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The definition of selfish is being “primarily concerned with one’s own interests, benefits,  welfare etc regardless of others”. Periodically throughout my life I have been told that I was selfish. Usually in a negative way. I guess selfish is perceived as a negative word. I don’t get why.  I would consider myself selfish. But the key here is who I choose to disregard in my choices and actions, and when I choose to disregard them and their opinions. Perhaps I’m selectively selfish? Either way I believe that most people I know could do with being a bit more selfish. One of the listed synonyms for “selfish” is “self-loving” and honestly, what’s so wrong with loving yourself?

Why would anyone NOT be interested in their own best interests? Not to say these people don’t exist, and the ones that do usually end up being walked all over or in unhappy circumstances because they’re too worried about upsetting others to speak up for themselves. Let’s get one thing straight. This is your life. You should be your number one priority. Even if you have kids, even if you’ve found the love of your life, even if you have a super important job that you think takes priority, even if your family member is sick. You CANNOT help anyone without making sure that you are looked after. Think about the oxygen masks on a plane, you gotta put yours on before you attend to your child! If you’re too busy running around making sure everyone else is happy, basing your life decisions on how things affect other people then you will never be happy. You MUST understand yourself. Take time to figure out what you need and/or want. Decide what you will and won’t tolerate. Acknowledge what makes you happy and explore more of that. Spend time with people that raise you up. Ditch the people that have a habit of making you feel bad (even if you think they don’t mean to – they’re still sucking the life-force out of you). Anyone that depends on you will only benefit from you taking care of yourself.

I’ve made many a decision in my life that could be classed as “selfish”. I left my job. My family didn’t want me to. My friends in my job were devastated. If I wasn’t selfish then I would have stayed, to keep those people happy. But I knew I needed to leave for my own mental health. I absolutely had to take care of myself. And this is a prime example of choosing when to disregard the feelings and thoughts of even the most important people. I didn’t care if my mother thought I was mad, I’m my number one priority and I absolutely will NEVER leave myself in an unhappy situation no matter what anyone thinks. You MUST stand up for yourself. People will call you selfish. But ultimately they’re the ones being selfish in the most negative of ways by attempting to stop you from doing what will make you happy. On a side-note, my mam’s amazing, it just took her a little while to come around to my career change.

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If I wasn’t selfish I would have stayed with that boyfriend who treated me like shit, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Does that seems sensible to you? No, of course not. So bye bitch, you weren’t very nice to me and now I’m off to make sure I’m happy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. He called me selfish. And if me wanting to be happy and in a non-abusive relationship is selfish then hell-fucking-yeah I’m selfish. Gimme a sash saying “Miss Selfish”, cos I am 100% OK with that title if it means taking care of myself and my own happiness.

Being selfish, to me, doesn’t mean that you never help people. I love helping people. That’s basically all that pharmacy (my old job) is, helping sick people. And I will do anything for my family and friends, as long as it doesn’t conflict with my own mental health/happiness. I’m literally sitting on an early train up to Dublin now to help my friend with her stall at a food festival for the next couple of days because I love her and why wouldn’t I want to help her?? She’s not asking anything unreasonable. I’ll recommend people for press trips. I’ll make handmade cards for family and friends etc. But I’m still high up there on my own list of priorities.

So if you’re at a crossroads right now, think about what is best for YOU. It is that simple. Don’t think about how anyone else would react, how they’d cope, what they’d think. If you pass up opportunities because you weren’t bold or selfish enough to take them, or leave yourself in soul-destroying situations because you don’t want to upset anyone, it is only you who will lie awake at night, full of regret, wondering “what if”. All those other people that you were so desperately trying to keep happy will be sleeping soundly because you chose them over yourself.

Jada Pinkett Smith said it perfectly in her amazing interview about looking after yourself first as a mother, “Because when you stop taking care of yourself, you get out of balance and you really forget how to take care of others. And I think that we’ve been taught that taking care of yourself is a problem.”. We are taught that we shouldn’t be too confident, we shouldn’t think too much of ourselves, we should be selfless. That’s not OK. We should all love ourselves enough to be honest with ourselves about what we want from life. And we should be brave and selfish enough to actively pursue those wants and needs. Ultimately the happiness these actions and decisions bring us will ripple through the world around us and infect others close to us. And really, what could be wrong with that?

My name is Tara, I’m a little bit selfish and that’s why I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do with my life. That’s why I’m in an incredibly loving relationship with an amazing man. That’s why I say no to things I don’t want to do. That’s why I have a small circle of wonderful friends. That’s why I’m successful. So, why is “selfish” such a bad word?

DISCLAIMER – This is not me telling you to go out and cheat on your partner because you’re not happy, haha. This is me saying do what is right for you in as ethical a way as possible. This is not me telling you to rob a bank because it’s what you want to do and you need some money (terrible idea). It is possible to be selfish, still do things ethically, have morals and be kind.

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4 Responses

  1. Courtney Blacher

    Couldn’t agree more. Selfish is not a bad thing. If I am not going to love myself the most, who will?

  2. Barefoot Backpacker

    ah, how timely.

    “If I wasn’t selfish I would have stayed with that boyfriend who treated me like shit, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Does that seems sensible to you?”

    This is what I do. Obviously it’s not sensible. I advise people not to do this if they ask. And yet … and yet I still do it …

    “So if you’re at a crossroads right now, think about what is best for YOU. It is that simple.”

    This is where I am. Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis. Who knows. But maybe I’ve already made at least one of the decisions I need to. We’ll see …

    So yes, very timely. Thank you for this. 🙂
    Barefoot Backpacker recently posted…If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belg…oh, hang on…My Profile

  3. Haley

    love this post ! you’re so right. It took me a while to learn to be selfish after giving so much of myself to people. I will never take the word selfish as an insult! As a loving person, it is honestly sometimes difficult to put yourself first. But you have to fill youself up with love and care first in order to spill that over onto someone else. When you start to empty, it makes it harder to care for others also. Love the quote from Jada P. That’s perfect!


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