I’m sure I’ve written about this topic before (maybe even under the same name), but I think it bears repeating. 

It’s not okay to be selfish. But it’s very okay to be self-ish. Let me explain. 

Selfish means that you’re not in touch with the needs of others and that you put yourself before everyone else all of the time. 

Self-ish means you’re in touch with the needs of others and that you put yourself before others some of the time. And that’s really it — some of the time, you need to take care of yourself. So be self-ish. Just ish. Just a little. 

Take yours truly, for example. I’m what you call a workaholic. (I call it overachieving). But whatever you call it, it doesn’t change the fact that I feel guilty and ashamed when I take a lunch break. A break that is provided to everyone equally, but for some reason, is difficult for me to accept. 

Now, I’m not selfish. I certainly don’t take a longer lunch break than anyone else. But I’m self-ish when I take a lunch break. I’m  putting myself and my needs first some of the time when it’s needed. 

So be self-ish sometimes, and you’ll find no reason to be selfish. 

Is There Such a Thing as a Selfish Act?

When I began to think about writing this blog post, I wanted to impress upon my readers the idea of doing something solely for yourself. I don’t necessarily mean doing something that satisfies you, such as taking a bubble bath or buying a new suit, but rather completing a task that is you. An act that comes from within you and that is not soiled on the way out by niceties, courtesy or filters. The problem, I thought, is that we live such confined lives at work, school, etc. We rarely express or experience ourselves in our unadulterated forms. Perhaps, because we call our true instincts and desires “selfish.”

But riding along this thought train, I pulled into a station that I wasn’t prepared to stop at. I was at a loss for a perceived “selfish, self-indulgent” activity that did not, in one way or another, impact others in a possibly positive light. This completely inverted my idea that we occasionally should live “selfishly.”

Selfishness is imaginary, I realized.

Seriously. You made it up in your head a long time ago to punish yourself for absolutely nothing. Or some other masochist did. Probably the Puritans. (They were a hateful breed. What did they hate most? Themselves. And happiness.)

So, let’s look at the evidence and at some “self-indulgent” endeavors that should be actually named “self-resplendent”:

1. Taking a bubble bath.
-It makes you smell good.
-It rejuvenates you. (And so, allows you to work harder for those around you because you have taken care of yourself.)

2. Buying something new for yourself.
-It makes you feel good.
-It rejuvenates you/can make your self-esteem rise. (See #1).

3. Taking that last piece of chocolate cake.
-It tastes good.
-You are saving someone else from eating too many calories.
-You are complimenting the chef, (even if the chef is Little Debbie).

4. Saying “No” to a favor.
-You are being true to yourself.
-The person that asked you for the favor will not feel your frustration over being obligated, thus not ruining their own time.

5. Leaving a family/friend/relationship behind.
-It could be toxic. You should love yourself enough to recognize when you are being hurt.
-It will be a favor to them in the long run. They will ultimately understand that your interactions with them were not good for either of you.

And the list goes on. So, the next time you are feeling dejected that you have been “selfish/self-indulgent” in some way, you have to remember that we are all connected as humans and that there will always be consequences. But that should be liberating knowledge, not confining. Every action we take has a re-action, and there is always a positive and negative side to those responses. What you choose to focus on is your “selfish” business.

But next time, try to look for the lighter side of your selfish act and you may find that it is actually a selfless one. (In other words, buy a puppy. That’ll keep everyone happy.)