Self Care is an Ethical Act

I had never thought of Self Care as an ethical act! That is until today and now I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m taking an ethics course as part of my continuing education requirements for maintaining my board coaching certification. 

One of the text books for this course is “Ethical Intelligence: Five Principles for Untangling Your Toughest Problems at Work and Beyond” by Bruce Weinstein, PhD

Here’s the quote that really caught my attention:

“regarding yourself in an ethical manner means making sure that your body, mind, and spirit are nourished and satisfied.” 

I love that this author frames self-care as an ethical act!

We often think of ethics as doing the right thing by others. Not too many of us think of ethics as also doing the right thing by ourselves. 

I train and coach a lot of leaders, and I’m sure most see themselves as ethical leaders.

But how many of us are stealing from our spiritual, mental/emotional and physical health in the name of serving and doing the best for our bosses, companies, clients, and even family members.

Most leaders take pride in making things better.

But today I want to remind you that as you are making things better for others, make sure you are taking the time to make things better for you.

Consequently, here are five things you can do to become more ethical toward yourself:

Accept that you are human.

First, know that no matter your role or title, you are human first. Your work is what you do not who you are. One of the first ethical principles for coaches is to do no harm.

Unfortunately, too many leaders do harm to themselves by pushing beyond human limits. You have to ask yourself, are you really making things better by cramming 16 hours of work into an eight hour work day?

Do a “Wellness Inventory.”

Take a moment to assess for yourself how well you are in each of the following categories:

  • Spiritual–what are your spiritual anchors for ultimate purpose and meaning; and how often do you connect to them?
  • Mental/Emotional–how healthy are you mentally and emotionally, especially in these stressful times?
  • Physical–How physically active are you? How healthy is your eating plan? How regular are your medical exams?
  • Financial–How financially healthy are you now and for tomorrow (e.g., retirement)?
  • Relational–How healthy are you with respect to the key relationships in your life? Are you giving and receiving love? Sharing and listening? Growing together or growing apart?
  • Occupational/Vocational–how healthy are you in your work? Are you competent and managing your responsibilities or stressed and strained?

To be clear, ask yourself some additional questions: Which of these categories do I prioritize? And at what cost to the other key areas or domains of my life? Is what I am doing acting as ethically to myself as I am acting towards others?

Set good boundaries.

You cannot be everything to everybody. And you can’t do everything at once. Good boundary management includes not letting work activities bleed into personal or family time. Good boundary management also means not letting personal issues consume work time.

Ask for help.

Good leaders need a support network of other professionals including coaches, counselors, connectors, advocates, allies, advisors for the key domains of life. Don’t try to be everything to and for yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

Dr Weinstein writes, “Being kinder to yourself makes it easier to be kinder to others.” Show yourself some grace. Pace yourself better. Forgive yourself. Show self compassion.

So, today is a great day to start prioritizing self-care and acting more ethically toward yourself.

Stay in Touch!

~Dr Jeanne Porter King


  1. Yolanda Harris

    These are really good tips! A good reminder to be kind to ourselves.

    • Hope

      Great share!! I totally agree as a certified Health Coach that self care is absolutely essential for health and wellness. Some people sees it as selfish, I see it as both selfish in a good way and selfless. Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Regina Skillern

    Dr King
    This letter is right on time. I have been focusing on self care while trying to accept my own humanity. I have found myself in a place of releasing toxic things and people from my life. Learning to forgive myself and show myself compassion has been hard, put I’m committed to growing in grace and prioritizing myself.

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