Why “self-care” matters

We have all heard the term: “self-care.” For some of us, it is “that touchy-feely stuff”  that we take great pride in never using.  Others of us consider it a central part of everyday life. Some people consider it “selfish” or “narcissistic.” Others consider it to be a key component of health and wellness.

So, who is right?

Well, depending upon HOW it is implemented, self-care COULD be “touchy-feely” (aka, experiential, in a way that some people find uncomfortable.) Self-care could also be DONE by someone who is selfish or narcissistic. So, these elements COULD be true. However, they are not at the heart of what is generally meant by self-care.

What is self-care?

According to the International Self-care Foundation, self-care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness.  This organization sees self-care as organized around seven important domains:

Health literacy

Mental Well-being

Physical activity

Healthy eating

Risk avoidance or mitigation

Good hygiene

Rational/responsible use of products and medicines


They argue that self-care is a foundational component of the healthcare system. 70-95% of illnesses are managed at home without medical intervention. We “doctor” ourselves way more than we realize. In today’s busy healthcare environment, we need to partner with our doctors to track indices of our own well-being. We engage in self-care by advocating for ourselves and our health. Why does that matter? Research shows that our life expectancy in the United States varies by county with AS MUCH AS A TWENTY YEAR DIFFERENCE based on where we live.

Now do I have your attention?

Other authors focus more on the idea that self-care is emotionally based and has to do with maintaining a healthy relationship with self. In that way, self-care is not the same as selfishness. When people get stuck on the term “selfish” regarding self-care behaviors, I don’t try to completely challenge their thinking. Instead, I help them shift that term to “healthy selfishness” to denote the idea that a focus on self can be a good thing.

Talking openly about and valuing self-care whether in our work or personal lives is an essential part of life.  Self-care is not just something nice that we can do for ourselves; it is something that can have direct links to quality of life and our longevity.

What does self-care mean to you? Feel free to email me your ideas at: john@activatesuccess.org

Be well!