Something I’ve always found interesting is the way that people treat the word selfish.
It’s treated as if it’s a curse word, or taboo. If you look up the definition of it, the word selfish is defined as being devoted or caring only for oneself and being concerned primarily with one’s own interests.
At times it may feel like being concerned with yourself before others is a bad thing. If we take a step back and really look at selfishness for what it is, is it really a bad thing?
It feels as if there is a social construct that an individual is either selfish or selfless, and can’t be both at the same time. Being selfish is often illustrated as a socially ordained “thou shalt not”, while selflessness is portrayed as an instrumental piece in the dogma of how to be a good person.
I used to align with this perspective of selflessness. I stood wholeheartedly by the belief that being selfless and putting others before yourself was the most distinguished way to validate that I had a good heart.
Through my youth, all the way up to the early part of my 20’s, I thought that the best way to be a good person, was to do what I needed to serve the needs of those around me. It meant that throughout my life, I couldn’t find it within me to say “No”.
It’s not easy on the heart to say yes to everyone but yourself.
Rather than take opportunities that would really give me room to grow, I’d invest more time into what would make those around me happiest, even if it cost me my own peace. As long as they knew I cared for them, right? The thing about expending so much energy towards other’s happiness is that we can sometimes forget to focus on our own.
I invested so much of my own energy into sculpting who I was into the most altruistic version of myself. I wanted to be known for how devoted I was to making others happy. I stubbornly stuck myself into a personal psalm that my happiness could solely be achieved through the happiness of others.
Blame it on my youth. That was honestly the stupidest mindset I’ve ever allowed myself to have. You spend so much time talking others up that when it comes time to sing your own praises, they come out soft and continue to, almost as if you’re turning down the volume on how spectacular of a person you are.
This radical perspective that I held about selflessness hindered me from living the most idealistic version of my life for too long. I had become such a passive individual because of expectations that I had set for others, only for those expectations to fall at my feet.
Why didn’t people reciprocate the regard that I held for them? What was so wrong with me that I couldn’t receive back all that I was giving?
It made me feel angry and lost. I had invested so much time building others and catering to their needs, that I didn’t give myself time to figure out what I wanted my life to be like.
What can you do when you want to live the best version of your life, but it involves being the one thing you’ve been told all your life you shouldn’t be? What happens when you for once, stop being so selfless, and start being selfish?
You start to live your life right.
Let’s be clear. Between selflessness and selfishness, there is a spectrum. As with anything that we measure on a scale, if we invest too much into one thing, then everything becomes unbalanced.
Through being selfish, I’ve learned the importance of balance. I can’t just live life expending all my love and care into others, just like I can’t keep all the love I have within me locked away. The verdict of my self debate is that when it comes to being selfish and selfless, you can’t have one without the other.
The important thing to remember is to never tip the scales. In both realms of care towards others I learned that too much of one or the other is never good for the heart. If we give too much of our love away, we have nothing to give to ourselves. If we hold all of our love that we have within us, we set off the balance of what makes us human.
It’s okay to be selfless. Celebrate your friends and loved ones and exalt them for the light they bring to your life, but don’t forget to throw yourself a me party from time to time as well.
We were made to give and receive love, and the balance of how we do it is important.