Ever been told you’re being selfish?
Yeah. Whenever you hear this, you automatically get this feeling of shame or wrongdoing.
I mean, when we look at the definition of “selfish”, according to Merriam-Webster, we get:
“concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”
Doesn’t sound so inviting, does it?
Okay, we can at least recall a few selfish jerks we’ve met in our lives - the kind of people that make decisions without stopping to think how it’ll affect those around them, or worse, don’t actually care when they do.
But as an individualistic society, we’re actually taught to fend for ourselves, follow the “American Dream” and in the end, strive towards our better wellbeing.
So why are we judged when we make decisions that put our needs first?
Perhaps selfish might not even be the right word. Maybe it would be better to use self-seeking or self-serving instead. But alongside with selfish, these words don’t necessarily get the best rap in today’s society.
So, let’s discuss the reasons why they shouldn’t.
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
You’ve probably heard this before. But I can’t stress enough how important this is.
If you aren’t in the best space, whether you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally drained, how do you expect to give, if you’ve got nothing to offer right?
And say you even did try to give, are you content?
Or are you run down, only to be left feeling resentful?
To be able to look after others, you’ve got to look after yourself. Learn to set reasonable limits on how much you can give, even if it means to not give at all sometimes. After all, you know yourself better than anybody else.
Touch up on old skills and explore potential new ones.
Now, say you’ve learned to set those limits. Imagine if you started dedicating that time and energy you would’ve used before, to develop or even explore new skills that matter to you now.
Not only will you be able to learn new things and improve the way you carry out particular tasks BUT you’ll be able to find passion and reason behind the things you do.
In other words, selfishness is necessary for self-improvement.
You'll be moving towards your goals.
Whatever goal you may have, be it fitness, career or family-related, you can’t move forward towards these if you’re too busy pursuing someone else goals.
Of course, I’m not saying don’t be a lending hand or don’t be mindful of others. But give yourself some time to work on yourself. You’ll maintain a forward momentum towards your goals and actually end up getting there closer than you anticipated.
So when you start ticking those goals off your list, you’ve pretty much refueled yourself. You’ll be so motivated to help those around you. And I can assure you, that is not being selfish.
You'll realize your true independence.
If you were to ask yourself right now, how independent are you really?
Because when you’re too caught up in the people’s lives around you, the values you hold and the independence you actually carry can be a blur.
If you take a step back, reflect on your capabilities and see how independent you really are, not only will you appreciate your identity at another level but you will no longer be living someone else’s life.
Which brings me to my next point.
Live your own life, not someone else's.
We’ve all been guilty of this one here.
We all have important individuals in our lives - from friends, family, to your partner - that hold their own image of what they expect of you. They lay out the career that’s best for you, the hobbies you take, the way you dress and act.
As you follow what other people believe may be the best version of you, you give away control over your life and ultimately, you give away your identity.
So respect those who look out for you. We all do it. But realize that when it comes to being given advice, it’s a matter of opinion, not fact.
So, when CAN you be selfish?
It’s crazy how we started off with negative feelings of the word “selfish”, where actually, being selfish can be a good thing sometimes.
But remember, we’re talking sometimes.
If you’ve been a people pleaser your entire life, saying no to friends or colleagues when you’re not feeling great at all is fine. But saying no to every request will most likely harm your relationships with them.
If you need some alone time from loved ones, that’s completely understandable. You’re not obligated to attend or host dinner parties or fill your calendar up when you’re not feeling like it. But taking a quick holiday and leaving your responsibilities with loved ones back home, that might be excessive.
So as long as you’re not being excessive with your decisions, and putting those around you into consideration, you’ll no longer be settling for less.
Keep practicing the above and you’ll experience these benefits.