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Here's Why You Need To Be Selfish To Master Self-Care

Apr 11, 2024

If I called you selfish, how would that make you feel?  

Your reaction tells me a lot. Some of you might not be bothered being called selfish, but I’m willing to bet most would get defensive. 

Society taught us selfishness is a negative trait. We were taught that selfish people are unpleasant, unreliable, and don’t care about anyone else. School, community, religion reinforced the idea that “good people” put others first. It’s the wrong way of thinking. 

Being selfish is empowering. 

By definition, “selfish” means self-serving, or basing your decisions solely on how it affects you—no one else. 

Most of us have a harder time putting ourselves first than we’d like to admit. We feel pressured to say ‘yes’ to things we don’t want to do, and put personal goals on the back-burner while giving our time to our job, friends, and family. A lot of the time we think we’re making decisions that are self-serving, but are really driven by how we assume it will affect those around us. 

It’s time to mentally re-define “selfish” to its true, empowering definition of making decisions in your best interest — and get away from “selfish” being a negative thing. 

Here’s how to change your mindset to become the best version of yourself: 

#1: Stop saying “yes” to everything.

We’ve all been in a place we’ve said “yes” to something we didn’t want to do. 

You say “yes” to going out on a Friday night with friends when you don’t feel like it. You say “yes” to your co-worker who asked for some extra help after you’ve clocked out. You say “yes” to your kids who want to have friends over, even though you’re tired. 

These are not self-serving decisions. Sure, you might feel like a good person for committing to plans or helping out, but you’re ultimately making these decisions for others. Candidly, you’re making excuses. 

“Well if I don’t go out Friday my friends will be mad at me.”

“If I don’t help my colleague they might think of me differently.”

“If I say “no” to my kids they’ll have a fit, and I don’t feel like dealing with the headache.”

You’re afraid others will think you’re selfish, so you factor in their feelings and opinions during your decision-making process without even realizing it. And the more it compounds, the more detrimental it can be to your health. 

By choosing to put others before yourself, you lose the valuable time you have to actually work on yourself. You put off things that matter to you — exercising, eating right, sleeping well — and start to feel overwhelmed. You fall behind on work, your passion projects, “me” time, all because you’re worried what others might think if you say “no.” 

The irony is, that pattern can lead to strained relationships with the very people you were considering when you decided to say “yes” for them, instead of saying “no” for you. It’s a lesson I’ve learned running my law firm. I used to say “yes” to every little task at our office in order to be a good boss, until I realized how it was affecting my work with clients. 

To take a big step toward self-care, stop saying “yes” if the decision you’re making isn’t self-serving. Realize that being selfish is really you protecting your energy, and practicing self-care. 

#2 Demand “you” time.

How often do you find yourself saying, “If only I had more time,” after a busy day? 

You’re behind on to-dos, haven’t worked out like you wanted to, didn’t get to read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand — and you can’t figure out why you’re falling behind. 

The issue isn’t time. We all have 24 hours in the day. The issue is your decision-making.

Let’s run with exercise as an example. Most of us endure a common struggle to improve something about ourselves — lose weight, put on muscle mass, increase endurance, even just ‘stay in shape’. You talk about how important it is, tell yourself how much better you’ll feel if you achieve your exercise goals, and imagine a happier, healthier version of you.

So, why don’t you demand time set aside to exercise? If you know you’re going to feel better about yourself, and be more self-confident, why does it fall on your priority list? 

Odds are, you chose to spend that time doing something for someone else without even realizing it. A lot of us choose to give our time to others to avoid being “selfish” as most of society defines it. It leaves us asking:

“Where’d all my time go?”

To start making self-serving decisions in regard to how you spend your time, try out this exercise: 

Grab a pen and paper, and write down your idea of a perfect day from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed. Try to keep in the context of your general day-to-day by including things like work or taking the kids to school. Write down exactly what you’d do to feel like your day was self-serving. After you’ve taken the time to write it out, draw a vertical line next to your “perfect day” and write out what your normal day looks like right now. 

What’s different? If meditating, or reading, or exercising are on your “perfect day” list but not your “normal day” list, what can you do to make those items part of your day to day? 

Every time I practice this exercise, I realize the only difference in regard to my time is that I spend more of my “normal” day giving my time to others in some way, shape, or form. In other words, I’m actively choosing to de-prioritize the things I know will make me happy. It’s incredibly revealing, and reinforces the fact that I have control over my time, and ultimately my decisions. 

Demand time for what makes you happy and keeps you on a path to personal growth — plan everything else around those things. 

Focus on prioritizing decisions you make for yourself, and saying “no” to decisions influenced by others. When you hear the word “selfish” think of the true definition of the word, and ask yourself if the decisions you’re making are “self-serving.”

Doing so can lead to a happier and healthier version of you, which leads to better relationships, social life, and ultimately inner peace.

Thanks for reading! 

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