If you find yourself thinking that the concept of self-care must be inherently selfish, you are not alone. For many of us, the very idea of putting ourselves first in any given situation feels wrong, or at least something to be avoided when desired. Nobody wants to think of themselves as selfish, or have others think of them that way.

But we are here to reassure you that a self-care practice and a selfish attitude are fundamentally different things. Here is why:

When someone is selfish they put themselves first in most, if not all, conceivable situations. They take up seats on the bus for their bags or their feet, even when there are others who could obviously use a break from standing. They won’t come to your birthday dinner because they don’t like the restaurant you chose. They expect you to drop something that is important to you in order to help them with something that could easily be done without you, or with the help of someone else. They are their own priority more often than not, but they might not even realize that this is the case.

When you practice self-care you continue to take others and their needs into consideration, but you learn to recognize that your needs are also worthy of consideration, and sometimes even need to be a priority. You might practice saying no to needy friends and family members when they ask too much of you. You might spend a night away from your kids or your partner when you notice you need some alone time. You might decide to pursue an old hobby that you haven’t had time for in a while, even if it means saying no to some extra projects at work.

Furthermore, when you practice self-care it benefits the people in your life. If you’re taking better care of yourself, you’ll probably notice that you become more enthusiastic at work, more patient with loved ones, more relaxed at home, and hopefully more content overall. While those who have a selfish attitude might benefit from their actions, those benefits typically do not spill over to others.

One of the most detrimental things that our society teaches us is that we have to choose between ourselves and others. You can take care of yourself and still be an extremely supportive partner, parent, family member, friend or coworker – in fact, it just might make it easier.

And rest assured – the fact that you are worried about being selfish probably means that you aren’t.