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Being ‘Self-ish’

Are you being selfish? I do hope so.

People often bandy around the term ‘selfish’ as a negative thing. They use it to insult others when they feel angry – “Oh you’re just being selfish, how dare you – you’re thinking of no-one but yourself…”. There is a place for that comment, but more appropriately when someone is being more self-absorbed and thoughtless at the cost of those around them which is a different kind of selfish from the situations I’m outlining here.

Stop for a moment and consider what being selfish really means and you’ll see that it’s not always a negative – in fact, it’s actually necessary to living a happy, balanced and emotionally healthy life.

Being selfish means looking after the ‘self’ and if you think about it, when you look after the ‘self’ you don’t need anything from anyone else in order to be OK. Any neediness you may feel of others will vanish and you won’t need to use controlling, manipulative or passive aggressive behaviour in order to feel happy in yourself, because you’ve already made yourself feel happy.

Life can get quite skewed when you don’t take time out. Having ‘self-ish’ time puts everything back into perspective and can take the drama out of situations you find yourself in during everyday life. It creates some space to breathe and think and very often that is when we can suddenly see the solution to a problem that has been hanging around for a while. The challenge is that it’s your responsibility to yourself to take that time and make it happen. It is a very necessary part of self-care, especially when you are spending most of your time caring for others.

Being selfish means filling yourself up with whatever you need to be a happy person – to live a ‘ful-filled’ life.

It seems to have become a taboo for some people to do things that are purely for themselves because of the fear of being seen as ‘selfish’. The Mum or Dad who look after the children 24/7 and have lost some of their identity to just being a ‘parent’ often have terrible trouble taking some time out purely for themselves, even just one evening! The misplaced guilt they feel for leaving the children with their partner and going off somewhere for a couple of hours is overwhelming enough for them to shelve the idea altogether and continue to run themselves into the ground until they are worn out and no good to anyone (including themselves!). It’s as though they feel they are betraying the children for not wanting to be with them all the time and ‘putting upon’ their partner. These feelings often grow out of low self-esteem, a sense of ‘I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy of being allowed some time out purely to do what I want’ and is a very common experience with many people.

Think about your car for a minute. You don’t look at the empty fuel gauge and keep driving until the car stops and can’t move forward. You realise the tank is getting low and find the nearest filling station to replenish the fuel. It is the same when your emotional reserves are running low.

Learn to recognise the signs and take action before it becomes a problem.

When you begin to treat yourself with respect, see your own value and demonstrate this by giving to yourself, whether that be by buying yourself nice things, giving yourself some time out, taking yourself to the cinema to see a film you’re interested in… all these things are important to maintain happiness.

If you consider the relationships in your life – caring for children, friendships, marriage and partnerships – we put so much time, energy and headspace into maintaining these, making sure the other person is happy, worrying when they’re not on track, but actually, the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself and if that relationship isn’t a happy one, then none of the others will be, because how you feel about yourself will be reflected back to you from your external relationships. This could lead to a very rocky ride in life.

The answer to all this is so simple: take some time to build up your relationship with you, just take some time to do whatever makes you feel happy and in that time shelve all thoughts of others, all sense of guilt and immerse yourself in some glorious, well-earned ‘Me time’. Once you begin to do this, you will see that when you get back you feel like a re-energised battery, you will enjoy being with the kids, you will perform better in your job, you’ll be a better partner, you’ll feel like a new you, you’ll have a new perspective on life… it’s a no-brainer really, no-one in their right mind would not do these things once they experience the wonderful benefits of them.

Say to your partner ‘I’m taking myself out for a while and when I get back I’m going to feel so refreshed, so energised… so happy in myself that I’ll be joy to be around!’ What partner that loves you wouldn’t want that for you?! Wouldn’t you want that for the ones you love?! So why are you tying yourself up with a false sense of guilt and denying that to yourself and your loved-ones?!

Wake up to the reality of the situation, not the dramatised, fearful version. Care for yourself as you do for everyone else in your life and gradually you will begin to feel more balanced, happy and liberated and all your other relationships will benefit and naturally fall into balance.

Write that on a note and stick it on the fridge! Read it every day until you believe it.

Once you find your own, true happiness you’ll be such a joy to be around that other people will marvel at the change “What is it that you’ve done to have such a happy life?” they’ll ask and you’ll reply “Oh, I just learned how to be truly selfish”.


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