Self-Stigma: The Undeserved Guilt of Self-Care

March 17, 2016 Laura A. Barton

Self-stigma makes us feel guilt when we take care of ourselves. It's time to stop feeling selfish when self-care is so necessary to our mental health.

Self-care isn’t a foreign topic when it comes to mental illness. Not only can self-care improve your overall mental wellness, but it’s more often than not a topic of conversation because of how incredibly difficult it can be to take care of ourselves when we’re struggling. The simple act of getting out of bed or having a proper meal can seem like a mountain to climb. One of the more interesting aspects of self-care, I think, is the self-stigma that’s attached to it; the self-stigma that says maybe we should stop focusing on ourselves for once.

Self-Care and Guilt

There are times when I struggle with my mental health that my self-care and my feelings of deservedness of self-care kind of goes out the window. Instead of thinking about what I need to do to make myself better, I start thinking of all the things I’ve been neglecting, or of other people that I want to help, or there are even the convoluted thoughts conjured up by things like depression that say I'm just not worth it.

It’s really difficult to explain those last set of thoughts. The other two make perfect sense to me even in my non-struggling moments, which is mostly because I have a habit of always putting others before myself. When I’m having a rough day, I’m less likely to vocalize it because I know someone else is struggling too and doesn’t need my burden on top of theirs. This perhaps seems contradictory to what I’ve said in my other blogs about peer support, but when I’m not in a strictly peer support setting, it becomes more difficult to express what I’m going through.

I refer to this all as self-stigma because, like outer stigma, it’s not true and it’s holding me back from improving my mental health, especially the feeling that I don’t deserve to take care of myself.

Overall, self-care sometimes feels, well, selfish. When we’re within our own minds all the time though and constantly dealing with mental illness, it’s tough to see anything involving ourselves as anything but selfish. What we need to do is get rid of the negativity attached to the word selfish.

Self-Care Is a No Guilt Activity

Self-stigma makes us feel guilty for taking care of ourselves. Self-care makes us feel selfish, when that is the furthest thing from the truth. Check this out.In short, we need self-care and it’s not selfish, at least not in a bad way.

As much as we want to help other people, if we empty ourselves completely without recharging, we’ll have nothing to give them. Essentially, we need to take care of ourselves in order to properly care for and about the important people in our lives.

There’s a saying that goes something like “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” When we’re drained, we’re not much use to anyone, are we? So take that moment, or day, or as long as you need to recharge and get back on your feet.

When it comes to those mental illness-fueled thoughts about not deserving to take care of ourselves, those are also not true. The thing about mental illnesses is that they like to keep us sick because it lets them stick around. That sick part of our brain, I feel, is fighting to stay alive just as much as any other part of our brain; its fight is just more detrimental to our health. I wouldn’t say it’s an enemy, but it’s definitely something that we have to learn to work with so that we don’t get stuck in the pits of feeling worthless.

We’re not worthless and we definitely deserve to take care of ourselves.

You can find Laura on Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Facebook and her blog; also see her book, Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2016, March 17). Self-Stigma: The Undeserved Guilt of Self-Care, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Ontario, Canada. Follow her writing journey and book love on Instagram, and Goodreads.

July, 7 2016 at 9:49 am

Sorry, over-pro-active, I found your forums.

July, 7 2016 at 9:40 am

Sense we are on the topic of self-care are there any safe community places that exists which allows a schizophrenic such as myself to post and get feedback besides posting in someone else's thread?
I was diagnosed with schizophrenia after experiencing psychosis and being held within a state hospital for months against my will. Sense then I was released on a conditional discharge. I have finally overcame these conditions. I have regained clarity, purpose, direction, social aspirations, and so much more.
I still feel like I am standing alone in defense of the right to my mind. Everyone wants to tell me what I am, where to look, what to do, but deep down inside I want to tell them all to screw off. I am very much within physical, verbal, and now even self-control over my thoughts. I meditate, exercise, stimulate my intellect, and reflect. I listen to positive music, dance, live, love, learn, grow, aspire.
My motivation and fortunate circumstances have allotted me the ability to achieve and succeed. I can hold employment. I can focus. I can excel socially. I have discovered coping mechanisms that work for me.
One of my fundamental coping mechanisms is the belief everyone is good. Bad intentions do not exist. If I believed that mental health workers and doctors treated me in the ways they did while knowing what they were doing (realizing it in the present moment how their behaviors are traumatizing and reflecting this awareness upon themselves) yet still continued these treatment methods I could not live with the man I would become accepting this.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, misinformation, and normative dissillusion (normal insainity). I am not longer taking medication and am still excelling.
I am excelling so much the doctors want to re-evalute so basicaly they can try to re-diagnose to which I say screw off. They branded me and now that Ive forged new meaning suddenly they want to leave all of my peers in the dust by relabeling.
I am a schizophrenic. I have simply learned to do more then cope, but rather, how to use my stigmatized context positively, proactively, and passionately.

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