I’ve been called selfish, to my face, by people I love. It used to cause me to dance to the tune of the one who said it, exactly as it was intended. I used to believe it was a bad thing.
We’ve been handed a complex, relatively unspoken set of rules regarding societal expectations. Because our (recent) origins stem from Puritan-Christian beliefs and our (deeper) origins stem from tribal customs we are quite ingrained with the message to put the welfare of others and ‘the group’ ahead of individual welfare. While this certainly helped us, at first, survive as a species and more recently organize as a civilization, it appears that we now have a lot of individual dis-ease around being not worthy unless we are self-sacrificing. I am referring to all-too-common feelings of inferiority, anxiety disorders, stress, depression all the way to auto-immune disorders and suicide. I believe at the root of all of this is the belief that one is not enough and that we have to earn approval, our right to belong and essentially; to earn love.
Because we have so much exposure to what everyone else is doing (and thinking!) via social media and advertising we have a very heightened expectation of ourselves and what we ‘should’ be doing or what we ‘should’ be like and even what we ‘should’ desire. Others telling us what is needed to belong. We are wired to want to be part of our ‘tribe’ and our tribe is barraging us with messages, no wonder we are all feeling so shitty about ourselves.
Let’s look at being selfish. Putting oneself ahead. Putting oneself first. Regarding oneself before considering others. There is the most illustrative example of airlines cautioning us – on EVERY flight – in the event of air loss, place the oxygen-mask on yourself BEFORE assisting others. How many of us, in our everyday lives, are assisting others while we are deprived? Deprived of sleep. Deprived of proper nutrition, exercise, connection, support, etc.? How many of us are so self-depleted from always saying yes, that we are angry, bitter, resentful and/or depressed?
Self-care is not the same as staying in a perpetual state of victim-hood and neediness. I got stuck here for a while. Once a person’s well-being is nurtured then sustained OR the inner sense (knowing) of inherent value and trust in real needs always being met arises, then a sense of wanting to contribute – wanting to serve will be a natural outflow.
It is time to drop the notion that being selfish will lead to the downfall of society. In fact, the opposite is reasoning that is not faulty. When the individual and their particular need for well-being is properly considered, the contribution to society’s well-being, by that individual will be creative and abundant. We need to start considering ourselves first. What are you feeling? Where does it hurt? What do you really need? What would happen if you said no? Who would you be if you weren’t trying to please everyone and earn their love? If they really love you, do you need to earn it? Is needing what you need selfish?