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Your Poor Self-care Hurts Others


Here’s a letter I wish I could have written back in July. Instead I turned it into a blog. 

Dear Woman Behind Me at CVS Pharmacy: Yes, you, the 30-ish woman with the dark hair and black-framed glasses standing behind me on line at the prescription pick-up counter. Remember me, the white-haired woman speaking to the pharmacy assistant about how COVID-19 cases were falling in upstate New York while rising like crazy here in Florida. You seemed to think it was fine to pipe up and contradict me, butting in with, “It’s because of more testing that numbers are going up.” If you recall, I turned around to face your mask-less self and insisted, “No, not really” (the truth at the time). I left it at that because I live in a state where it’s legal to conceal carry a gun and didn’t want to start an altercation which would leave me maimed or dead.

This is one example of someone who not only doesn’t care about their own health but who couldn’t give a hoot about mine—or yours. Clearly not a team player or someone who can see beyond their own needs. Someone who’s poor self-care hurts others.

I also work with clients, some of whom don’t take great care of themselves and also put others at risk. For these clients I feel a great deal of empathy and compassion. They’re aware of hurting their bodies by careless eating and exercise habits and are eager to change. I admire and applaud them for struggling to become heathier. 

However, one aspect of poor self-care they often fail to consider is how their actions affect others. I’m not saying this to be critical or shaming, but to point out how easy it is to shy away from thinking the unthinkable. They don’t consider that they’re practically signing up their children to become unhealthy adults and, likely, dysregulated eaters. Other clients make mistakes that are foolish and dangerous. They pursue drug or alcohol addictions or put their children at risk by staying with an abusive partner. 

Referring to the COVID pandemic, the phrase “We’re all in this together” has been overused, but nevertheless is true. We live collectively. Our behaviors affect the welfare of others. Our choices limit the lives of others. Our struggles cause others to struggle. Our self-absorptive needs prevent others from meeting theirs. Our deficiencies become their problems. The corrective response is not to be perfect, but to always be thoughtful about how your behavior affects everyone around you—friends, family, even strangers.

Please consider the behaviors you engage in that harm others or put them at risk. Whenever you do something, please ask yourself, Who am I hurting other than me.