“I’m a fan of the word selfish. Self. Ish. When I say I have gotten a lot more self-ish, I mean I am less concerned with what people think of me. I’m not worried about how I’m perceived. Selfish has always gotten a bad rap. You should do for you.” - Matthew McConaughey
If you must be selfish, then be wise and not narrow-minded in your selfishness.— Dalai Lama
In modern society, we have a predisposition to use the world 'selfish' with negative connotations. A child that won't share is called selfish. A husband that won't spend an evening with his wife, but instead wants to hang out with the guys, is called selfish. A coworker that won't help you with a work emergency because he doesn't feel like it is called selfish. Its to the point where the word seems to only be used to put someone down. Selfishness can be a positive aspect, in the right situation, allowing you to rest, to rebuild, to improve yourself, and to expect your energy in the direction you deem best, without having it unnecessarily spent.
Lets talk about some reasons why selfishness can be a good, constructive aspect of yourself, and a tool that you can use to better yourself.
Selfishness allows you to concentrate on yourself, and do what is important to you
There are many selfless people in the world, people that do not, will not, or cannot say 'No' to someone. I've met many like that, and I've watched them burn out. They give and give and give, until they have nothing left, their own worries and cares have taken a back burner, and they are living to serve the needs of others, at the cost of themselves.
Selfishness allows you to say 'No' when needed. It allows you to be comfortable with the idea that, at this moment, in this situation, my needs are more important than yours, in my opinion. I have something I'm working on, inside myself, that requires my attention, and when its complete, I'll be stronger, better and more able to give myself to the service of others.
Selfishness allows you to tell people that you need a break, for the moment
At heart, I'm an introvert. Social interaction drains me, much like a run would drain me. Afterwards, yes I'll enjoy the interaction, and feel good that I did it, but I need to rest. I'm no longer anywhere near my best, and I need to recharge. Many people, especially extroverts, rarely understand this need. Extroverts are charged by social interaction - they feed off of it, and many simply don't get that many people simply have little left in the tank afterwards.
Being able to say 'No, sorry, not right now' enables you to get back that energy, process the events that have happened, meditate on it if you choose, and then get back into the swing of things relaxed and refreshed, ready to give again.
Selfishness allows you to deal with being taken advantage of, and having your energy reserves drained needlessly
One aspect of mindfulness is being aware of the moment you are living in - aware of the people that you are interacting with, aware of their emotional state, and more aware of their motivations. One of the key concepts of mindfulness is 'Acceptance' - let things be the way they are, without having the need to change it.
Mindfulness also allows me to better understand when the person I'm interacting with are really considering my needs in their equation. More than once, I've had the phrase 'Better to ask forgiveness, than ask permission'. People know sometimes that they take advantage of others, especially those they perceive as weaker.
I know myself well, and I know I only have a certain amount of physical and mental energy at my disposal before I need to recharge. If I have things asked of me by someone that is fully capable of doing things themselves, but simply don't want to, They are too wrapped up in what they are doing to care to break away, or too tired and stuck on the couch.
Selfishness allows me to redirect my limited energy to what is most meaningful to me and those I care about, without having it taken by those that have energy of their own to spare.
Selfishness allows you to protect yourself, when something is not quite right
Have you ever been sick, overworked, injured, emotionally compromised, or otherwise not doing well, yet others still have their normal expectations of you? Mothers, especially, have felt this demand - the needs of the kids are continuous, and don't let up much regardless of how you are feeling.
Selfishness allows you to protect yourself when you need time to heal. We all have moments when we are significantly less than our full potential. At these times, its important to be able to prioritize even more effectively what is really important to others, and let them know you need time and energy for yourself in order to get back to your full self as soon as possible.
I've been called selfish more than once in my life, for various reasons. Yes, some of them were times I simply valued my wants more that the wants and needs of others. I'm working on being mindful of that. I'm concentrating on being aware of when being selfish is in my own interest, and in the interest of those around me. We have it inside each of us to have the strength to just say 'No' when the situation calls for it, and also to have the strength to stay resolute against the demands of others, when this happens. Its not easy for some, for we are social creatures. All I ask is that you keep the concept of selfishness as not strictly negative - it has many positive aspects that truly are helpful on a personal level.
"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." - Oscar Wilde