For as long as any of us can remember, we were told to share with others, think about other and put others first, otherwise we are ‘SELFISH’ and being selfish is not a good way to be. Consideration for others was a common theme throughout childhood, which we continue to take with us as adults.
Does that mean that being selfish is always wrong? Is thinking about ourselves and our needs a bad way to be? Even though fact remains that as human beings and as a part of the living organism, by default our basic nature is survival and hence we will always look out for ourselves first. Remember that pretty lady in the aero-plane, who tells us to put the oxygen mask on our face before we help anyone else?
I am asking you to take a deep breath, sit back, relax and with an open mind, think, Can being a little selfish enhance our life?
What did you get?
Let’s give the word another dimension, a more positive aspect that can make us feel more comfortable about this “selfish” business, how about self-care or self-love.
I can almost see you smiling now… good… let’s introspect a little more on this as there are several reasons that support the idea that selfishness can have immense positive impact on our wellbeing.
Let’s consider the advantages of being selfish;
I think we experience more happiness. Studies have shown that being a little selfish ensures we spend more time on activities that we enjoy and acquire the things we desire the most, which makes us happy. Remember that cricket match you watched, when you were to go visit your mother-in-law and how happy it made you feel, watching the match that is. And if we are happier, we are more productive, altruistic, and resilient. Our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors all benefit from that happy mood! Just ask them.
We enjoy better health. That sacred ‘Me time’ that contributes to us doing things that we enjoy like exercising, reading, sleeping and eating healthy food all result in better health. When we are healthier, we are better able to care for those around us. Ask the pretty lady on the aero-plan again, and she will tell you the same thing. Plus we are also likely to live longer.
Me time or focus on self helps us to enjoy healthier relationships as then we can set boundaries. Ensuring that our relationships satisfy your emotional needs might be a little selfish, and yet it’s also healthy for all involved. When we focus on ourselves we know what we want for ourselves and thus from others. This make it much more difficult for others to be manipulative or taking advantage of us. The ability to say “no” is important to any relationship and that can only happen when we focus on ourselves.
To me, one of the biggest benefit of being a little selfish is that it provides the opportunity for self-development. Taking time away from other obligations to spend on our personal growth enables us to become the best possible version of ourselves. Self-development requires time and attention and understanding of what we want and need to grow and be the best we can be.
Somehow when we focus on our needs and requirements our life is more meaningful. Selfishness ensures that our life is filled with the people and things that mean the most to us. Creating this type of life requires a consistent focus on oneself. How can we accomplish a big goal in the total absence of selfishness? It’s necessary to withdraw our attention from other things to accomplish something great.
People are attracted to others that dictate the circumstances in their lives. Confidence and success are attractive. Who doesn’t admire those that look, feel, and perform their best each day? These qualities can’t be created and maintained if our focus is always on the needs of everyone else.
If we are not taking care of our own needs, we are putting yourself in the position of needing more from others. Being dependent on others results in being dependent on the whims of others. However, when we take time to think about ourselves and our needs, we become empowered.
Look, Self-absorption and Self-centeredness are different from being selfish, where there is complete disregard for other’s needs and requirements. I am certainly not propagating a life or attitude like that. Taken too far, selfishness that goes into self-absorption and self-centeredness will alienate others and create more challenges than it solves. I am asking that we become a little more aware of our needs and respectful towards ourselves and take good care of us.
Self-care and self-focus, that is often misunderstood as “being Selfish” is essential for us to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. It increase our enjoyment and improve our ability to be there for the people in your life. By helping ourselves, we can help others. A nursing mother needs to feed herself well so that her child is well fed, we will never call that ‘selfish’ would we. In fact my amma would supervise my diet to ensure I was “well fed” so that her great granddaughter was healthy. She taught me that if I want to be a good mother, I must first look after myself, keep myself happy so that my child is also happy. And today I ask this of all my clients, look after yourself first before you begin to look after your family, friends, colleague and organization.
We need to seek to find the ideal balance between focusing on ourselves and focusing on others. Set aside time each day to spend with oneself and in understanding what we want and need and that which makes us fulfilled and happy. The benefits we receive will also benefit the people in our life. Everyone will ultimately be grateful for our selfishness.
(Writer is a Life and Personal Branding Coach and practices in Mumbai, India)
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