The following is a repost from February 2011. We need to make sure we are number one priority. Always. Yet there is a lot of ‘stuff’ that comes up when we do not put other people first, especially through the lens of relationships.
More often than not, we lose ourselves when in a partnership and come out depleted, heartbroken and mad at Self for not protecting our psyches. When we take care of self, we have more than enough in our cup to make sure it overflows to everyone else around us.
In honor of getting our needs and wants met, I dug up this post I wrote back when I started off my Bucket List year (2011) of doing all of the things that were important to ME!
So what’s wrong with Selfish? It kinda sucks, but it’s true … selfish truly has a bad rap. Even when looking up the definition in the dictionary, three quarters of the descriptors had a negative connotation.
However, if we deconstruct the meaning people have given the word over time and stick to the definition itself (and I mean the very first line of the definition), then selfish does not seem to be such a horrible thing.
Really think about the meaning we give words and the actual definition. When I looked up selfish, this is what I got:
Definition: devoted to or caring only for oneself
When you are on an airplane, what is the one thing we hear that stands out from the rest of the speeches stewardesses drone out over and over again? “Please make sure to secure your own mask before assisting others.”
Would THAT be considered selfish by the definition? Yes, yes it would. You are caring for yourself. How else can you help anyone else? You really would not be good to anyone else if you were DEAD. I know this is an extreme example, but the way we use the word is so extreme.
Actually, maybe it is the the relationship we have with caring for self and caring for others that is so extreme. It may be semantics, but that is what selfish is “caring for oneself”. Caring only for yourself, for an extended period of time, is one end of the spectrum.
So if we go back to the dictionary, another definition would be: “concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.” Regardless of others is the key piece in this phrase, because if you are caring only for yourself for an extended period of time than there would be no room for being caring to anyone else.
The other end of the spectrum would be over-giving; where you are so focused on others that you neglect your own needs and pass up opportunities in the process of caring for everyone else.
A balanced perspective might look like caring for self first, and then others. Like anything, I believe a middle ground needs to be reached. So in this case, the oxygen mask metaphor comes in PERFECTLY. Everyone can see the importance of that act.
Maybe it is not the “being selfish” that is on trial here, maybe it is the actions or motives that need to be considered. If my actions are at the expense of other people’s freedoms, happiness or fulfillment, I am giving to self but taking from others.
What would it be like to be proud of being selfish?
For years I thought “If I think of myself first, that is selfish” and to me selfish meant bad. Yet, that personally breeded the other extreme where I made sure to take care of everyone else’s needs, wants, desires and my life would be postponed, not just once, but over and over, even in little ways.
Speaking from a place of having gotten fed up from being taken advantage, I said “F**k selfish being an evil thing”.
And I repeated that for a number of years. I had to. I was one of those that lived in the land of the extreme. Now, I hold my head up high when I say:
“I AM selfish with my alone time, I DO set boundaries, I say NO to activities or events that are not aligned with my value system.”
But caring only for me enables me to truly give to not only my clients, but my friends and family, from a place of pure generosity as opposed to obligation or duty. I am not such a resentful and crabby person when I have been selfish.
Sounds crazy, I know! But you know what, you know that this is true…deep down inside there is a part of you that secretly wishes you COULD be more selfish.
So go ahead, deconstruct the word if that is what helps … stop giving so much attachment to the word and focus on the benefit of self care.
To throw a monkey wrench in for the fun of it (because I can and I am a bit evil in that way):
What if being “devoted to oneself” included a life of philanthropy? Is that not still selfish? And would that be considered a “bad” thing??
In the words of someone who had a passion for inspiring children to still go after their dreams:
“I am probably the most selfish man you will ever meet in your life. No one gets the satisfaction or the joy that I get out of seeing kids realize there is hope.” ~ Jerry Lewis
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