When is it ok to be selfish?


many words have negative connotations and we can so easily get caught up believing that there is only one way to look at something. Selfishness is the devotion to or caring only for ourselves or being primarily concerned with our own interests, benefits or welfare; regardless of others. I think it is the ‘regardless of others’ that carries the most weight in this definition and if more of us went about our daily lives thinking only of ourselves and disregarding others, the world would be in an even worse state.

There is no argument for being predominantly selfish and disregarding the feelings of others as we make our choices from day to day, but as with most things in life, there needs to be balance. It can be just as detrimental never considering our own needs and feelings and always putting everyone else first. Apart from the responsibility we have as parents, if we are constantly putting everyone else’s needs before our own, we may be on the road to burnout.

Some of us know that “selfish” doesn’t have only negative connotations. Perhaps it is easier to digest if we interchange the word selfish with self-care. You see, self-care is vital in a time where we take on so many roles and are constantly busy with work and family commitments with zero time to dedicate to ourselves. Tiredness, resentment and stress can take over until eventually there will be nothing left to give. Look at it this way; how are we supposed to take care of others if we’re not taking care of ourselves?

There is no need to feel guilty if you decide to choose what you want to do, sometimes, to say no to extra work, to leave the housework for a day. No need to feel remorseful if you sleep in, choose to read a book rather than go out with a friend or don’t answer your phone. Choosing to do exactly what suits for a short time can be the answer to survival and to some happiness. There must be time for us to just be without the weight of responsibility on our shoulders.

The point is not to never help others; the point is to give to yourself first so that you are in a better position to help others. Giving out of obligation or resentment or a forced belief of responsibility is not a healthy way to give and can often put more stress on a person. Giving from a true spirit of generosity means prioritising yourself not because you love yourself more than anyone else, but because by making sure you’re healthy and happy, you’re a better you – and can in turn treat others better.

Being authentic in your actions is what is most important, whether it appears to others that you are selfish or not. The issue to keep in mind is at what point selfishness gets in the way of being a functional, caring human being. We are relational beings and we do have a responsibility to each other, to the society we live in and the environment we share. A balance needs to be struck between caring for our own needs, and giving to others time, attention, and care.

With the constant hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is vital that we understand and listen to our own emotional and physical needs and proactively find ways to ensure that we take the time out to meet them. Some people thrive on being busy and helpful and managing to get it all done ,but those people only maintain that because they know when it’s time to take that break, say no, switch off, put themselves first. It’s not as simple as being selfish, it’s survival and at the end of the day, if you are the type of person who likes to help, who wants to give, who is happy to support; you will do a much better job if you know when it’s time to look after you. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup!

Giving is good and we cannot always only consider our needs, but if a time comes when we need to focus on ourselves without giving up our responsibilities, then there can be nothing wrong with doing that. There is no need to feel guilty for it. If the giving to others is coming from the right place for the right reasons, then giving to yourself is right too.