The Importance of Being Selfish

“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.” – Albert Camus

I’ve been brought up being told to be compassionate, empathetic and more understanding with those we surround ourselves with, but no one really made it clear to me that I had to be the same with myself. I didn’t realise I was denying myself of these very virtues. “Selfish” is a ‘sin’ or a ‘bad word’ in most people’s books. We applaud selflessness, honour, sacrifice and service while frown upon anyone we think of as selfish. A little selfishness can be a good thing though, don’t You think?

I came across three articles recently about why the act of being selfish is a lot more beneficial than many of us may perceive it to be – I quoted my favourite portions of each article below.

Article 1: Why Being Selfish Is the Most Unselfish Thing You Can Do: The Martyr Mentality Myth

I turned to Kal and said, “I believed that to be happy myself, I could simply float on the happiness of those around me. I now see that life just doesn’t work that way. Kal, the flight attendant instructed us to place an oxygen mask securely on our own face before offering assistance to even our own children. This concept was never intuitive to me, but I now understand it. It’s a basic survival skill – a prerequisite for happiness. Before extending happiness beyond my own person, I must first offer it to myself.”

Rather than feel separate or isolated because we somehow tell ourselves that we ‘missed the mark’, we give ourselves the space to accept and understand that sometimes we need to be patient and kind with ourselves.

It goes without saying, one cannot give what one does not have. Learning to show oneself compassion by safely securing our own oxygen mask first, by making our own happiness and well-being a priority, we allow our self to tap into the source of our energy. Our human family deserves our full attention, not some dimly-lit, overly-stressed, emotionally-taxed version of ourselves.

The martyr mentality myth has been debunked. If You sacrifice Yourself to make others happy, You won’t have any meaningful energy, the energy that matters, left to share with those around You. Being selfish, by putting your needs first, is truly the most unselfish thing you can do if you want to show up as your most powerful, productive self. This is the essence of the third metric – learning to live well so that you can contribute more by first connecting with, and making space for, your own desires.

Article 2: The Importance Of Being Selfish

Since it is Your life, who else could possibly have a better idea than you about who You want to be and what You want to do? A lot of people think they have a better idea, but will they live with the consequences of their suggested choices and decisions?

If you don’t follow your heart’s desire, you’ll eventually end up being miserable and resenting the people and reasons that You allowed to talk you out of doing what You want. It’s a strange aspect of being human – we are brought up to please others and not hurt their feelings, so often we don’t say no and then hurt ourselves in the process.

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According to the author of the article, this is how one gets about being more selfish:

  • Before making any commitments or saying yes to requests, ask – “Do I really want to do this?”
  • Be clear on the consequences of saying yes (or no) to a request and ask if you are prepared to live with them. If you are, go ahead. If not, reconsider and come up with an alternative.
  • Learn how to say “no” and mean it. Practice saying a congruent and convincing “no” in the mirror (or get a friend to help You). Stand tall, chin up, chest facing forwards, feet hip-wide and firmly placed on the ground. Imagine someone asking you to do something you don’t want to is standing in front of You. Pause, take a deep breath and say “no” firmly. Do this several times and practice every day if You are not used to saying “no” to people.
  • Include Yourself in Your list of important people in Your life and make space in Your life for You. Start with the small stuff, for example, take an evening off every fortnight or month to do Your own thing, whether that’s going to the pub with Your mates, getting a massage or going to the opera or a movie with the girls. (Remember to give your partner and loved ones the space to do the same).
  • What fills You up? Do something that fills You up and gives You pleasure every month. Dance the Tango, read a great book, watch stand-up comedy, go to a music concert – whatever floats Your boat! Schedule it in your diary like a date or business meeting and stick to it.
  • Applaud Yourself and Your success on being selfish. Even if it’s a very small thing like saying “no” to a telesales agent – celebrate!!!
  • Be Your own best friend. When You have a decision to ponder, ask, “What would my best friend advise me to do?”
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Article 3: 4 REASONS WHY BEING SELFISH IS GOOD FOR YOU 

“When You take care of yourself first, You show up as a healthy, grounded person in life,” says Bob Rosen, author of Grounded: How Leaders Stay Rooted in an Uncertain World (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Oriented around survival, Rosen says it’s in our nature to take care of our own needs first. The instinct eventually got a bad rap, however, and became the source of negative emotions like fear and guilt.

IF YOU CAN’T TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, THEN YOU CAN’T CARE FOR OTHERS. BEING SELFISH IS CRITICAL.

The key to healthy selfishness is being self-focused instead of self-involved. Schedule some “me time,” and you might discover these four benefits: You’ll be healthier, You’ll have an advantage when it comes to leadership roles, You’ll have better relationships (I quote: If You’re looking to a partner to fill Your emotional needs, Your relationship is vulnerable.) and YOU’LL BE HAPPIER!

“If You have a well-developed sense of who You are, what You enjoy and the ability to communicate this to others, You’ll be a happier person,” says Deuter. “Putting Yourself first is not a negative quality; it’s Your job to take care of Yourself and get what You need.”

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Have a wicked weekend ahead, friends! 🙂

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