When It’s Okay to Be Selfish


1) Being selfish is better than being resentful

I’ve found myself in situations where I was providing emotional support to a friend who was going through a challenging period of her life, which would’ve been fine, except that I, myself, was emotionally depleted — I was grieving the loss of my grandmother, in addition to managing other unusual and stressful circumstances in my life.

In the beginning, rather than telling my friend I didn’t have the emotional capacity to support her, I took her calls, which often ran over an hour, and involved a lot of crying and rehashing of incredibly traumatic experiences. It reached a point where I started becoming resentful of playing the role of a therapist.

Then I realized it’s not her fault — she has no idea how I’m feeling because I haven’t verbalized anything to her. So I started telling her how I felt — I was emotionally depleted and I believed that much of what she was sharing with me was meant to be shared with a therapist.

Immediately after I shared that, I felt bad because this particular friend had supported me through some of the most challenging moments of my life. However, was I really supporting her or nurturing our friendship if I was feeling resentful of our conversations? No. Hence, in this instance, it better served me, her and our friendship for me to be selfish to put my emotional needs above hers.

2) You can’t pour from an empty cup

You can’t pour from an empty cup — the aforementioned example exemplifies this. I wasn’t able to fully be there and support my friend because my emotional reservoir was depleted as a result of bereavement and additional stress in my life. I can’t give to others something I don’t have for myself. In instances like these, it’s okay to be selfish, set boundaries and take care of yourself. It’s only in taking care of yourself that you can take care of others. Think about the airplane and mask analogy we often use– When on a flight, in case of an emergency, airlines ask adults to first place masks on themselves before placing them on children.

3) There is nothing wrong with being selfish

Being selfish doesn’t make you a “bad” person. Especially for people who grew up navigating codependent relationships, we’re made to believe we are responsible for fixing other people’s problems and we are responsible for their emotions. If we’ve been accustomed to taking responsibility for other people’s actions (or lack thereof) and their feelings, when we first take into consideration our own needs and feelings, it will feel foreign and it will feel like we’re doing something “wrong”, something bad. I’m here to reassure you that there is nothing wrong with being selfish, for asking yourself how you feel and what you need in a particular situation rather than putting someone else first.

Most would define selfish as the opposite of selfless. But, if we’re going to get technical, if there’s a word opposite of selfless, it’d be self-more, which isn’t actually a word. But it sounds better than selfish and has a nice ring to it.

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