Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.
I have received a flood of messages this past week in the lead up to Christmas. While the situations are different, each person is asking me versions of the same question: Is it selfish of me to not want to participate in family Christmas this year?
Here are excerpts from a few, that speak to the heart of the matter:
My aunt is not an easy person right now. Her Parkinson is getting worse, her dementia increases and she needs help. She has no family of her own so her other relations offer help in various ways. But she often refuses the help. She is getting angry when critical points are talked of but she can´t solve her problems herself. It´s a big problem and a concern of all of her relations. She complains of loneliness but is not always friendly to visitors. I know it´s because she is sick but still – it is a very difficult situation. And her stubborness does not help. I feel sorry for her. And now this Christmas: I don´t want her to be all alone and crying and feeling lonely but honestly I don´t want to invite or visit her either. I dreamed of a cozy Christmas with lots of me- time. Am I selfish? And how do we know the difference between self-care and selfishness?
Nicole, I dread Christmas each year. My mother insists we all make an appearance, but I struggle to go, and never enjoy myself. My family is dysfunctional (I know, everyone’s family is, but mine are next level) and all drink heavily. As the day wears on it always deteriorates into fights, and sometimes these become physical. I don’t drink, and I am single, so the family always bully me. I spend my day in the kitchen preparing food, serving food and cleaning things away, a bit like Cinderella. This year I just want to stay home, make myself a nice meal, watch some television, and maybe soak in the bath. I crave quiet. Also, friends from work invited me for dinner on Christmas night. They are a lovely family, and I know I would enjoy their company, but I feel so torn. What should I do? I feel very selfish to even be thinking of not going to our family lunch but then going to visit someone who is not even a relative.
Hi Nicole, my husband and I run a cafe and catering business and we have had three intense years, with no holiday or break at all, and now, finally we have organised ten days leave and closed the business over Christmas. This year we want to stay home with our kids, who are twelve and fourteen, and have a quiet family Christmas with just the four of us. We are both chefs, and so the extended family always expect us to turn up and cater, his family Christmas Day and my family on Boxing Day. There are about thirty people at each gathering, plus us. Nicole, I just can’t this year. It feels too much like work. We long to stay home. We are so burned out but our families expect us to be there. Am I awful to want to stay home? I could cry from the stress of it all. When I told my sister we might not come this year, she said I was self-indulgent.
Hello, I am 56, a mum whose kids have grown and now have kids so my extended family is twenty six including the children and I always host an elaborate family lunch for Christmas and do all the planning and cooking myself, but this year I can’t seem to care. It’s so much work and I am tired and flat, but I don’t want to let everyone down. All I want to do is run away, or if I have to be here then I think that some cold supermarket chicken and salad or even a pizza would be fine. Is this terrible of me? I have left it til the last minute and I am stuck in complete apathy. Help!
My husband died early in the year from COVID. This is my first Christmas without him in 62 years. I can’t face all the children and grandchildren this year with all that noise and happiness. It feels too much. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I just want not to have to face Christmas. I’m not ready for it. I would rather spend the day at home letting it be any other day, and crying if I want to cry. Am I being selfish?
Christmas is a fraught time for many people. Not everyone finds Christmas an easy or happy day. On top of that, we’ve been through a stressful and strange few years, and most of us are still emotionally and physically exhausted.
I need you to know something.
Self care isn’t selfish. Self care is the single most important gift you can give to yourself and the relationships around you. In fact, sometimes it goes beyond self-care and becomes self-preservation. I want you to be honest with yourself here – if you have to brace yourself to attend (or host) a social situation, and then it takes days to recover, why are you doing this? You have just put the perceived needs and opinions of everyone else (many of whom may care little about you), in front of your own need to be kind, honest and reasonable with yourself.
It is okay to step away from toxic relationships and stressful family events.
It is okay to take time for yourself so that you can come back to the burden of caring for others refreshed and recharged.
It is okay to stay home, or to do things differently.
It is okay to ask for help, or to delegate to others.
It is okay to say yes to what you want, and no to the things that create stress, dread or anxiety.
It’s okay not to have to justify your choices to anyone.
It’s okay to let Christmas be a gift you give to yourself, to spend any way that you choose.
It is okay to organise family or friend catch-ups for a day other than Christmas.
If a quiet Christmas is what your heart desires, give yourself that. If giving yourself personal space on Christmas Day means that you can continue to care for elderly or difficult relatives throughout the coming year, do that – caring for others is a long-haul game! If you don’t have it in you to do things the way you used to do them, give yourself a break.
You may also be surprised to feel that others around you feel the same way. Speaking up for yourself can give those people permission to do the same, and for you all to approach things differently.
I’m sending you love, and holding you in my meditations.
Hugs, quiet time, and self-care as the gift you give yourself, Nicole xx