According to the dictionary the word selfish means to "be devoted to or caring only for oneself." In that sense, the word is quite lovely--what's not wonderful to care of self? But like everything else in life, the word also has its shadow aspect. And the other definition that follows is not so cute, "to be concerned primarily with one's interests, benefits, welfare, etc regardless of others."
I think the word has been maligned and many people confuse the primary meaning of the word and only work with the negative aspect of the word. In a effort to rescue a perfectly marvelous word and make full use of its great energy, here are three reasons why being selfish is good for the soul.
One of my yoga teachers commented during class a few months ago something that stopped me dead on my camel posture: when we take care of ourselves we are doing it for others. She continued, it's how we show love to others. What a novel idea! The way she explained it made perfect sense. When we cultivate a lifestyle where self care is a priority and valued and we nourish ourselves first by eating right, resting, exercising we show up to our loved ones -- to the world -- in a better state in mind, body and spirit. When we are selfish and place yourself on the priority list, we are positioned to show our greater selves to others. We are in a better place to give and receive love when we have the capacity to show it to ourselves. Word!
What you do to enhance your emotional health, soul and physical body will indeed enhance anyone whose life you touch. Keep that in mind next time you have to ditch your beloved to go take your butt to the pottery studio.
2. Say yes to you first, and the world will follow
Men do this all the time, it's ingrained in the DNA and good for them, we can take some cues from them too! As the "second sex" women are socialized to nurture others from birth--girls get dolls that they primp and take care of and boys get toys! Many of the so called "girl" toys are for others to enjoy as well, hello Easy bake Ovens! So called boy toys, are for themselves to enjoy. Can we get a happy medium? And then comes love. As soon as we fall in love and have babies this little service button is turned on and we lose sight of our dreams, goals and our needs. We start caring for our beloveds at the expense of ourselves. In fact, studies have shown that women are healthier when they are pregnant than not--makes sense, we feel "guilty" about taking care of an additional life so we make sure we eat well for baby. And when baby is born, well, we have no time!
Turn it around--yes you can!
I met a new mother who was sharing how her me time was gone since the birth of her twins. Married to a successful banker, she too was a power on Wall Street. But she noticed that no matter what chaos was happening at home, her husband never missed his morning run. Never! She on the other hand had to be concerned about the babies, coordinating sitter time, grocery shopping, etc and she could not remember the last time she went to the yoga studio. She said she marveled that her hubby was so singularly protective of his me time, and how she wasn't. It was not his fault that he was practicing self care and she wasn't. His attitude was very clear and protective of his me time, hers wasn't. Things had to change and they did soon after that! I hope for her this change lasted because resentment would grow if she kept putting herself second on the list, or third, or fourth. You know what I mean...
This is the thing, it is up to you and no else to put first. And the world will follow. No one one will place you on the to do list if you don't do it for you. Self care is good care, and is the right care.
Ask yourself this: are you letting the different roles and duties you have to others overtake the duty you have to yourself?
3. It's okay to say no-- and forget guilt, it's a useless emotion
A friend was complaining about a mutual friend who ditched a night out with the girls to stay home. The friend just wanted to stay home, to be with herself. "But we had plans, we always go out on Friday nights," the complaining friend said. "She is just so selfish, always wanting to do her." Well, if wanting to stay home and be with self is bad, I don't know what good is. We are taught to please, to say yes, and to many of us spend lifetimes regretting, or doing things half-assed because we should have said NO, and been OK with it. Instead we are pushed by guilt to place others -- name your activity, person here -- instead of ourselves. Okay so the girlfriend could have canceled earlier, and explained it better. But if you have people in your life that don't appreciate that you are cultivating self care then you need other friends.
Bottom life: If we focus on the lovely aspect of the word - to be concerned with the care only of oneself -- lots of marvelous things can happen. Go ahead, be bold and revolutionary, practice being selfish with care and compassion and you'll see many rewards not the least of which is showing to the world your better self.