Think about the word ‘selfish’. Doesn’t it bring up negative associations in your mind? Being selfish is referred to as being self-centered, self-serving, and self-absorbed. Where you only care about yourself and your interests. You are considered insensitive and unempathetic to others’ needs.
Is being selfish bad?
You’ve been taught that giving is a virtue while putting yourself first is a vice. But if you don’t make your interests and goals a priority, then who will? Why is it such a bad thing? There will be situations where you need to put yourself first and be absolutely unapologetic about it. For example, putting your oxygen mask first in a flight emergency before helping others.
Being selfish is highly misunderstood and there are many myths associated with it that need to be busted.
In his latest episode of ‘Conversations with Rakesh’, SoME Founder & CEO, Rakesh Godhwani threw light on the positive side of being selfish while sharing various interesting real-life examples.
Misconceptions about selfishness
Selfish has been taught as a negative word for centuries. It is considered the root cause of all evil. If you look at the popular narrative and stories, the villain is always shown as a selfish person, while the person who takes care of others and puts them first is virtuous.
You want to look good in others’ eyes and hold your social status, so you refrain from being selfish even when it’s important. You are hesitant to think of yourself as a priority. You keep making sacrifices for others and give up on things you deserve.
Spectrum of selfishness
This is terribly wrong. We as a society are teaching our students and children that selfishness is one end of the spectrum, while altruism is the opposite end. One is bad, and the other is good. We forget an important element of the spectrum that is narcissism, specifically toxic narcissism. Where you care only about yourself and are ready to harm others for your needs.
Re-define the word ‘Selfish’
Being selfish isn’t bad. It is natural. Our selfish need for food, clothing, and shelter is what helped us survive. Teaching people that selfishness is bad, will deprive them of the experiences, opportunities, and success they deserve.
Why it’s good to be selfish
Before the technology boom, there used to be only one channel on television, which was Doordarshan. There was a beautiful ad campaign for mothers. The ad showed a pregnant wife cooking for her husband and son. She packs a big meal for her husband, who is going to work. Then her son asks for food, and she gives the rest of the food to him, leaving nothing for herself. There’s a narrative voice that says to the woman that it’s wrong. You are carrying a life inside your womb. You need to be selfish about your and your child’s well-being. If you don’t eat and nourish yourself, your unborn child may suffer because of your actions. This ad beautifully portrays that while it’s good to do things for others, you don’t need to sacrifice yourself and your needs.
Being selfish isn’t bad. You should understand, appreciate and invest in yourself. It’s okay to want more because when you have more, you can help others too. In a flight emergency, if you put on your oxygen mask fast, you have the time to help someone else. Just don’t cross the line from selfishness to toxic narcissism.
Learn to say ‘No’
You feel terrible saying no to work on your off days or parties you’re invited to. You feel obligated to fulfill what is expected of you. Even when you don’t have the mental or physical energy to do it. It’s important to say ‘No’ in such situations and put your well-being first.
Don’t feel guilty
You are scared of losing people because of prioritizing yourself. But people who don’t care for your well-being don’t deserve to be in your life.
Set boundaries when it comes to your time and energy. If you want to spend time alone, do so without feeling an ounce of guilt. If you don’t have the energy to join a weekend plan, refuse to go without feeling the need to over-explain yourself.
You need to unlearn the negative definition of selfish you’ve been taught. It is good to take care of yourself, focus on your goals and be mindful of how you spend your energy. Remember, it’s OKAY to be selfish about your well-being and growth.