I was recently interviewed for a podcast called “Mind Matters Perspectives” (which can be found on all podcast sites and also on Instagram @mindmatters_thepodcast) and in one section I talked about trying to look at selfishness in a positive way. I have had questions recently about this and wanted to write about why I think this is important.
Selfish v Selfless
Two words. Opposite in meaning. One seen as negative and the other positive. But why is one treated so negatively when it can be so beneficial for us?
Selfish – concerned chiefly with your own personal pleasure.
Selfless – concerned more with the needs of others.
To be called selfish can be seen as an insult. We don’t want to be seen as someone who is “only” concerned with themselves. We want to be seen as selfless. That person who is compassionate and looking after the wishes of other people.
But why is it so bad to want to look out for yourself? Plenty of people are able to be compassionate whilst also taking the time to look after themselves.
Just like everything else in our lives, we need to have a balance between selfishness and selflessness. As long as one doesn’t take over the other, there is nothing wrong with either of these terms. If the scales tip too far one way or the other, then this can impact on our mental health and overall wellbeing.
As part of my healing journey, I have had to become more selfish. There were times that I was so focused on the needs of others, I lost sight of my own needs and looking after myself. It became quite an issue when this focus led me down a path that was impacting negatively on my mental health. The balance was not there and even though the “selflessness”, which is seen to be such a good attribute, was the aspect that tilted the scales, this was no good for me.
To help, I needed to start to think about doing things for myself, saying no to others and becoming “selfish”. The issue then however, was the negative connotations around being selfish and the guilt that became associated with choosing yourself. Feeling guilty because I needed to make a decision that had me taking time away from people and/or activities so that I could support myself.
For something that was helping me, it was difficult to understand why choosing yourself could be seen as such a negative thing. Why do we feel guilty when we choose ourselves?
For those who are predominantly selfless, to take that time to do something just for yourself can be very hard. We may feel that we are letting others down if we say no, or choose to do something just for us. But this is why it is so important to ensure we are looking out for ourselves. When we become overwhelmed, stressed or tired, the first thing to go is usually our ability to take time for ourselves, when this is the most important thing that can help.
There are times in our lives that we must choose ourselves. Put ourselves first. Be truly selfish and not feel guilty about this. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to fully commit to being able to take care of others. We would never be able to be selfless.
So does that mean to be selfless we must also be selfish? A question for you all to reflect on……….