Selflessness vs. Self-care, the Perpetual Dilemma

A thought-provoking write-up I received in one of my WhatsUp groups got me thinking about this topic. Am sure many, many of you out there have either experienced or seen it.

Despite some positive changes wherein people are understanding the value of me-time to unwind and re-energize, there are still quite a number of folks out there who aren’t really paying attention to their interests, hobbies, or health for helping family members.

I have seen such an elderly person who happens to be our family friend. She is a very cheerful, caring, religious, and helpful person. She would take care of the kitchen, household activities, packing lunch boxes for everybody, tending to her grandkids while her kids are at work. Her husband would chip in wherever way he could. During festive seasons, she would be in charge of all the preparation, cooking, inviting people etc. She would accompany my Mother-in-law occasionally to religious discourses. She wouldn’t join them for evening walks as she had her hands full on her home front.

Months passed. There were a few festivals in between; we didn’t see her during those events, which was very unusual. I got to know that she fell ill while visiting a relative and it turned out to be almost fatal as her major arteries were blocked which meant an immediate bypass surgery. Thank God, she survived! Apparently, her doctor had suggested a few lifestyle related changes post-surgery.

When people heard about her surgery, they started commenting, she was always home, she didn’t take any walks / do physical exercise, she didn’t pay attention to her diet etc. Very few remembered why she couldn’t take care of her own needs; she had dedicated her time to ensure her family members could get all the comfort; a healthy home-cooked meal three times a day, a small kid growing up with grandparents instead of at a daycare, along with many other things. End of the day, she got blamed for not paying attention to her health!!!

So, as they say during in-flight safety announcement, put your own mask on before assisting others, makes so much sense. It is okay to say No to someone, be it your family or a close friend, when you aren’t in a condition to help / do something for them. Be genuine, explain why you can’t help. If you are happy and healthy, you can always help others.

Below is the article that inspired me to write this blog.

A long long time ago, my husband, our two sons and I had gone out for an ice-cream treat. It was sometime when I was always thinking of curbing unnecessary expenditure.

As a selfless person, who was too much in love with her family to deny them of any pleasure, I always chose to sacrifice my own excesses. And it didn’t even feel like a sacrifice ever, because I was a woman of very few needs/ wants/ desires…
So, when my husband asked each one of us to choose our favorite flavor of ice-cream, I responded as usual, “I won’t have any.”

The boys enjoyed one round and ordered another; my response remained the same, “I don’t want any.”

I was happy in my family’s happiness. I was happy that my not indulging in pleasure was perhaps ensuring some more goodies in the future for my dear ones. .

But my husband looked at me and said, “Please don’t do this to yourself and to us. I want a happy wife; not a sacrificial lamb. I have seen that too much sacrifice eventually leads to bitterness and victim-mentality. And I sure as hell do not want you to develop that.
You see, after a period of time, the boys and I will stop asking you for your choice, because we will assume that you don’t want it; we will take you for granted and subconsciously start treating you as a doormat… It will then hurt you.. and you will feel miserable and unimportant. You will think that we don’t care about you.
While in truth we would be behaving naturally, knowing from experience that you don’t care for yourself.. That your wishes are not important… .

So, I suggest that you always take your share and then if you really don’t like it, share it with someone who does. That will be good for all of us. You will learn how to claim your importance in your own and our eyes and we will always ask you. There will be happiness all around.”

His talk made sense to me and I couldn’t help but think about many older women who always complained, “I did so much for so and so but today they don’t even think/ care for me.”

I also remembered many instances where children would turn back and say, “But why did you do so much? Did we ask you for it? You did it because it made you happy. Who asked you to be so self-sacrificing?”

This train of thought made me take a re-look at the word ‘self-less’, equating it with self-sacrifice. That day the meaning of these words opened up for me!

Self-sacrifice ……… is not the balanced way!!!


5 thoughts on “Selflessness vs. Self-care, the Perpetual Dilemma

  1. Almost all of what you articulate is supprisingly accurate and that makes me wonder why I hadn’t looked at this with this light previously. Your article really did switch the light on for me personally as far as this specific subject goes. Nevertheless there is actually one factor I am not necessarily too comfy with so whilst I attempt to reconcile that with the actual central idea of the position, allow me see exactly what the rest of your subscribers have to say.Very well done.


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