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Why Self-Care is Not Selfish and How Taking Care of Yourself Allows You to Take Care of Those You Love

Oxygen Mask hanging down in Aeroplane Dreamstime
July 2022
Reading time 3 Minutes

Are we making our life choices based on our own wants, beliefs and values? Or, are we living our lives based on the expectations of those around us?

Dr Maurice Duffy explains the importance of self care and why you should put your own oxygen mask on first.

I’ve been back on planes recently as life returns to normal, and was watching the safety demonstration before take-off. I think I have worn out the example of oxygen masks on airplanes, but it does make a very important point. Yes, it is a mask with oxygen. But when the need arises, you must put your mask on first. Why? You must take the best possible care of yourself so that you can take the best possible care of those you love.

My question to you today is, when was the last time you stopped to consider your needs, without also considering what someone else wants of you? The problem is that too often we fail to understand that we are supposed to be the authors of our own stories, rather than a big part in someone else’s. To live your own life, you must begin to identify and prioritise the things in your life that are the most meaningful to you. It is essential that you ask yourself if you are truly living the life you want to lead.

Read More: Dr Maurice Duffy Explains Why it’s Important to be Honest With Yourself and With Others

Family holding hands and lifting their daughter Family holding hands. Credit: Dreamstime

So, are we making our life choices based on our own wants, beliefs, and values? Or are we living our life based on the expectations of those around us and prescriptions we acquired in our past? In other words, whose life are you really living? Your partner’s? Your parents’? Your friends’? Or yours?

Believe me, focusing on yourself is not selfish or egotistical. It is an act of self-love. But when you have been in the habit of focusing on others, it can be hard to shift gears.

Whatever life you want to pursue, whether it is building a business, getting married, raising a family, travelling the world or just being happy – there are seven basic universal needs that make us tick and drive all our behaviour.

Some of our needs are biological, while others have personal and social origins. I often describe them based on US psychologist Abraham Maslow’s great work, or adapted from Tony Robbins’ brilliant work.

Now, before I describe them, do note that you and everyone around you will prioritise these needs in different ways and give different focus to each of these needs.

However, if you want to really change then you need to work out which of these needs are your priority from one to seven, and list why you allow these to define you in the way they do. 

These 7ND© are the driving force behind the ’why’ of what we do.

‘It is never too late to be what you might have been’
~ George Eliot
Mum and dad holding had with backs towards with their arms around their daughter and son Unsplash

The 7ND© in brief detail


Many of us seek out the comfort of safety first. It is a universal human trait for us to seek comfort. You would assume that comfort would be a worthwhile goal for us all to pursue, but in reality, it is one of our greatest built-in impediments to future growth. If we were not wired with our affinity for comfort, our possibilities for a better life and world would be unfathomable.


For many people change is necessary in their lives. Where change is your primary driver, you actively go looking for the unknown, or are constantly changing things in order to get new stimuli. However, constantly seeking change and being too focused on the future stops you from enjoying life now.


This is so important to some people, where being at the centre of things allows them to feel unique, important, special, or needed. Striving for improvement can be extremely healthy, but when the outcome is more about other people, then we can become blinded to what is happening to us as people.


A strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something. Love is a huge energy source and brings with it many mental and physical benefits. However, life cannot be all about loving if you do not love yourself. Self-love of who and what you are is the platform to truly loving other people.

Read More: Why We Shouldn’t Let Our Past Define Our Children’s Future


Abraham Maslow says, ‘One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen repeatedly; fear must be overcome again and again.’ It is in learning that we grow. Learning itself is so important. Learning has no time or age restriction, all that we need is a passion for life-long learning. However, learning is not just about being inquisitive but about synthesising and applying the learning in the way that helps us and others. If your focus is learning and not growth you will miss the richness of life.


I believe that our rewards in life have a direct correlation with the contribution we make and the key to life is not in the accumulation, but in the contribution. Our success should not be about the size of our title but the richness of your contribution.


This is both physical and mental health. The health of our mind and body has a direct impact on the type of life we lead.

Balance is everything. Knowing which of your 7ND© human needs is your primary driver and how this affects your ability to connect with yourself and others crucial to your understanding of what fuels you. Knowing how you prioritise in order of importance these 7ND© helps you understand yourself better. It can also help you better learn how you manage the emotions you show, how you think, react, or respond. 

If you want to know more, please do contact me. After all, ‘it is never too late to be what you might have been.’ (George Eliot).

Dr Maurice Duffy is Visiting Professor at Sunderland, consulting coach to the NHS, the Australian cricket team, Durham Cricket Club, international golfers, rugby and many sports people, and also coaches many senior FTSE 100 business leaders and politicians around the world. 

Find out more at or follow him on twitter @thebeaksquawks

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