Selfishness has been on my mind a lot lately… I have always thought that people NEED to be selfish. Although we all have family and friends who love us and want the best for us, the bottom line is that no one can take care of you as well as you can take care of yourself. No one knows what you need like you do. No one else is in your head, has lived your life, or feels your feelings. Who better to make sure that you get what you need than you?
The older I get the more I realize that there is a difference between being selfish for the sake of taking care of yourself to be the happiest and healthiest you that you can be for yourself and your loved ones, and being selfish in a way that is hurtful to those around you. I am starting to realize that there are many people who don’t know the difference, and are selfish in ways that hurt the people in their lives without realizing that is what they are doing. There are always the people who are selfish in a hurtful way on purpose, but I truly believe that those people are few and far between. Most people, even when they are behaving badly, do not believe they are bad people.
So, how do you know the difference? When does focusing on yourself became a problem to the people in your life? Where is the line between selfishness that helps and selfishness that hurts? I have heard women, mothers especially, talk about how they never take time out for themselves because they feel that not giving themselves to their families 100% of the time feels too selfish, when it could easily be reasoned that satisfying the selfish need to take care of everyone else actually robs their family of having a happy and healthy mom. I have also heard people justify letting things in their lives go (time with their children, their household duties, etc) because they need the time for themselves, even when it leaves more stress and more work for those around them. There are so many ways to be selfish that identifying what is actually healthy and what is destructive gets extremely tricky. It comes down to striking a balance, realizing that while taking time for yourself is necessary, being too selfish will result in the people around you feeling unimportant and taken for granted.
The difference between being selfish for the sake of self preservation, and selfishness that results in taking advantage of others without their permission, has been weighing on my mind. I don’t have any brilliant insights or wise words on the subject. I have just recently figured out how to take time for myself without feeling completely guilty about it. I am certainly no expert on the subject. I do think that being aware of the impact that my selfish behaviors have on others (good and bad) and weighing how what I do effects those around me as part of my decision making process has helped me make better decisions for myself and my family.