It is embedded in our system that being selfish is bad and it is a characteristic of a narcissist. But the id (id is driven by the pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs.) in us sometimes wants us to prioritize our needs and feelings more than anything in this world. We are all forever stuck with this ongoing conflict between the unspoken rule of the world and our inner true self. More often than not, we choose to act generously not prioritizing the self, at least to fit in this society’s paradigm. But is that something we really want? A need to put the needs of others before our own?
I grew up believing that only bad people put themselves before others. And yet, a large part of me wanted to be selfish. I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. I wanted to feel free. Of course, didn’t want to hurt anyone in the process, but I wanted to live my own life. So, I constantly felt a push inside of myself. A struggle to be “good” and a yearning to be “me.” The id inside me was hurting, feeling really tired to live.
But this didn’t work for long. I only ended up becoming a people-pleaser. After years of trying to be someone I wasn’t, I decided that I had enough. I mean, YOLO guys! Everybody has something to say about us, so how long hurt our poor id? After all, prioritizing oneself is not so bad!
The first thought we get in mind when we hear the word selfish is, being narcissist, or lacking consideration for other people. The kind of selfish that incorporates greed, arrogance, and ego. Unfortunately, this definition overshadows the healthy side of being selfish. Part of the cultural problem is that most people, perhaps unconsciously, associate the idea of loving others with forgetting about ourselves.
There is a difference between being self-centered, and being “selfish” in the traditional sense of the word. It means prioritizing yourself, and you do it for the greater good. You will want to be the good kind of selfish, with the virtue that allows you to be good to others because you were first able to be good to yourself. In fact, it is important to be selfish at times. Why should you ditch the guilt and feel good about putting yourself first?
You feel it’s important to put on your own oxygen mask on the plane before assisting others. It is universally accepted to save yourself first in case of emergency. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so selfish anymore. How will you aid and improve the lives of those around you, if you don’t make sure you have enough of what you need to operate at your best?
Surviving being selfish
There’s nothing wrong with telling a friend, “I love you, but tonight I’m going to stay in because my body needs it.” There’s nothing wrong with dedicating time to a hobby or passion that makes YOU feel good. I know this can pressurize you into feeling guilty. We never want to feel as if we’ve let our loved ones down. But it is important to sink in the thought that it is completely fine to take a break occasionally.
Repeat after me: Self-care is NOT selfish
Ask yourself the following questions the next time you feel you are being ‘selfish’
- Is what you are doing helping or hurting your emotional well-being?
- Is your behavior good for you and neutral or benefiting others? Or is it harming others?
- Is what you are doing serving your highest values in helping you achieve your dreams or is it compromising them in some way for someone else’s desires?
Self-care is vital at any cost. But it is important to know the balance. If you’re constantly concerned only with yourself and never stop serving others who have served you, then you’re probably just being kind of a jerk.
Walking along the border
Swinging too far one way is just as bad as swinging too far the other way. Unless you are prepared to be a toxic individual or plan to become a Buddhist monk ready to give their entire existence to others. Even the monks indulge in themselves once in a while though.
There are times when you need to take care of yourself. Here are a few:
- You need help: Everyone needs help once in a while. But we often avoid seeking it. Whether we acknowledge it or not, sometimes asking for help can make you feel incompetent, weak, or needy — even if not asking for help means adding unnecessary stress. Asking for help when you need is important. If you need companionship, ask a friend for support. If you need an unbiased outside voice, seek therapy.
- Needing lone time: If that’s what you’re in the mood to do, don’t feel guilty for wanting to be alone. We all need alone time sometimes. Some people need more than others. There’s no shame in taking time for yourself.
- When giving is being significantly outweighed by taking: Although it can fluctuate, any relationship should have a good balance of give-and-take. But when the scales tip so that all you’re doing is giving and all they’re doing is taking, it might be time to do something.
- You need rest: When you’re feeling tired, doesn’t matter if it’s emotionally, mentally, or physically — it’s time to rest. Sometimes, that just comes down to sleep. Rest is essential to any type of recovery.
The more we understand why we do what we do and what we expect from our actions, the truer we are to ourselves and to others. Hope you have a wonderfully selfish day and put yourself first when needed!