When Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Now, a slight departure from the typical style of articles that I write. The other day, I didn’t have any early appointments, I needed to be out of the house at a reasonable hour. I decided when I got up that I would slow things down and “approach the day in a different, slower, calmer and more mindful way.”

The first thing that I did was take my shower. I reminded myself (which I only do on occasion in this hectic, 21st Century life), that I have beautiful toiletries and self-care items that I’m always “saving for some rainy day.” (CLICK HERE to read) What am I saving them for? Isn’t my shower enough of a rainy day? Where will it all go when I’m no longer “able” to use them? To Goodwill or some other volunteer organization? I decided years ago to start using the special products that I have. But I still “hoarded” them for that “rainy day.” I probably have a lifetime supply of these lovely things.

In my shower, I have a very luxurious moisturizing salt with a lovely aroma. I purchased it a few years ago (right before the pandemic in 2019) on a cruise ship knowing at that time I would splurge on wonderful and unique things. I’ve only used this beautiful product once or twice. What was I waiting for?! When I finally saw it and really noticed it that more relaxed morning, I said, “This is the time.” Since I don’t have a large hot water tank, I turned off the shower and took this moisturizing, exfoliating salt and scrubbed and massaged my legs the way a  pedicure would be done. Obviously, of course it feels better when someone else does it. But it was good, quite surprisingly good, considering the self-administration. By rarely doing it myself, I acknowledged this as a form of self-neglect. Why did I wait so long? Although I have used such products, this fancy one was “waiting for some rainy day.” If I use such beauty preparations, I usually do it perfunctorily while the shower is running, and the product is coming off me…Then it’s over very quickly due to the short hot water supply. (Anyone who has taken a shower here will testify to this. 😊)  This time I took the opportunity to savor and luxuriate in the experience.

Sorry for sounding so binary, (maybe not so PC) but I notice a pattern. Most of my clients are women, but they neglect their own needs for the sake of others’. Ironically, although it seems very altruistic and high-minded to do so, it’s erroneous. Without self-care and self-compassion, we cannot optimally take care of others. (CLICK HERE to read) I often speak to women using this phrase, ”If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Self-care is not selfish. By making efforts to maintain oneself is the highest of all aspirations. We are G-dly beings, bodies invested with a part of Hashem Himself – a G-dly soul or neshama. We must be healthy and strong to be able to be truly altruistic and high-minded. Without a healthy body, how can we take care of others?  We know we are really meant not only to take care of ourselves, but to take care of others. There are myriads of verses in the Torah and commentaries alluding to or directly discussing this. For instance, “You should love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) This verse assumes self-love is prior to the love of others. It looks like a tautology, an equation.  Similarly, Hillel the Elder says in Ethics of the Fathers (1:14), “If I’m not for myself, who will be for me?…” And more recently, the Chassidic rebbe, Reb Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch said: “A kleiner loch in kerper is a groise loch in neshama – A small physiological deficiency is a great deficiency in the soul.” These are basic premises. If I’m not well, or feeling my best, how can I best deal with the world around me?

How often do we run through life, ignoring some of the beautiful things that happen to be around us taking them for granted, or giving them a blind eye? After the other day, I will try to be more mindful to remind myself to savor the various gifts and items people have given to me or those I have bought for myself because I cherish myself. Whether the weather, I will consider any day a “rainy day” and give it a gift of sunshine! Let us all look around us to see the myriad of blessings we can appreciate and savor them more. Hashem put pleasant emotions, sensations, feelings, aromas, tastes, experiences in the world for a reason. Let us appreciate them in a mindful way, more and more often.

We love hearing from you, please feel free to leave your comments below.

With Gratitude,

Rus Devorah

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