The idea of being selfish sounds so negative. It’s seen as a flaw, something that harms and hinders not just ourselves, but the people around us, too. But we’re here to tell you that there are ways to be selfish and feel absolutely fantastic about it.
To be fair, being selfish can be taken too far, and that’s why being selfish has such a negative vibe associated with it. Taking more of your fair share is selfish, taking advantage of someone for personal gain is selfish, but putting yourself first and feeling great about it? It’s a whole different sort of selfish entirely.
Being selfish can be empowering and can create a positive impact, not just on our own lives, but on those around us as well.
Life coach Krista Jane from Sydney sums up selfishness pretty nicely.
“We all know the airline rules… in case of emergency, put the little dangly mask on your face before your kid,” she says. “Why? You are good to no-one if you are passed out! That’s why.”
And the same goes in life outside the aeroplane cabin. What good are we if we can’t breathe, if we’re burnt out, unhappy and unfulfilled? Similar to putting on our oxygen masks in the air, we too have to put on our own hypothetical oxygen masks in real life, too.
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“There’s too much dogma out there telling us that we have to sacrifice ourselves in order to be good people,” says life coach and yoga teacher, Lindsey Lewis.
“There’s too much messaging telling us that the more we give [and] the more we take a back seat, the more we’ll come first — in other people’s eyes and in helping the world.”
But, that’s just not the case, she says.
“Yes, we want to do good in the world, [but] how can we possibly do this without taking care of ourselves? How can we possibly take care of other people’s health and happiness if our own health and happiness is shot?”
So, if you are burnt out or feeling the imbalance between giving and taking, here are some ideas on how to be selfish and feel good about it.
Do what makes you happy
It sounds so simple, but make sure you give yourself time to do the things you love. It doesn’t have to be every day, and if you don’t have time, it doesn’t even have to be every week. Just make time whenever you can to do the things you love. This could mean a leisurely stroll through your local botanical gardens, or time out listening to your favourite music. Give yourself permission to make time for doing the things you love. You’ll be all the more happier for it.
Don’t have the energy to have the family over for dinner this week? It’s okay to change your plans and say no when your energy levels don’t match your commitments and your intentions. Listen to your body and give it a chance to breathe and rest when it needs to.
Make time for yourself
Sometimes, all it takes to recharge the batteries is a bit of alone time. And we mean alone time — no phones, no email, no connection for however long you can manage it. Switch off and relax, even if it’s just for 5 minutes a day.
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Advice for parents
All this advice goes for the parents among us, too. Parent coach and child and family therapist, Nicole Schwarz, says parents who put themselves first are actually using an important and healthy parenting strategy.
“Which of the many excuses do you tell yourself? ‘I don’t have time, there’s too much to do, I’m supposed to be the strong one, I feel selfish,'” Schwarz says on her website, Imperfect Families.
“Raising children is hard work. It is constant, 24/7. It can be draining. And for many parents, instead of re-fuelling by taking care of themselves, they feel more and more drained.”
If you don’t think the little ones can pick up on our vibes, Schwarz says they’re more aware than you might think.
“You may see it in your kids’ behaviour, too. Kids often have a sense when things are not quite right with their parents.”
But we can all make a change and choose to put ourselves first, for the betterment of the whole family. And Schwarz’s advice goes for all of us.
“Take time to address the obstacles — finding a babysitter, getting up earlier, making time. There have always been obstacles, this is probably what’s prevented you from taking care of yourself in the past. This time, decide that you are not going to let that stand in the way of taking care of what you need.”
Remember to nourish yourself — with food, with people, with activities. Treat yourself kindly and you’ll feel lighter and better for it. Fill your life with healthy foods, fulfilling relationships and good conversation and keep yourself stimulated and motivated.
Don’t feel guilty
At the end of the day, it doesn’t make sense to be putting yourself first if it makes you feel guilty. Don’t put blame on yourself for taking time out just for you. Because, ultimately, a healthier, happier you makes for a healthy and happy partner, employee, parent and friend. Go with it and let us know how you go.