Myth #19: It’s Selfish To Spend On Yourself

Some people harbor a deeply-ingrained belief that it is not okay to spend money on themselves. They won’t hire a baby-sitter or a house cleaner to give them a much-needed and well-deserved break. They wouldn’t think of indulging in a massage or surrendering to the need for a counseling session, and they rarely treat themselves to a concert or a movie. These are people that go for two years without new clothes.

These same people give their kids everything, but they deny themselves the simple pleasures of life.

Where did this idea come from that it is not okay to spend on ourselves? Why do some people single themselves out for a life of deprivation?

The practice of sacrificing oneself for the greater good often shows up in the person who is in charge of managing the family budget. Understandably, the one charged with the task of trying to balance the family finances has a sense of duty and responsibility. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to self-denial.

The problem with “everybody else is first” is that, over time, it can lead to a feeling of resentment. Beneath the surface, some reward is expected in return for all this giving—but it seldom or never comes. The person making the “sacrifice” may gradually become unhappy, because he or she is not attending to his or her own deepest personal needs.

People who respect themselves and treat themselves well have much more to give, while a person who continually denies himself or herself eventually runs out of steam.

People often use money as the excuse for not taking care of themselves. “We just can’t afford it. I have to get the kids ready for the new school year. We’re just not getting ahead—I’ll make these shoes last another year.” However, the true issue is often not money, but an unwillingness to replenish oneself.

The most successful caretakers are those who do not deny their own needs, and everyone has needs. Maybe it’s a massage or a facial, a new CD, a weekend camping trip with the guys, or a new leather coat. These are the little things that reward our efforts and restore us.

It is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is a great investment. You may feel you can’t afford that weekly massage; however, if the result is that it makes you feel centered, gives you peace of mind, eliminates your resentment toward work or home life, and restores your energy and happiness, then perhaps you can’t afford not to do it.

One client continually denies herself for her children or her husband. She attends to their needs constantly and expends great effort to make their lives easy, convenient, and trouble-free. She buys them everything they need and everything she imagines they need. On top of this, she works in a highly demanding profession.

One afternoon she told me, “I don’t know if I am Cindy the Mom, Cindy the Wife, or Cindy the Manager. Who is Cindy? That’s what I want to know.”

I said, “If you want to discover Cindy, then do something nice for yourself. Take a walk every day and smell the roses. Go for a weekend by yourself somewhere.”

There is an adage that you have to give to receive. But, did we leave ourselves out in the process? Maybe it means that we also need to give to ourselves in order to receive the strength and stamina and energy to give to others. If we don’t invest in ourselves from time to time, then we will have less to give to others. We need to recharge our batteries.

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