I’m of the opinion that selfishness is a good thing. It has a reputation as being harmful to others, damaging to people’s opinions of us and, apparently, selfishness doesn’t make anyone else’s life easier.
Basically, selfishness is beneficial to you and no one else - that is the main definition of selfishness after all. But isn’t that also the same definition as self-care?
I’m not advocating that we don’t offer a helping hand when someone is in need, or that we stop offering chocolate to our colleagues when we buy a share bag. But I’m also not saying you must offer to help someone every single time it seems needed, or give chocolate away when you’ve bought it with your hard earned money either.
I’ve seen too many people, myself included, brought low by consistent selflessness and not taking a moment for themselves.
I’ve seen family members putting their marital relationships at risk to help their siblings get through their own relationship issues. Other’s taking phone calls at three o’clock in the morning from friends in need of a lift after a night out, and other’s spending their one day off work hanging with the same one friend who had been made redundant some time before that.
Whilst I have so much respect for the people that are selfless, they don’t need to be all the time. They need to be selfish every now and then.
If someone needs help and you feel you can help them then definitely try, but if someone needs, or simply wants, help don’t feel like you must be the person to help them if you’re struggling as well.
If you’re selfless you’re an amazing human being, but you’re not taking care of yourself instead you’re taking care of everyone else.
We see selflessness as if it were the child from the John Lewis Christmas ad in 2011, the child can’t wait to give his parents their present on Christmas morning, but realistically it’s probably the parents who are the selfless ones in this situation. They’ve probably got themselves into debt, taken double shifts at work and have painfully mediated with various sides of the family just to give their children the Christmas from the adverts.
But imagine if they had been selfish, just for a day or two, and not focused on Christmas but on themselves. That kind of selfishness is priceless, particularly at the busiest time of the year.
It’s okay to say I need sometime for myself. Being selfish for the sake of your mental, physical and emotional health is a necessity, not just a desire for some alone time.
Like our phones, tablets and laptops we need to charge our batteries every now and then otherwise we’re susceptible to crash.
Sometimes it feels like you can’t do this though, or that you need permission to say no.
If a family member is sick and you’re the glue of the family, holding everyone together and being the first port of call for every emergency, or not-quite-emergency, taking an hour off to watch Netflix feels like the most selfish, waste of time you can come up with. When really you’re just helping yourself, rather than someone else, for a change.
Society tells you that being selfish is bad but you need to be selfish every now and then, to be selfless the rest of the time.
If you feel yourself struggling, physically, mentally or emotionally then tell everyone that you need a break, don’t ask them. You don’t need anyone’s permission to have some downtime of your own - it’s your life.
Do what you need to do to recharge, be it for a day, an hour or just a few minutes. Go to the spa, sit on your sofa and play games, read a book, take a nap or go shopping. Do whatever you want and be selfish about it, that is your time and no one else's.
You’ll be better at being the go-to friend or family member if you’re feeling stronger and happier in yourself than you’ll ever be if you don’t take a few hours do what you want.
Being selfish isn’t a crime, nor is it a societal black pit as it is made out to be. It is simply a variation of self-care that we all need to participate in from time to time.