Is being Selfish so bad?

Something I say to my clients (in fact many of you reading this now will be reminded) is that my favourite word in the English language is “selfish” and in my view, it is grossly misrepresented.


Selfish is seen as lacking consideration for other people, being concerned chiefly with one's profit or pleasure. I might like to offer, that if we are not looking out for our own profit or pleasure, who does this job fall to? Selfish is also described as having or showing concern only for yourself and not for the needs or feelings of other people. The opposite, unselfish, or selfless, speak about being willing to put the needs or wishes of others before one's own. I cannot find anywhere, (and I am willing to be challenged) any word that mentions being concerned with your own needs whilst ignoring the needs of others for self-gain in a positive tone, it seems that putting ourselves first is fundamentally wrong, which seems like madness to me. I am not saying we need to dive further into an individualist society as I am a firm believer in connection and collaboration, what I am saying is that being purely there for others at the expense of ourselves can be damaging, damaging to our mental health, and well-being.


Is selfishness destructive?


We are worried as a society to become selfish, but what does that really mean? Is looking after ourselves, or prioritising ‘self’ really such a bad thing? Even in many blog posts, I see how being selfish is almost a criminal act, others suggest that being selfish is ok so long as the end result is to be the best you can be for others, so being selfish…to be selfless. It seems that even in looking at and focusing on ourselves we cannot DARE to think that it might have a negative impact on others. I don’t know about you, but if I am trying to focus on myself, but worried about the impact it is having on others I am getting anxious, not relaxed.


We need to look at being selfish and remove the stigma from it, selfishness is seen as destructive and damaging to self and society, and whilst I do believe that there is room for everyone to be considered, this should not be above ourselves. We are important and we need to ensure we are being looked after. This goes beyond the world of “self-care”, what I mean is being truly focused on self, for a while, when needed, without the focus on the negative impact of others.


Positives of being selfish


Being selfish can be giving, giving ourselves time, giving ourselves some peace, giving ourselves space. Looking after our own needs, prioritising ourselves, and being selfish to meet the needs we have, cannot be seen as a negative. We need to move away from the thoughts that looking after ourselves (whilst ignoring the needs of others) is a bad thing, at times it is necessary. It is necessary to be selfish, to look at what we need, meet those needs, and exclude the voices of those around us. That is until we get to a space where our needs are met.


Maybe it is simply worth considering that selfishness has a bad rap, but what does it actually mean? And is it such a bad thing to put ourselves first? Should we be villainised for taking what we need at the expense of others? I am not suggesting that we turn into ourselves and only think of ourselves forever, but when needed, being selfish and looking after our own needs despite the needs of others cannot be seen as a negative, sometimes it's what we need to do to survive and that cannot be a negative thing.


The take away


Be selfish. Remove the judgement. Take care of yourself, do not review the needs of others, be free in your choices and see how this impacts you. Being selfish is not something that I am suggesting being forever, the same as I am not saying to be selfless forever. What I am saying is to spend some time paying attention to what you need, once you have filled your cup, you will have more energy and will feel like your best self for you, and your needs. So ask yourself, am I someone who caters to the needs of others for fear of being "selfish", and when was the last time you put you first?