Why Being Selfish is the Best Self-Care
Updated: Aug 5
How many times were you told not to be selfish throughout your life? It’s a standard rule growing up that being selfish is wrong and that it somehow makes you a bad person to think about yourself.
What do you associate with being selfish? Being bad or rude? Feeling guilty? Worrying others will think you’re self-absorbed, smug, self-centred… and the list goes on.
There seems to be quite a polarised view between being selfish vs. being selfless, with very little space for a middle ground.
Now, if I were to ask you which one you’d prefer to be called, I’d assume the majority of you would say the latter, as this is the way we’re all encouraged to act.
But let’s just think about what being selfless actually means and some of the consequences of this on our lives.
The problem with not being selfish
To be selfless, by definition, requires us to focus less on ourselves and more on others.
But when did this shift to only thinking about others and never thinking about or prioritising ourselves?
Why are we continually punished for prioritising our own needs and glorified for forsaking them?
I used to struggle with this for a very long time but what I’ve come to realise in my time as a psychotherapist and my own time in counselling is this: if we don’t think about ourselves and take our own thoughts and feelings into account, how do we fulfill these needs? They don’t just disappear!
When we place other people’s needs above our own, who looks after us?
An even more important question to ask yourself is how can anyone else look after our needs, when we are the only ones who can know what it is that we need and/or want, and what will be best for ourselves?
No one else can do this for us and when we stop ourselves from self-awareness and self-reflection in this way because it’s looked at as ‘selfish’, we begin to disconnect and detach from ourselves.
We idolise selflessness without recognising the cost of it: forgetting ourselves.
We end up creating lives that are for other people, their wants and their needs; leaving us unfulfilled, confused,... etc.
This also affects our relationships. If we’re constantly trying to mind read what we think others want, it leaves us constantly scrambling within ourselves about what we think we “should do or say” for them rather than what actually feels right for us.
How can we build healthy, meaningful, deep relationships with others if we never (or rarely) include ourselves in the equation?
This can then lead to feeling resentful, confused, and ultimately withdrawn from the relationship because we never really feel seen, heard, validated or/and accepted for who we are.
Now, you might be thinking… So, Steph, are you saying that I should just do whatever my little heart desires without considering others?
Well, no. Not exactly.
Instead, I’m suggesting that we stop demonising selfishness as the ultimate crime and start shifting our perspective to a more balanced view. Remembering that we need to be selfish in some contexts in order to preserve ourselves, and do what is best for us and our lives.
I’m suggesting that we shift the “other people’s needs are more/ less important than mine” thinking to “my needs are just as valid and important as everybody else’s”.
Of course, there will be compromises and sometimes others will be prioritised over us and vice versa. It’s about ensuring that we give ourselves the permission to show up and be our true selves.
So how do I do this, I hear you ask? Here are a few ways you can get started with prioritising yourself:
Begin implementing boundaries.
Offer compromises to situations rather than simply going with whatever is suggested if it’s not something you’d like to do.
Learn to identify and understand yourself better so that you can effectively and accurately communicate this with others.
Seek counselling to explore this more.
So, as you can see we need to broaden our understanding of what being ‘selfish’ means and remind ourselves that this can be not only a good thing, but an essential part of life!
If this is something you struggle with, I encourage you to reflect on how you can make yourself a priority and look after your own needs. And if this is something you’re finding difficult, get in touch with me to see how I can help you show up for yourself.
Remember: YOU matter.