Finding Your Self–Ish
So it’s no secret that the Scientist and I have been in marriage counseling for a while. Well, a few whiles, maybe. We got really lucky – we clicked with her on the first shot. She manages to figure both of us out very quickly, and does not hesitate to call us out when necessary.
Last night was one of those nights.
I’m not saying she was wrong. No way I can actually claim that one and stay honest.
But holy hell. It really sucks when she’s right.
She told me that any time I do what she calls “self-care”, I fall back to a guilt-ridden place where I see myself as “selfish”. Self-care, as the Therapist explains is, is prioritizing one’s own needs, whether physical, emotional, or mental, in order to maintain health. These can be things like spending a rainy Saturday curled up in bed reading instead of cleaning out the linen closet, skipping a social event to go to bed early because of exhaustion, or spending an afternoon with your best friend, gorging on pizza and beer.
We went over some recent stuff that I’ve been pondering, and I explained how I was feeling selfish for things that I’d done. She listened thoughtfully, nodded sagely, and then slowly considered how she wanted to word her response.
“Yeeeah, no. I don’t agree with anything you’ve said about any of it.”
Wait, what? I was expecting validation here. I was expecting her to agree that my self-assessment was on target, and offer suggestions on how to fix things in my head.
Instead, she explained that I am being way too hard on myself, and that I need to recognize that self-care is vital to my existence. She said that, in this usage, being “selfish” has taken a really bad rap. It’s drilled into us that self-sacrifice is the only noble pursuit, and that prioritizing ourselves is a sign of being a bad person.
Now, this is not to say that the pejorative side of selfishness doesn’t exist. It absolutely does. When your actions hurt someone else with intent, it’s definite. When your needs trump someone else’s and they choose to take it personally, then a grey area can be found. The Ambassador, as an RA at his University, has taught us a lot about “impact versus intent”. And while the lessons that he’s passed on are well taken, they aren’t always applicable to real life. I think his inability to prioritize himself is at the heart of a lot of his own misery at times. But as I was just called out for the same, we’d have to first establish which one of us was the pot and which was the kettle.
I tried to take The Therapist’s words to heart. It’s like I said before – she isn’t wrong. I tried to defend myself by reminding her how good I am at taking care of other people. She chuckled ruefully and rolled her eyes in agreement.
So now comes the hard part. I find myself knowing that I need to just recognize, accept, and most of all address my own needs. But it is incredibly difficult for me to discern when I’m exercising self-care and when I’m crossing the line. She gave me some good points on some specific instances I questioned, but it isn’t like I have her on speed dial.
I guess I’m back to flying blind, but trying to be more “selfish” with my own heart and my own head.
What confuses you in your own life about this process?