Why Being Selfish Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

When you hear the word selfish, chances are your mind spirals into the negative zone. And for good reason. Over the years, selfish and its gang of synonym friends — you know, self-centered, self-seeking, self-involved, self-absorbed, the list could go on — have become enveloped in an unpleasant undertone that no one ever wants to be categorized as. But did you know being selfish sometimes can be a good thing?  

While this word usually isn’t the first to be thrown around as a compliment, psychologist experts have proven being selfish from time to time can actually make you into a healthier and happier person.

Organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Grounded: How Leaders Stay Rooted in an Uncertain World, Bob Rosen states: “When you take care of yourself first, you show up as a healthy, grounded person in life…If you can’t take of yourself, then you can’t care for others. Being selfish is critical.”

I don’t know about you, but when I first read this statement, my brows instantly became furrowed. But then, that puzzlement turned into an epiphany.

So often we run ourselves into the ground trying to please everyone around us to gain acceptance. But when you think about it, how can we be accepted by others if we haven’t taken the time to truly accept ourselves? Being selfish every now and then isn’t about radiating bad vibes or being egotistical. Instead, it can stem from the idea of prioritizing self-care and pursuing our own happiness.

The key to embracing the healthy side of selfishness — and not the inconsiderate side most of us associate the word with — is being self-focused instead of self-involved.

Being self-focused is not about putting our needs first to get ahead of others. Instead, it’s about prioritizing our needs so that we can open the door to happiness and create more meaningful connections with others. See, when we take ownership in making sure our personal, emotional, and physical needs are met, we are not only in a healthier state of mind, but we’re in a much better position to help others in need, too. Because let’s face it: how much use can we really be to anyone when we’re drained ourselves? As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

So the next time fear or guilt start creeping into your mind when you’re thinking of taking some time for yourself, remember this: It’s OK to be self-focused. It’s OK to listen to your body’s needs and indulge in self-care. In fact, this is essential to your own well-being.

Whether you’re yearning to cuddle up with that book you’ve been dying to read or want to waste a few hours getting sucked into the rabbit hole of Netflix, do it. Kick off those shoes and have that evening in you’ve been craving. Even if that means taking a rain-check with your friends or family, trust me, they will understand. And better yet, you might inspire them to do the same. Give yourself permission to press snooze for those extra minutes of sleep. Maybe even a few hours’ worth, if you’re lucky.  Furthermore, wipe your hands clean of the fast and frenzy, and trade it in for a slower everyday pace. It’s time to tap into resistance and learn to say no…and not feel guilty about it!

By refreshing your perspectives and shifting your focus inward, you will redefine your own self-worth by not having to seek approval or satisfaction of others. You will become healthier — mentally, physically, and emotionally — and have stronger, more authentic relationships with the people who matter most to you. And ultimately, you will unlock more happiness, and shed unnecessary stresses along the way.

So, ready for a little “me time”? Because that bubble bath is calling your name.

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Kathryn McLamb is a writer and photographer on a mission to inspire others to celebrate the everyday. She runs her blog Pineapple Street, and when she’s not plotting her next travel adventure, you can find her wandering the colorful city streets in San Francisco.