When It’s OK to Be Selfish (2022)

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Self-care: We hear it all the time now — or, more accurately, see it on Instagram as skin care products, fizzy bath bombs, yoga poses, açai bowls, and more. But self-care is more than what’s commercialized on our social media feeds.

Self-care started as a way to physically take care of yourself. It then evolved into caring for your emotional well-being, and even more so the overall healing for women, people of color, and more marginalized communities.

Then why are we still feeling like self-care is selfish?

Maybe you’ve just called off dinner, declined an invite where your ex will be, or even just said no to anything. This might leave you feeling a little selfish or guilty.

It doesn’t matter that you’re emotionally and physically exhausted, or that your mental health is suffering. You might lie awake in bed, thinking about how you should have done something different or been better in some other way. Saying no feels like a failure, like you’re incompetent or unequipped to handle day-to-day life.

But if staying in helps you prioritize yourself and your own energy and healing, are you really being selfish?

Redefining what it actually means to be selfish

(Video) WHEN IT'S OKAY TO BE SELFISH

When the word “selfish” comes to mind, it often sparks negative connotations at first. We think self-centered, self-serving, self-involved. And we’re supposed to avoid thinking only “me and my interests,” right? To instead try to live for the good of all humankind, since giving is taught as preferential to taking?

Even though it’s defined as being concerned with only your own personal pleasure and profit, as well as lacking consideration for others, we still think of selfish as the times when we’re simply putting ourselves first.

But we can’t see it in black and white. For instance, we’re told we need to adjust our own oxygen mask first before helping others in a plane emergency. Or to make sure the scene is safe for you before helping anyone who’s hurt. No one would call us selfish for following those instructions.

Just like all things, there’s a spectrum. Sometimes the right thing is to be “selfish.” And just because someone defines something you’ve done as selfish (like opting out of their party), doesn’t mean you have to define it on their terms.

Sometimes being “selfish” isn’t a bad thing. There are times when being selfish is the right thing to do for your health and well-being. These are also times when taking care of yourself is necessary.

(Video) The world needs you to be selfish! | Jennifer Ehrmantraut | TEDxRPLCentralLibrary

Here are some of those times:

1. You need help

Everyone needs help from time to time, but we often avoid seeking it. Whether we acknowledge it or not, sometimes asking for help can make you feel incompetent, weak, or needy — even if not asking for help means adding unnecessary stress.

But asking for help when you need it is important. If the stress of a work project is getting to you, ask a co-worker for assistance or delegate tasks. If you need companionship, ask a friend for support. If you need an unbiased outside voice, seek therapy.

2. You need to rest

When you’re feeling tired — it doesn’t matter if it’s emotionally, mentally, or physically — it’s time to rest. Sometimes, that just comes down to sleep.

There are a number of consequences to not getting enough sleep, including trouble focusing, a weakened immune system, and memory issues. Skipping too much sleep can even have a negative impact on your relationships. But we often feel like we have to keep going. Sometimes sleep isn’t at the top of our priorities.

But the fact is we need rest. If you’ve been working late and skipping sleep, it’s time to find some work-life balance. And the next time you choose to go home and sleep instead of grabbing drinks with friends, that’s OK. If that’s called selfish, it’s the kind you want to be.

Resting doesn’t always mean sleeping, either. Whether your brain is feeling off-balance or you have a health condition flare up, consider it a sick day and take the time off. And don’t feel obligated to do the laundry since you’re at home. Read a book in bed, binge-watch a show, or take a nap.

If you’re feeling fatigued, exhausted, or in pain, it’s time to get some extra rest and not feel guilty about it. Rest is essential to any type of recovery.

3. You just need alone time

Some people might not get it when you choose staying home over going out. If that’s what you’re in the mood to do, don’t feel selfish for wanting to be alone.

(Video) Is it ok to be selfish? | Vilen | Vipul Dhankher | TEDxNMIMSShirpur

We all need alone time sometimes, and some people need more than others. Social interactions can be exhausting for some people. There’s no shame in taking time for yourself.

If you’ve been going nonstop, your mood is all out of whack, or you need to reevaluate your relationships, now may be a good time to plan some alone time.

You don’t need to fill your calendar with social events unless you want to. Run a bath, unplug, and have that “me time” you’ve been craving.

4. It’s time to end a relationship, job, or living situation

It’s never easy breaking up with a significant other, moving to a new city, or quitting a job. If you feel bad when you interact with someone or dread encountering them again, it’s time rethink your relationship.

We often stay in friendships or relationships because we’re scared of hurting someone. But when it comes to relationships that are damaging, sometimes you need to put yourself first.

It’s not self-sustaining to continue a relationship — or job or anything, especially one that’s in any way abusive — that no longer makes you happy. If something is affecting your well-being, it might be time to say goodbye.

5. Give is being significantly outweighed by take

Although it can fluctuate, any relationship should have a good balance of give-and-take. But when the scales tip so that all you’re doing is giving and all they’re doing is taking, it might be time to do something.

The balance of give-and-take is especially important when living with someone. Do you find yourself doing all the errands and chores when you get home from work while they come home and put their feet up? It’s important to have balance to avoid both resentment and fatigue.

Depending on the situation, you may choose to talk to them, take a short break to recharge, or cut them out completely. It’s not selfish to prioritize your own needs over others if the act of giving is causing you more harm.

(Video) THE IMPORTANCE OF STEPPING AWAY AND BEING SELFISH | THINK ABOUT IT

6. To avoid burnout, after work or in your personal life

Everyone is susceptible to burnout or work exhaustion. Certain professions can be exceptionally draining. When burnout occurs, it can hurt both your professional and personal life.

One study even points out that for mental health professionals, it could be “ethically imperative” to practice self-care.

So when clocking-out time comes, truly clock out. Turn off your work notifications, snooze your email, and deal with it tomorrow. Most of the time, whatever it is can be handled just as well tomorrow instead of in the middle of dinner.

No matter what you do, make sure you have time to separate yourself from work. Creating this work-life balance can help you avoid burnout and bring more happiness to your personal life.

Don’t neglect yourself and your health to avoid feeling selfish. Selfishness doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be good to be a little selfish to take care of your emotional, mental, and physical well-being.

Many people who focus entirely on give, give, give end up overwhelmed, fatigued, and stressed. And chronic stress has been linked to a number of health risks, including conditions like diabetes, cancer, and mental illnesses.

(Video) Why We Should Dare to Be More Selfish

You can reduce your stress by being a little selfish now and then and practicing some good ol’ self-care.

Here are some ways to start self-care tonight:
  • Try out some relaxing yoga poses.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Get outside.
  • Take a bath.
  • Make some soothing tea.
  • Get better sleep.
  • Practice a hobby, like gardening, crafting, or baking.

Whatever you do, remember to take care of yourself. And don’t forget, it’s never selfish to do so.

Jamie Elmer is a copy editor who hails from Southern California. She has a love for words and mental health awareness and is always looking for ways to combine the two. She’s also an avid enthusiast for the three P’s: puppies, pillows, and potatoes. Find her on Instagram.

FAQs

Why being selfish is okay? ›

Taking time for yourself allows you to find greater balance across all aspects of your health and well-being. Selfishness can help you tune into yourself so you're not only aware of your needs, but also able to meet them in a healthy way.

Is it OK to be selfish in a relationship? ›

Being selfish in a relationship isn't always bad. Of course, relationships are made up of compromises and mutual respect, but sometimes it's okay to be a bit selfish. In fact, some studies have found that being selfish can be beneficial to your relationship.

What are signs that you are selfish? ›

Here are nine signs that someone is self-centered, and how to deal with someone with this type of personality.
  • They have one-sided conversations. ...
  • They don't reciprocate effort. ...
  • They consistently lack perspective. ...
  • They think rules don't apply to them. ...
  • They're inconsiderate. ...
  • They're controlling.
3 Feb 2022

What is considered a selfish person? ›

1 : concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. 2 : arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others a selfish act.

Why selfish people are happy? ›

The Upside Of Being Selfish

Here's a great one: New science says that giving yourself the green light to act selfishly from time to time can help you lead a happier life. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania split 216 people into three groups, and gave each person a small amount of money.

What is the difference between a selfish person and a narcissist? ›

In other words, while someone who is selfish, self-centered, or self-absorbed may talk about themselves too much or forget things that are important to you, the key difference is this: When you explain to a narcissist that your feelings were hurt or they let you down in some capacity, the narcissist will not apologize.

What is positive selfish? ›

Practicing positive selfishness doesn't mean you don't care for others. It simply means you make time and space in your life to care for yourself first. Ultimately, that will make you and those you love happier and healthier.

What does selfishness look like in a relationship? ›

"Some personality traits that could indicate that someone is selfish are if a person acts impulsively, is domineering, is self-obsessed or has a low self-esteem which causes that person to disregard a partner's needs out of anger, jealousy or sadness," says Laurel Steinberg, PhD, in an interview with Bustle over email.

How do selfish people act? ›

Selfish people have a hard time caring about anyone but themselves. They're not just being rude when they don't care, it's genuinely impossible for them to prioritize someone else's needs over their own. People who are selfish can be abrasive and uncomfortable to interact with because of this.

What are selfish behaviors? ›

Selfishness is being concerned excessively or exclusively, for oneself or one's own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others. Selfishness is the opposite of altruism or selflessness; and has also been contrasted (as by C. S. Lewis) with self-centeredness.

Can selfish people ever change? ›

#5 Drift away. Selfish people never change. They just look for someone to use, and quite frankly, they can't help it themselves. So if you're in a relationship with a selfish someone, don't try to change them.

What is the root of selfishness? ›

Selfishness really seems to have its roots in the term narcissism. It is a behavior that is both genetic and environmental. It is maintained by innate tendencies and influenced by temperament as well as external learning from parents and others throughout child development.

What does God say about selfish people? ›

Philippians 2:1-4

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

What type of person only cares about themselves? ›

selfish Add to list Share. Someone who is selfish cares only about themselves and doesn't consider others. If a ship is sinking and you refuse to let anyone else into your 4-person lifeboat, you're extremely selfish.

Why do selfish people live long? ›

Selfish people are first of all prone to live longer and better simply because they are less stressed than people who place the well being of others above their own. What stress can do to our minds and our bodies is common knowledge, so there's no point in getting into further details.

What are the effects of selfishness? ›

Self-obsession means we are more prone to worry and mental health problems. Selfishness may make it easier for us to fall into traps like addiction. Our selfishness can mean we hurt others as we ruthlessly strive to satisfy our own needs. Self-centeredness can damage our reputation and lead to loneliness.

How do you live a selfish life? ›

How to Be Selfish
  1. Recognize that you don't give enough thought to yourself and your needs. ...
  2. Clear a space in time just for you. ...
  3. Assess your needs and desires right now. ...
  4. Think about how you can fulfill those needs. ...
  5. Don't look for validation. ...
  6. Don't embrace the guilt. ...
  7. Practice.
6 Sept 2022

What is emotionally selfish mean? ›

People who are viewed as selfish put their needs before the needs of others and don't seem to care much for anyone's feelings but their own. Maybe they want all the glory and recognition for themselves on a group project.

What is another word for a selfish person? ›

OTHER WORDS FOR selfish

1 self-interested, self-seeking, egoistic; illiberal, parsimonious, stingy.

What is a selfish act of kindness? ›

Buy a box of granola bars and leave it in your car, offering one to someone who looks hungry along your way. Write an email to the manager of a coffee shop or grocery store that you frequent about an employee that you find extremely helpful and friendly.

What are the 12 signs of narcissism? ›

12 signs of narcissism
  • Superiority and entitlement. The world of the narcissist is all about good-bad, superior-inferior, and right-wrong. ...
  • Exaggerated need for attention and validation. ...
  • Lack of responsibility—blaming and deflecting. ...
  • Lack of boundaries. ...
  • Lack of empathy. ...
  • Emotional reasoning. ...
  • Splitting. ...
  • Fear.
24 Nov 2018

What is a self-centered person like? ›

Self-centered people tend to ignore the needs of others and only do what's best for them. You can also call them egocentric, egoistic, and egoistical. In the seventeenth century, however, self-centered meant "fixed or stationary." Definitions of self-centered. adjective.

How would I know if I'm a narcissist? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronizing, and demanding.

Should I be selfish or selfless? ›

This is how I often explain it: - Being selfish is putting your own needs ahead of others (often to their detriment). - Being selfless is putting others' needs ahead of your own (often to your own detriment). - Practicing self-care is recognising and responding to your needs whilst considering the impact on others.

How can I be selfish without feeling guilty? ›

If you're feeling out of touch with yourself, here are 5 healthy ways to be selfish:
  1. Learn to say thank you when complimented — and mean it. ...
  2. Think long and hard before making a commitment. ...
  3. Don't treat sleep, food, or relaxation as optional. ...
  4. Say no without apology. ...
  5. Do more things you genuinely love to do.
18 Apr 2019

What are three red flags in a relationship? ›

13 red flags in a relationship to look out for
  • Overly controlling behavior. Overly controlling behavior is a common red flag. ...
  • Lack of trust. ...
  • Feeling low self-esteem. ...
  • Physical, emotional, or mental abuse. ...
  • Substance abuse. ...
  • Narcissism. ...
  • Anger management issues. ...
  • Codependency.
1 Feb 2022

What are the causes of selfishness? ›

Some mental health problems can contribute to the development of selfishness. Many personality disorders, particularly antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, cause people to be so wrapped up in their own desires that they either do not notice or do not care about the needs of others.

How do you know when to walk away from a guy? ›

If there is no trust between you two, your relationship is bound to crumble. When your partner knows about your insecurities but still does not feel the need to resolve them and gain your trust, and if their actions and words do not merit your confidence, it is time to walk away from the relationship.

Is being selfish selfless? ›

- Being selfish is putting your own needs ahead of others (often to their detriment). - Being selfless is putting others' needs ahead of your own (often to your own detriment). - Practicing self-care is recognising and responding to your needs whilst considering the impact on others.

What's a nice word for selfish? ›

In this page you can discover 54 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for selfish, like: egocentric, self-absorbed, narcistic, self-seeking, egotistic, self-serving, egoistic, self-centered, wrapped up in oneself, grabby and self-involved.

What is the psychology behind selfishness? ›

Research suggests that selfishness is based on an individual's own emotional and psychological needs. In many cases, the selfish person has many of the same traits as someone who is narcissistic. The attitude is that of a “taker” and not a peace-maker. The attitude may also be passive-aggressive, sly, and unfair.

Why do selfish people live long? ›

Selfish people are first of all prone to live longer and better simply because they are less stressed than people who place the well being of others above their own. What stress can do to our minds and our bodies is common knowledge, so there's no point in getting into further details.

What is the difference between self-centered and selfish? ›

A selfish person wants everything for themselves, with no thought for the needs of others. Someone who is self-centered is preoccupied with themselves and is solely concerned with their own welfare, needs and interests.

What is the opposite selfish? ›

Antonyms: unselfish. disregarding your own advantages and welfare over those of others. altruistic, selfless. showing unselfish concern for the welfare of others. considerate.

Are all good acts selfish? ›

Yes every act you do is selfish even if it is for altruistic purposes. If you help a homeless person by giving that person money or donate money to a charity you can say that is altruistic, but you probably get a good feeling from doing that.

How do selfish people behave? ›

Selfish people have a hard time caring about anyone but themselves. They're not just being rude when they don't care, it's genuinely impossible for them to prioritize someone else's needs over their own. People who are selfish can be abrasive and uncomfortable to interact with because of this.

What are selfish behaviors? ›

Selfishness is being concerned excessively or exclusively, for oneself or one's own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others. Selfishness is the opposite of altruism or selflessness; and has also been contrasted (as by C. S. Lewis) with self-centeredness.

What is worse than being selfish? ›

Selfless is the opposite of selfish. If you're selfless, you think less about your self, and more about others — you're generous and kind. Being selfless is similar to being altruistic — another word for giving to others without looking for personal gain.

Can selfish people ever change? ›

#5 Drift away. Selfish people never change. They just look for someone to use, and quite frankly, they can't help it themselves. So if you're in a relationship with a selfish someone, don't try to change them.

Is selfishness the same as narcissism? ›

It's human nature to be selfish and boastful now and then, but true narcissists take it to an extreme. They also don't value others' feelings or ideas and ignore others' needs. But there's a difference between being self-absorbed -- often called a narcissist -- and having narcissistic personality disorder.

Does selfishness come from insecurity? ›

Selfish behaviour, therefore, is not a lack of concern for others, but heightened anxiety for your own self. Driven by insecurity, a selfish person is forever grasping at more and more, in a desperate attempt to get close to their ideal version of themselves.

Why do I attract selfish people? ›

Selfish people may focus on you because they feel threatened by your strengths or they believe you can be easily manipulated and used. Look at your weaknesses. Although you may have good traits, you also have flaws that selfish people may take advantage of, such as a tendency to be gullible or easily persuaded.

What are the effects of selfishness? ›

Self-obsession means we are more prone to worry and mental health problems. Selfishness may make it easier for us to fall into traps like addiction. Our selfishness can mean we hurt others as we ruthlessly strive to satisfy our own needs. Self-centeredness can damage our reputation and lead to loneliness.

Is selfishness the key to happiness? ›

Selfishness is the key to happiness, according to Browne. Most of the population believes that putting others before oneself is key to happiness. Browne calls this the “unselfishness trap”. People are told and led to believe that they must sacrifice their own happiness for others, to be “good” and be “truly happy”.

Videos

1. [Spirit Talk] It's ok to be selfish| selfish is not a negative word
(She Deity)
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3. YES, BE SELFISH! (They Lied To You...)
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4. Why It’s Important To Be Selfish
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5. Sometimes It's Okay To Be Selfish - Anthony Gucciardi
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6. WHY YOU SHOULD BE SELFISH
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