Self-Care is Selfish, & other Lies I was Told

With bags under my eyes and my hair pulled up into a messy bun, I stared across the table from my friend. I must have looked like a hot mess.

“The problem is,” I say as I take another sip of my iced coffee, “that I don’t have enough time to do all of the things I need to do.”

My friend Jane nods at me. A gentle smile forms across her face. 

“So then I am forced to sort out everything to unreasonable timescales. I feel like a tube of toothpaste and life is just squeezing as much out of me as humanly possible. I feel exhausted running around like this. That’s why I can’t take on any more.”

“Then why do you?”

I pause before taking another sip. “Because I struggle to say no to people. I don’t want to let anyone down.”

“Listen, Rachel.” Jane pushes her drink to the side and looks me straight in the eyes. “Even Jesus said ‘no’ to people. Look throughout the Gospels. He’s frequently described as leaving the crowds to go up on a hill by himself. Even Jesus had a self-care routine.”

Even Jesus had a self-care routine. 

Friend, I don’t know what springs to mind when you hear the word self-care, but if you’re anything like me perhaps you also struggled to comprehend the purpose of self-care in your life. Blame it on a bad case of perfectionism, but I used to think of self-care as a lazy person’s excuse to lounge around in their ‘comfies’ while binge-watching episodes of Gilmore Girls. But after experiencing a mini-burnout of my own last year, I’ve come to realise that self-care is not only essential to our overall health and happiness—it’s a Biblical lifestyle choice. 

But first, we need to debunk some widespread lies about self-care. Are you ready?

Myth #1: Self-care is selfish.

This is probably the most prevalent lie of them all. Self-care is often viewed as a ”millennial” trend, practised mostly by privileged women in their 20s and 30s. But calling self-care selfish suggests a lack of understanding around what self-care truly is. 

Self-care isn't saying no to everything, it's saying yes to the right things. When we set healthy boundaries in our lives, we’re choosing to be intentional with our time and honest with ourselves and those around us about our giftings, skillsets, and priorities. Most importantly, it’s letting go of the things that leave us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually drained. 

Self-care isn't being non-committal; it's committing to a practice of self-love. When we are released from the burden of exhaustion and unnecessary busyness, we are released to walk into our God-ordained destinies. 

Myth #2: Self-care isn’t for everyone. 

If it was good enough for Jesus, then it’s certainly good enough for us. In Matthew 14:23 (NLT) it says, “After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.” Time and time again throughout the Gospels, once Jesus had completed his time of ministry, he often left the crowds to get away to a mountaintop by himself to be alone with his Father. Jesus understood the importance of setting personal boundaries.

Jesus demonstrated self-care long before it became another trendy lifestyle choice like avocado toast or Apple smartwatches. When our responsibilities become overwhelming and our calendars are overflowing, we are all invited to surrender to the truth that we simply cannot do it all and trust that our Father can do it all. 

Myth #3: Self-care is a waste of time. 

In the age of 24/7 interconnectivity and unprecedented levels of screen-time, it’s easy to become addicted to crossing the next thing off our to-do lists. I mean, who has time to read a book in the bath or go for a walk outside when we’ve got groceries to buy, a house to vacuum, and bills to pay? 

I think the writer Paul understood this dilemma perfectly in I Corinthians 6:9-10 when he encouraged us to “honour God with our bodies”. If my body and soul are so overwhelmed to the point where I feel that I can no longer live out my calling as a woman, wife, and friend, then I am not honouring God with my body. I am neglecting my body in the name of busyness. Self-care is not a waste of time; it’s a restorative use of time. Jesus used his self-care routine to be alone with His Father on the mountaintop; a practice that undoubtedly refreshed in his body, soul, and spirit. 

In the words of Christian author and speaker Lysa TerKeurst, if your overwhelming schedule has left your soul underwhelmed, then maybe self-care is a good place to start. What self-care looks like for you may look like something completely different to someone else. But one thing we can be sure of is this: Jesus promises real and meaningful rest wherever you find yourself today.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:26-30 (MSG)

Rachel Moreland

Rachel Moreland is a storyteller, writer, and US expat living in Edinburgh, Scotland. When she is not writing, she is on the hunt for the best cup of coffee and planning her next travel adventure. Follow her on Instagram and read more on her blog, With Love From Rachel.