A few years back I had the first serious discussion about selfishness and why I should be selfish. In my world until then, all selfish people were bad people—they only looked out for their interests. I was raised to behave the way that would make people around me happy, putting myself and my needs after theirs. That model suited me until I decided to do something against everyone’s else will. I decided to leave my prosperous and what to many appeared to be a very happy relationship and luxurious life I had, and move to the Middle East where I was about to start working for an airline. Everyone around me opposed this decision. My then-boyfriend, my family, all my friends. Nobody understood what triggered that desperate need to leave, and why I decided to take such a risky and unexpected step. Every day, someone would try to change my mind using what I didn’t realize until later was emotional blackmailing. Under such huge amounts of pressure, I ended up in my first psychotherapy session ever.
“What exactly is the problem?” asked the therapist after my lengthy description of the whole situation and complaints about my unsupportive loved ones, and how guilty I felt for wanting to imply my own will to my decisions.
“I don’t want to be selfish.”
“It’s not good. Selfish people only look after themselves.”
I was looking at my therapist with awe. Didn’t she know how bad selfishness was? Turned out she didn’t. Instead, she lectured me in a way I was never lectured before. She presented me with a different picture of selfishness. My first therapy session turned out to have very different from what I expected. Nonetheless, it gave me a solid foundation for twisting some of my previously held beliefs.
The majority of us are raised believing that selfishness is a bad thing. I was raised as a catholic, lead from early childhood to subconsciously succumb to all my sins, and feel guilty for all those I didn’t even commit yet. Selfishness was one of those sins. That’s why that therapy session was a turning point for me and my beliefs, as it taught me that unless you are selfish in your life, you will never be able to be truly happy.
Do you always prioritize everyone but yourself?
Is the common tendency always to put others and their needs above your own in the belief that at a later time they will return the favor?
Let me tell you something—they probably won’t. The majority of people who allow you to do what is not your desire is not the type who will prioritize anyone but themselves. True, you could go back to them later and remind them of what you did for them, but don’t be surprised if the only answer will be their shrug and: “And? You did it because you wanted to, didn’t you? I never asked you to do that, did I? You had a choice…”
The fact is, they are right. They never did ask you to sacrifice what you wanted to please them; this will only cause you to begin seeing yourself as a victim.
How dare they not return the favor? You sacrificed so much over and over again and the one time you ask them for something they treat you like this… and so on and so on. Guess what– it is never them, never an outer world. People only treat you how you allow them to treat you. If you are doing something because you believe that in the future they will return that favor, you are mistaken. You should only please people if it makes you truly happy.
That is where selfishness comes in, putting your own needs above the others. If we do what makes us truly happy without expecting anyone to reciprocate any small favors, we could technically be called selfish.
If you want to be happy—truly happy—you have to firmly follow what makes your heart sing with joy. Everyone who has ever achieved anything on this planet will confirm my words—only doing what makes you happy will bring you abundance. And yes, the majority of big explorers look at what was prosperous as well for the whole society, but in the first place – they did whatever they did because it made them happy.
Being selfish in setting up and achieving your dreams requires a lot of courage. It isn’t always the most popular path to follow and might be quite lonely sometimes. But here are the reasons why it may be a healthy path to follow:
- You will stop victimizing yourself– being selfish is liberating. Taking responsibility for our own life means only to do the things that make us truly happy – without expecting anyone else to praise us to heaven for that. If somebody appreciates what we do, great – but if not, it will not stop us from being happy!
- You will love yourself more… When you are doing what you want? Of course, you will love yourself much more than if you did something you did because you had a feeling you had to. There will be no need to suppress anymore who you are and once given the freedom to be who you are, you will learn how to appreciate that beautiful being.
- You will do things because you want to, not because you’re expecting reciprocation. Nothing stings more than the act of kindness surrounded by conditions. “I will do this for you only if you…” Selfish people are kind because they want to. They’re not expecting any favors in return (although, those favors often naturally come).
- Your heart will be in what you do– and wherever the heart is, the passion grows. You will become more compassionate and will believe in what you do much more than you would if done otherwise. You’ll connect with people you need to, and will provide the service to them not because you see them as walking currency that should add to your bank account, but because you’ll genuinely want to help them and serve them. I will touch the base on “selfless-selling” in one of my next articles, but the fact remains – by being selfish, you serve people the best.
- You will learn how to listen to yourself. Once you begin to do what you love to do, there is no other way how to do it but to explore the hidden corners of your own heart and listen to yourself carefully. There will be nobody else to look up to once you need to figure out what to do. There will be nobody to blame but you.
- You will attract like-minded, healthy self-confident people to your life. Those who always want to “sacrifice” have a strong tendency to attract those who will abuse this with pleasure. Whether narcissists or pure egoists, they simply sense whenever something is willing to put everyone else in the first place – and believe me – they will be the first to step in that place. By gaining healthy self-confidence and putting yourself as first, you will attract people thinking the same:)
- You’ll be authentic. I don’t trust “positive vibes” only people. Nobody can be always positive, that’s not how it works. By being selfish, you’ll learn how not to fake how you feel because your selfishness will allow you to express who you truly are. You become authentic. You become more wanted. You appeal more to people.
- You won’t need anybody to fill the internal void. Often, when doing things “only for the others” without resonating with them, we get so disconnected from who we are, that we start to feel empty. We expect others to fill the void by doing things for us, but we are painfully surprised when the fulfillment won’t come. It can’t. Fulfilling your void can only come from you. When you put yourself in the first place, there’s a deep connection between what you do, and who you are. There won’t be any void to fill in.
- You won’t need people’s approval. This is new. We’ve been raised to seek everyone’s approval for our actions. Likes on the social media, appraisals from our parents and peers. We’re desperate to hear from others how good we are, get their tap on a shoulder, and if it doesn’t come, we feel there’s something wrong, and often, we’re willing to change the course of our actions. When you do things because you want to do them because they make you happy, you will enjoy them regardless of anybody approving them.
And the last and the most beautiful thing about being selfish is that there will be a point when you become selfless in your selfishness.
You will want to share that inner feeling of happiness with everyone around – but this time not because you think you are obliged to, but simply because you WANT TO. And that’s the tenth reason why being selfish is healthy – for you, and for others.
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***A disclaimer: The article above is only contemplating on the acts that are harmless for any living being. No act that is harming any other living being is healthy, and shouldn’t be excused.