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  • When Self-Care Means Others-Care: How to Reconcile Both in Our Modern World

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    Filipino mental healthWhy do women, particularly Filipino women have a hard time with the concept of self-care? We all know this stuff sounds and looks good. Instagram and Facebook posts are all over it from pedicured toenails to yoga poses that look painfully cute to strike.

    How self-care looks vary from one person to the other, from one culture to the next. I find that cultures that are more collective, scale closer to others-care when defining what care of the self means to them.

    My hope is that self-care and others-care do not rate on the same scale. In the illustration below, certain individuals or cultures may rank self-care to one end of the scale spectrum. This type of self-care can means being alone, having control over your time and having the ability to carve your space and say yes or no to things at your own pace with no guilt (or little). The other end of the scale is others-care, this is defining self-care as providing nurturing to others, your fulfillment attached on how well you cared for someone  and their satisfaction attached to your self-concept (how you perceive yourself). You see your  as space shared by many and leaving it often can cause guilt and a lost of worthiness on your part.

    Internal conflict arise when how you define self-care is in dissonance with the way society defines it. If you care for your sick, elderly mom and you get two hours of break daily and seem fine with it, a comment from a dear friend that your haggard look is because you barely take any breaks create this dissonance. Know that this friend is well-intentioned and if she offers to watch your mom, take it. If not, then its mere observation, take it with grace, say thanks but no thanks to the judgement that you’re not doing enough for yourself.

    If you’re mom and your hands cannot be any more fuller than it already is and once a week is all you can whirl for quiet space with your limited family support resource, embrace it. You can embrace this phase while you in the process of enhancing it if you feel this time is not enough for you. Just the same, if grandma offers to take the grand-kids, take it. If a friend laments why you have to schedule everything around your kids’ nap time but have zero thought on how she can make your load lighter, say thank you, and resist the temptation to allow anyone else to define you self-care space. Doing so, is your self-care.

    How This All Started

    You were born alone, naked, all-encompassing with the belief that only good things shall come your way. Every bit of startle reflex or silent moaning causes a movement from those who you depend on for care. Your diapers changed without your imposition, and your position pivoted to seize your discomfort with the littlest grimace on our face.

    All eyes are on you especially when you get to sit on our baby stroller, the dangle in your feet with the flash of your dimple causes an uproar of attention. You are beautiful, they say, and you believed any bystander without a doubt.

    If only you believed them until now.

    The Value of Sharing Turned Self-Sacrifical

    We are social beings and part of integrating to the world around us is to learn that our space is shared with others. As early as 2 years old, you were prompted to share.

    If someone younger had your toy, you were asked to be understanding of their immature ways.

    If someone older had your stuff, you were asked to give it up because, well, they’re older.

    There is great  value in teaching children (and quite frankly, some adults) how to share. In fact, it’s probably more intrinsic in us to stay in our space without culture or social norm interventions in place. I teach my own children not only sharing their space, but their empathy towards others who may act or look differently from what they’re used to.

    In the Filipino culture, the value placed on sharing, being generous,and kapwa-tao (love for humanity) are essential parts of parenting. One is judged on how well they parent by the ability of their children to share. To be he known as madamot(stingy) is like kryptonite to superman- you want to avoid it at all cause. The word madamot and maka-sarili (one who only thinks of himself) is contrary to what is known to be the core values of Filipinos which is Kapwa (this is when you see yourself as the other and the other in you).

    Filipino women in the Philippines are placed in a pedestal for their self-sacrificial demeanor. Many do it for love, many are blind followers of their ancestral shadow. Be it their own mothers, their lola or even soap opera heroines they’ve been following all along. The shadow of our role models sustain our connection for making sacrifices and more. In a society where the governance of the law of the land can often fail you, social pacts, duties and moral obligation is what keep us afloat.

    Regardless on how distant you are from Others-care or closer to Self-care: doesn’t really matter. Your progress is to simply move a tad, a bit, a speckle away from others-care. The goal is not to cross all the way to self-care, if you do, cool. If not, find your stride. Not everyone is programmed completely to be on either side whether by familial upbringing, cultural expectations or societal obligation.

    What you don’t want to do is to compare yourself with other women or to bash those whose found their groove on the end of self-care. If you want to be honored on how you define your self-care, you must give the same honoring to other women. Let them find their stride and give them the freedom from your ugly stares.

    Filipinos and Self-Care

    You define what SELF-CARE looks like for you.

    How to Define Your Own Self-Care

    First, be cognizant on who are bringing into your life, whether people or social media feeds. There is no social reciprocation rule on Instagram or Facebook, so it doesn’t mean someone follows your feed that you have to follow them back (I mean this makes social engagement sense but not always the best for our own sanity).  Same goes for your real-life relationships; when you find yourself in the company of should-ers, could’ve-ers, and worst, must’ve-ers, stay clear.

    Social Media and Comparison

    It’s harder to find your space, your niche, your definition of anything when someone else is constantly whispering shenanigans in your ears. For you to find your voice, seek the company of people who can provide you honest feedback but not opinions that you feel you must take. If it’s possible for you to find quiet space here and there, this will be the best. If this is all you do for self-care, celebrate. If you feel you need more, celebrate as well. You are the best judge as to how much you need and when you need it.

    Write down a list of people, even business establishments (baby sitters, other moms to watch your kids, hubby..etc) that can help you out carve this self-care time. Map it out as to the date and time you wish to take advantage of it and work around it to make it possible. Refrain from saying, I don’t have time. You will  make time if this is important to you. Self-care makes you love others-care even more and not surprising, those who benefit from your loving care, can attest to it.

    If this was helpful, please share with others who you think needs to hear this message. Use one of the  social media buttons below for your convenience.

    Sa Uulitin,


    About Roanne

    Roanne has been a Psychotherapist for more than 12 years. She has frequented at least 400 Filipino homes and counting. She is the author of the Ebook: 5 Pinoy Love Languages and the creator of the presentation entitled: Filipino Core Values & Considerations in Culturally Responsive Care.

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