why being selfish is good


Photo credit:Justin Traylor

I’ve spent a good portion of my life being obedient and giving. I was raised to be polite, respectful and to help others, but for some reason I internalized that as being timid and always doing what I was told. I became a bit of a pushover trying to be a people pleaser.

In grade school I was a shy and quiet kid. I just didn’t want to speak out of turn or offend people in fear of being impolite. So, I stayed low key. At home I had to help my mom with my brother. I never had to change diapers or anything but I definitely had to look after him. Over time I felt obligated to do things for him. Sometimes I still do.

When I was younger I had a cousin who liked to boss everyone around, including me. She would constantly ask me to do favors and tasks and I finally got fed up. I thought to myself, I can’t keep this up I have to say something. So, I did.

“Would you like me to do anything else, queen?” I said mockingly. I could tell my words surprised her and I kind of shocked myself too. I actually said it out loud, but I felt so relieved.

My inner thoughts were extremely loud and bold but they never came out externally.

That day I was proud to stand up for myself.

The dynamic changed after that. She stopped trying to boss me around and I started doing what I wanted when I wanted. People telling me what to do became a huge challenge.

Eventually I became the “mean” and “selfish” one. Just because I wasn’t attending to everyone’s needs anymore I became selfish. I used to feel bad but I don’t anymore. I wasn’t rude. I wasn’t being disrespectful. Saying no became the new norm and I really liked it.

It has taken me a while to master being selfish. Yes, selfish. Not the problematic negative version, but the version that allows you to put yourself and well-being first and not feel bad about it.

Many people have been taught that being selfish is bad and it’s better to give than receive. Contrary to popular belief an article in MentalHelp.net references a study at the University of Pennsylvania that found people feel good when they’re selfish. According to writer of the article, Dr. Allan N. Schwartz, “We must see to our own needs first or we will be too drained and empty to give to others.”

Self-care is extremely important for mental health too. Being selfish equals caring for yourself and nurturing yourself. There are several articles online that list reasons why being selfish is a good thing and how it can boost a person’s self-esteem as well as mental health.

I meditate sometimes and have massage sessions when I can. I also really enjoy sleeping and being alone in silence. I’m trying to get back into workouts and a consistent healthy diet. Self-care can be a collection of things you like to do that make you feel good and have nothing to do with anyone else.

I shouldn’t be expected to feel guilty by society’s standards just for putting myself first. I think more of us should practice catering to ourselves for a change and being comfortable with ourselves before taking care of others.