Society consistently suggests that being self-centered is a mark of bad character, a hateful personality, a cold heart. When you picture selfishness, you think of Scrooge, the Kardashians, Mr. Krabs, Gordon Gekko, the list goes on.
I’d like to suggest that it’s possible to be selfish without being self-centered. We could all use a dose of the former.
Self-centered behavior is defined by greed, pride, and often self-preservation in spite of those around you. It’s destructive, manipulative, contagious in the worst way. Cutting off another driver, pocketing the money that was dropped beside you on the subway, letting a sibling take the blame for a mistake you made. It’s good for you and bad for others, and it always will be.
Selfishness, on the other hand, is defined by acceptance, ambition, self-preservation for the sake of your wellbeing. It means taking care of your body, walking away from toxic relationships, eating the last slice of cake because TreatYoSelf is real, dammit. Selfishness is productive, positive, inspirational. It is good for you and good for others.
Being selfish means securing your own oxygen mask on a plane before helping someone else. What good are you if you’ve already lost your ability to breathe?
Selfishness is ultimately characterized by self-love. Think of it as keeping your own cup full. You can’t pour yourself out for others if your own cup has run dry. Self-love makes it possible for you to fulfill the roles that you have in the lives of those around you. As a sibling, a friend, a parent, a peer, you simply cannot enhance the relationships in your life if your own needs aren’t being addressed.
Empty cups belong to those who are burnt out and broken down, stretched too far and too thin.
Filling your cup feeds your physical energy, expands your creativity, drives your willingness to go the extra mile. Sleep in an extra 10 minutes. Stop ordering salads because you feel like you have to. Find some alone time. Read that book on your nightstand. Reward yourself for surviving the week, for surviving today.
Being kind to yourself is the precursor to being kind to others, and we damn sure need more good deeds in this world.
So go ahead, put on your oxygen mask. You’re going to need it. We all are.