Taking care of your own social, psychological and emotional well being doesn’t exactly sound like an inconsiderate and indulgent way of living, so why do we feel so guilty about it?
The connotations of selfishness are generally negative, labelling people as thoughtless, egotistical and self-obsessed. While these implicit overtones are often completely accurate, acts of self care convey the positive associations of ‘selfishness’.
Our anxieties over not being a Mother Teresa clone in every aspect of our work/school/social life can leave us feeling flat and incompetent in our role as ‘do-gooder’ humans.
Yet it’s a little personal healing and self focus that could actually lead to us feeling more content and happy, which as research psychologist Post 1 shows, leads to us being more altruistic human beings.
Here’s a list of must do ‘selfish’ acts to make you a happier and therefore more giving human being.
Let go of negative relationships:
Not staying in contact with one-sided friendships doesn’t make you a bad person, we all deserve to feel equally valued and validated in any relationship.While it’s great that you always make the effort to plan a catch up or allow your friend to uninterruptedly rant to you, this needs to be tempered by an equilibrium.
It’s exhausting to be the only one to putting in effort, and while I occasionally condone (neigh, advocate) a good old barriers down tirade (re:existence) its far too draining to constantly be on the receiving end. Friends are supposed to care about YOU and make time for YOU, so you need to stop feeling bad for not completely destroying your schedule to fit in a coffee date that only leaves you feeling empty.
Face your problems:
Often, via a ‘selfless’ immersion into another’s issues you manage to create a diversion, or a way to avoid facing your own hang-ups. While helping a struggling friend is undoubtably noble, ensure you aren’t using it as a substitute for approaching your own problems.
Sometimes helping others ‘fix’ their problems can provide you with a sense of control that may be absent within your own life, be careful as this is often a false sense of security and leave you tired and unfulfilled. It becomes increasingly less fun watching as other people conflicts are resolved while yours remain open and messy.
Accept help from other people
Often a big component of being ‘selfless’ involves helping other people while refusing to ‘burden’ anyone else with anything. It’s taken me 20 years to realise that it doesn’t mean you’re a failure if you need assistance; despite the fact that I have handed out this advice to every single friend that even comes near my friend-cinity.
Whether its talking about your emotional wellbeing, asking for career advice, or just needing a different perspective, it’s ok to ask for things.
Stop worrying so much about other people
*Time to insert a cliche* Do what makes you happy, even if its not what your family or the people who surround you expect of you.
The amount of times overthinking peoples hypothetical reactions has stopped me from doing things borders on ridiculous (when the list includes not only your mum & dad but also Bruce who lives up the street you’re too far gone).
Obviously, you don’t want to be insensitive and should always remain aware of other people, but it’s important to remember that it’s not their life and it’s just plain wrong of them to restrict you from enjoying your existence.
Its also unfair on yourself to let opportunities pass you by because you don’t want to tread on anyones toes, this world is fierce, you need to be too.
And just remember it’s okay – in fact it’s productive and healthy- to engage in self validation and act in your own interest. Investing in self care makes your world, and the contributions you can offer within it, increasingly positive and satisfying.
On that note… how do you feel about nudes? To sext, or not to sext?
1) Post, S.G. Int. J. Behav. Med. (2005) 12: 66. doi:10.1207/s15327558ijbm1202_4