Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Note to Self: A Few Thoughts on Self-Care and Selfishness Inspired by a Twitter Meme

Some time ago, my friend Liz Kay wrote a blog post about a “motivational” quote she’d come across that struck her as particularly unhelpful and inappropriate. I recommend checking out her post. It’s a great example of how an idea, suggestion, or piece of advice, can be interpreted very differently, depending on your personal history, lived experience, and situation. Something similar happened to me the other day.

For several years I’ve followed the Twitter account of author and entrepreneur Marsha Wright. I especially like the messages and memes that are shared every Sunday under her #ThinkBIGSundayWithMarsha hashtag. I often participate by tweeting a quote or message with that hashtag; either a quotation from our book or something by other writers. I also check the hashtag feed and retweet content I find interesting or relevant. Some of it is too upbeat, even for me (I well remember Fran calling me pathologically positive not too long after we became friends — and it wasn’t intended as a compliment!) but there’s often something I want to share. I was doing this a couple of weeks ago, when one quotation caught my eye. I read it over a couple of times, nodding to myself in recognition and agreement.

Note to self: You gotta do this for you. This is for you. This isn’t about anyone. Live for you. Honor you. Never lose sight of that.

The quotation was unattributed, but a quick search revealed it to be by botanical designer and wellness practitioner Brittany Josephina. I retweeted it and went on with my day. Later, I saw that someone had commented on my retweet. I didn’t know them personally but it was clear they’d interpreted the message very differently.

How more selfish do we need to get? Me myself and I ...

The comment took me aback. Had I got it wrong? Had I misinterpreted the meme and shared something inappropriate? I read it again. I kind of saw what the person meant, but I was still happy about sharing it. I wanted to respond in some way. What to say, though? I hadn’t really figured out what the quotation meant to me at that stage, only that it meant something. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I sent this reply:

Interesting point of view. I didn’t read it that way at all. You’ve given me something to think about. Thank you.

I wondered if I’d hear back again, and if so how they’d respond. There was nothing further that day but when I checked back in the morning I saw they’d liked my reply. The person who’d originally shared the quotation had also responded to the “selfish” comment.

I see you and if it was meant for those who already had their shit together then sure selfish it would be. It’s intended for those who don’t, those who feel they aren’t worthy of anything good, that they will never be happy, and have really low self esteem for starters. Ty friend.

I felt a mixture of emotions at seeing that. I felt validated but also slightly cheated, because they’d made the essential point I’d wanted to make — self-focus isn’t necessarily selfish — more succinctly and cogently than I’d have managed. I smiled at my discomfiture. Did it really matter who said it? I wasn’t in total agreement, though. I don’t see self-care as relevant only to a subset of people. I think in general we all “have our shit together” much of the time, but most of us have times of low self-esteeem, when we feel unworthy and overwhelmed by whatever is going on for us. For me, paying attention to my needs is an integral part of keeping my shit together.

This was getting interesting. Returning to the quotation itself, I thought about each sentence in turn. Each brought out a different aspect of self-focus and self-care.

You gotta do this for you.
If you don’t pay attention to your needs, who else is going to?

This is for you.
This is your gift to you. Not your partner, family, friends, or colleagues. You.

This isn’t about anyone [else].
There are other people in your life, but you also matter. What do you need, right now?

Live for you.
For me, this is the key message, and possibly the hardest. There are times when self-care is especially important, like when we are struggling or close to crisis. In those circumstances, extreme self-care is imperative. But it’s not just about those times. We deserve to live a life where our needs are front and centre. That way, our caring for others comes from a place of strength and stability. We care for those around us because that’s part of who we are, not in order to validate or justify our existence.

Honor you.
Acknowledge that you are worthy of your attention, focus, energy, and love. Honour your successes and achievements, but also your quirks, insecurities, and hang-ups. They get to be here too. Celebrate you.

Never lose sight of that.
It’s easy to forget this message, especially when our lives busy and those around us seem to have more pressing needs. You matter as much as anyone else. Taking time for you is not more than you deserve.

Bringing it all together, I’d say that no matter who we are or how much we want to help other people, we also need to pay attention to our own health and wellbeing. I’m reminded of the advice they give on airplanes. In an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first, then you’re in a better position to help other people. It’s not about ignoring the needs of those around you. It’s acknowledging that your needs matter too. You matter too. Self-care isn’t selfish. This message has particular relevance to me. Lately I’ve realised I need to pay more attention to my needs, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to further explore what that looks like for me. Check out my recently compiled a list of articles on self-care for more on this topic.

There were a couple more comments on the Twitter thread. I closed by thanking everyone who had contributed.

Thanks to everyone in this little thread. It’s given me plenty to think about and inspired a new blog post. It also led me to check out the original author of the quote, Brittany Josephina. Thanks again.

In conclusion, I’d like to thank my friend and fellow blogger Liz Kay, because it was her article about memes that inspired me to explore my response to the Twitter exchange rather than dismiss it as a minor social media disagreement. Thank you, Liz.

Over to You

In this post I’ve explored my response to a quote which elicited very different reactions when it was shared on social media. What are your thoughts about this particular quotation, and affirmative or motivational memes in general? How do you feel about self-focus and self-care? Is it selfish to take time for yourself and your needs? We’d love to hear from you, either in the comments below or via our contact page.

 

Photo by Tony Reid at Unsplash.

 

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