Most people probably have a negative connotation when the word “selfish” comes up in a conversation. Selfish, in certain contexts, usually means to act in your own personal self-interest with little consideration of others. In fact, the definition of selfish, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, goes as follows:
“Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others”
I agree that in certain context, the word selfish has an absolutely terrible meaning. The word feels cold and dark, as though the person who possesses that trait leads a life with minimal human connection, simply because that connection could be severed at any moment if it ever risked the advancement of the “selfish” individual.
However, what if we decided to re-imagine the word selfish? The definition, itself, does not damn the word as a whole. Where the word begins to lack is the connotation, or the feeling that the word or phrase being used provokes in the reader, we as humans have put on the word.
In addition, another problem we find with the word “Selfish” is our negative emotions toward someone caring more about their own self-preservation than the preservation of the community as a whole. Utilitarianism, or the ethical theory that actions are positive and good if they work in protecting and advancing the majority, is a phenomenal part of many human’s morality, as it was a major benefit when humans were required to live as a community in order to survive. Therefore, the need for community, and the preservation of that community, is ingrained within us.
However, what about now?
What about in today’s day-and-age when community, although beneficial, is not crucial to our survival? What about now when we go to our dream school, get a career in our desired field, build a family because we want to, take vacations to wherever we want to go, all without thinking about our community? Why is it that we still have this need to believe selfishness is one of the worst qualities that a person could possess?
Selfishness is a quality we should all possess.
That may be hard for some people to swallow, but it’s true. We no longer live in a world where generosity toward each person within a community is necessary in order to preserve the human species. No one is entitled to you caring more about them more than even yourself (except one’s own child).
“Selfish is an ugly word but it can mean two different things,” [Melissa Deuter, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio] says. “One connotation is that you’re unkind and inconsiderate of others. The other is that you take responsibility for getting your personal, emotional and physical needs met, and that’s an important part of becoming an adult.”
Quote Source: 4 Reasons Why Being Selfish Is Good For You
Now, hear me out. Should people throw each other under the bus in order to advance one step further? Absolutely not. We should not be cold to one other, nor should we become callous.
When embracing the word “Selfish”, no one should embrace the current connotation of the word. No one should become cold. However, each and every person should embrace the word in a new meaning…
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There is an art to embracing selfishness that needs to be invited only in certain instances. When going forward, the word selfish now means “self-preservation”, rather than “self-preservation with disregard of others”.
There is a fear in today’s society that doing actions that bring yourself joy or preserve your own needs or self-interest will be considered selfish, and, therefore, put someone in a negative light for trying to make themselves happy. The problem with this thinking is that it puts people into a position where they must choose between themselves and another person, pushing them to take care of someone else over themselves.
However, here’s the cold, hard truth.
Each and every person out there cannot depend on anyone else for their own needs (apart from children, of course. Parenting is not included in this. A child needs their parent). Each person needs to take action to take care of themselves and ensure they’re in a healthy mindset, are in healthy relationships, and are on the track to improving their own lives, which may require someone to make a decision that might make someone else mad, annoyed, or sad. However, if the alternative is you must feel mad, annoyed, or sad in order for them to progress, then the option should be pretty clear.
With my own anxiety, there were points where I wasn’t taking care of myself because I thought there were other people that needed more care than me. I would repeat to myself “at least it’s not as bad as ____” or “other people have it worse than me.”
And, therefore, I would ignore my issues, until, eventually, it became worse and I was house-bound with crippling anxiety.
Are you ready for another truth bomb?
By official definition, taking care of yourself over other people is selfish. Taking care of your own feelings other other people’s feelings is selfish. Taking care of your own needs over other people’s needs is selfish.
Self-care is selfish. Selfishness is self-care.
And that is perfectly fine!
I was so scared to be seen as selfish. That was never a trait I wanted to have stuck to me like a cheap, poorly-planned tattoo. The connotation stuck to selfishness as it is right now made me feel bad for taking care of myself over caring about what other people wanted from me, which pushed my mental health into a downward spiral.
Lately, I have embraced selfishness, with the new definition I believe selfishness needs – a simple face-lift from cold and dark, to warm and with a focus self-preservation. I wear the new “Selfish” is like a plaque of honor. If I do not want to go out because I need to take care of myself, I don’t. If I do not want to go to an event because it will be too much for me and throw me into a panic attack, I don’t.
I have heard of people not being able to break up with their emotionally-abusive partner, who keeps telling them they’re “going through a tough time”, even though they make them feel like trash daily. Or another example where one person wants to go school for one major but their parents have a completely different idea for them. Other examples like that make me want to re-invent “Selfishness” even more. I never want anyone to not take care of themselves in fear of what other’s will think of them, or because they believe other people have it worse than them.
Take care of yourself.
This form of selfishness should be in moderation. This doesn’t mean anyone should ever put anyone else in physical or emotional pain. There is a way to be caring and selfish at the same time, although it seems like it should be a complete oxymoron. Finding out how to balance the two will be part of the growth when adding hints of selfishness into your own life.
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Your Opinion Matters!
Make sure to write your opinion on this below. I would love to hear your thoughts. I would also love to hear if you have ever struggled with the battle between taking care of yourself and other people.
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