On My Quest to Self-Care, I Finally Learned 'Selfish' Isn't a Bad Word

women hiking
Osteo Bi-Flex

It had a been a couple of those kind of weeks. The ones where my stress level was high, my workouts were skipped, and my eating habits … let's just say cheese and wine were in the lead. My world was becoming too small, and little things were feeling much too big. It's a point I get to periodically when I know I need to slow down, when I need a reset. But when you're hurtling forward through daily life with kids, work, social commitments, and more, it feels almost impossible. Worse, slowing down feels selfish.


So when the invitation hit my inbox, I immediately wrote it off: an all-expense-paid media trip to Palm Springs, California, a stay at a wellness retreat, tickets to the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, and (gasp) a tennis lesson with all-star Chris Evert. It was like the universe knew exactly what I needed and delivered.

Now, if only the universe could attend my son's two tennis matches, watch my daughter perform in her school play, get everyone to school, pack the lunches, and do everything else that needed to be done while I was away.

To go would be selfish. My kids would be disappointed. My husband would have to shift his work schedule. Friends would have to take my kids here and there. Mountains would seemingly have to be moved. But I couldn't get the mountains of Palm Springs out of my mind, so with my husband's encouragement (and despite my daughter's tearful pleas that I not go), I said yes to being selfish.

Selfish. The mere mention of the word makes us bristle. It evokes feelings of shame and guilt, especially for women. We're encouraged to be selfless, giving, and nurturing, to put the needs of others first. None of those are bad qualities, but neither is flipping the tables and putting our needs first sometimes.

And we know it's true. We've all heard the oxygen mask analogy ad nauseam, but it doesn't make actually putting it on first any easier when you imagine your children gasping for air (or a good-night kiss while you're gone, as the case may be).

But as I strolled the gorgeous desert-plant-lined walkways within the resort, relaxed into the heat of a hot stone massage, and hiked a trail through the majestic mountains, I knew I'd done the right thing for me. I could feel my body and mind resetting.

Osteo Bi-Flex

When I met up on the court with Chris Evert, who has partnered with the trip's sponsor, Osteo Bi-Flex, a collection of products that support joint comfort, flexibility, and movement, I brought up this idea of feeling selfish for taking care of ourselves. Her blunt response took me back at first: "You know what? You're born alone, and you die alone, and you need time alone for yourself."

But she's right. That doesn't mean we shouldn't care for, love, nurture, and grow with others, and many times (oh so many times) we'll put their needs before ours. But at the end of the day, we're responsible for ourselves. If we don't take care of ourselves, there's no one to blame but ourselves.

Evert, who by partnering with Osteo Bi-Flex to help her stay active and continue to do the things she love, said that while raising three boys she always made time to take care of herself, mentally and physically. She said women are often the architects of the family, and they must remain strong and clear. Because if we bend over backward for everyone but ourselves, we're just going to end up broken, and not even Osteo-Bi-Flex has a product for that. With her boys raised now, she has more time, but she says she still makes self-care a priority with hot yoga, strength training, and even rock climbing, which she thinks is the best exercise for women. 

Self-care doesn't always have to be physical either, and it certainly can't always be a fantastic getaway to a wellness resort. Sometimes, it's simply telling your kids that no, you won't play that game because you need 30 minutes with a cup of coffee and a magazine instead. Other times it means refusing a commitment, even though someone may be disappointed. Sometimes, it's heading out the door the minute your husband gets home from work and not coming home from the local coffee shop until everyone's in bed. It's about knowing when and what you need to feel your best so that you can be there fully for others.

When my kids asked why I was going, I flat-out told them it was because I wanted to. I threw in some other stuff about it being a good work opportunity, which it was, but I didn't paint it as an obligation, because it wasn't. I want them to know that it's okay to do the things you want to do in life and pursue your passions always. I want them to see me taking care of myself.

At the airport on the way home, I grabbed a seat at a long communal table to get dinner before I boarded the 4.5-hour flight back to Orlando (airplane food is not self-care). I ended up next to an elderly man, who ordered his second beer as I sat down. We started talking, and he told me about large slices of his life, including how his wife had died 16 years ago. They had planned to retire in Palm Springs one day, but all their plans for the future never materialized. He now lives alone in Florida, his kids scattered across the country. There was certainly a sadness I could sense, but he also entertained me with tales of the Vegas escapades on which he regularly embarks now -- his form of self-care.

It reinforced what Evert said and was a reminder of what we all know to be true, but don't embrace often enough as we rush through this life -- there are no guarantees, no matter how carefully we plan or prepare. While loving and caring for others is amazing, it's up to each of us to embrace each day, soak up all the beauty we can, and be as present as possible for ourselves. If that's selfish, then selfish we should be.

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