to begin with. Consistent repetition of new beliefs and also some healing work.

      Posted on April 5, 2016 at 6:44 pm
  4. That’s really thniikng out of the box. Thanks!

    Posted on October 25, 2016 at 8:14 am
  5. God bless you for the wonderful work you do. I love your definition of selfish versus self care. It’s very affirming and timely for me

    Posted on February 23, 2019 at 8:18 am