Imagine shaking up a pop can, popping open the lid, and then watching it explode. Would you start yelling at the pop can– or ‘soda can’, whichever you prefer– for not doing what it’s supposed to? Would you be disappointed? Would you shame it into submission, or talk poorly about its character?

Trauma & Environment

The most likely answer is ‘no’. Why? Because only the inevitable has occurred as the pop can was placed in an environment where it was least likely to succeed. Not only did the can flip its lid, it exploded into a bubbling mess! More importantly, its preferred purpose of satisfying the thirst of all humankind was not fulfilled.

This very same analogy can be applied to how we react when we are not properly taking care of ourselves. Sometimes, we are the ones shaking up our own metaphorical cans, and other times, we’ve been knocked down by the stressors of life or the people we thought we could trust. Either way, we are left alone with the consequences to sort out what feels like will be a messy, lengthy cleanup process (A.K.A. our healing journey).

Self care is not selfish.

It’s important for us to reframe the idea of self-care being selfish. I would argue that self-care is actually altruistic and even considerate. Perhaps, what is truly selfish is not operating at our maximum level of creativity due to burn out and compassion fatigue. Is it possible that not honoring our needs can result in us ultimately not serving our authentic purposes? Self-care breeds healthy relationships with the self, loved ones, and the world around us. In the grand scheme of things, self-care can be viewed as a civic duty to contribute to a healthier society.

This argument, then, implies that not practicing self-care is what’s selfish. For example, self-care may look like saying ‘no’ and having the self-compassion to not feel guilty about it afterward. Although saying ‘no’ may seem selfish, it would actually be more selfish to say ‘yes’ to something and then not be able to operate at your fullest potential.

Unconditional Love

Oftentimes, our pursuit to put others first actually has less to do with others and more to do with hustling for a sense of self-worthiness. Imagine living a life filled with healthy self-care practices, allowing you to love others from a place of happiness and security, rather than insecurity. Your pursuit would then be grounded in unconditional love in the truest sense of the phrase.

What if it’s your vulnerability, not your mask, that’s the greatest contribution you can offer to the world? What if the most important relationship you have is not with another, but the one you have with yourself? Authentic, unconditional love for others must first begin with authentic, unconditional love for the self.

The purpose of this piece is to encourage you to reflect on how well you’ve been practicing self-care recently. When you reflect on the times you’ve ‘flipped a lid’ or felt like a bubbling mess, do you think you met yourself with compassion, or with shame? And the next time you are confronted with this decision, remember the pop can analogy: It’s not your fault, but it’s time to clean up the mess.

Connect with Perspectives Therapy Services to work your own self care.

Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.