careStage: Session 1 – Self-Care or Selfishness

In our recent webinar, we explored the concept of ‘self-care’. The Covid-19 crisis is causing a great deal of distress. At the same time, the forced isolation created space and time for reflection and made it more acceptable to talk about the need for self-care in public and within organizations. While self-care is needed, several impediments make the practice of self-care challenging.

First, there are cultural aspects. In many cultures, the term ‘self-care’ connotes a sense of ‘selfishness’. We are expected to attend to our community, and our sense of identity is often expressed in the degree of service we provide to the community. The idea of self-care runs counter to being an engaged community member. Secondly, from an individual perspective, self-care often refers to practices that instigate a sense of ‘guilt’: how can we justify our need for self-care when others suffer, especially those in less fortunate circumstances? These notions of guilt and awareness of others related to oneself make it difficult to fully embrace and understand the term of self-care.

This line of thinking is exacerbated in the caregiving profession. When your job is to take care of others in less fortunate situations than yourself, the idea of self-care seems inappropriate within the professional execution of your work. Emotions such as duty, guilt, self-sacrifice and privilege come to play.

Yet, when such concepts are confused with caring for others, they cloud our minds and cause us to ignore our subjective reality. In this manner, we may exhaust ourselves and deplete our batteries. When our resilience is eroded, the effectiveness of our care contribution diminishes.

Why is self-care so hard? On the deepest level, we believe the problem of self-care arises from the idea of “self”. We somehow equate self with ego – a tiny self, a self/ego that is completely isolated from the world. The ego is a powerful concept, which, by nature, is resistant to change. Yet, if we take time to investigate through contemplative practice, we can see that this small self/ego is an illusion. In reality, isolation between the self and the outside is not possible. We are fundamentally and deeply interconnected in a web of relationships that create our physical and emotional existence.

When we acknowledge this and expand the self to include our environment, we make ourselves more significant in the web of our relationships. Self-care can become the avenue towards care for others and the world, manifesting through dignity, respect and compassion. We care for ourselves because we care and respect and love the world.

We believe that this is the actual practice of self-care. In this way, we can tap into the natural healing capacity of our mind and heart. Care becomes a deep and unlimited source to draw from, for ourselves and for all with whom we engage with.

– Sander Tideman [Executive Director at Garrison Institute International]

– Chamual Atam Eifak [CBR Director and Head of L&D at Garrison Institute International]