The word selfish gets a bad rap. It’s seen as a negative trait – something to avoid. But I think it's time to reclaim this word, this state of being, and put it up there on the pedestal alongside self-love.
For some women reading this, you may be suddenly feeling uncomfortable and uneasy at the thought of being selfish - that it just doesn’t feel right. And that’s because we women have such a hard time putting ourselves first, don’t we? We’ve been raised to put everyone else’s needs first – as talented and brilliant as we are, truth is, we’re hopeless at putting ourselves first. It just seems to be what we women do. And I’m not only referring to women with kids.
For most of my life, I never really knew what I wanted. I was so disconnected from my own desires because I always defaulted to the desires of the man I was with. Whatever he wanted to do, I would just go along with it. My first live-in boyfriend wanted to travel overland – and as momentous and uprooting as that was; and as much as I didn’t really care too much about going, I went along with it. I never gave myself the luxury of dreaming something up for myself, and so I tagged along with his dream.
Years later in a more troubling relationship, I would sublimate my needs and desires just to keep the peace, avoid conflict, and not rock the boat. I have always been a classic people-pleaser. And so, I abandoned myself for the sake of (the illusion) of a peaceful life.
The tragedy of putting the needs of others first is that we never take the time to respect and pursue our own dreams and goals. We innocently buy into the notion that there are some people who get to lead their lives and others who get to serve. But even more tragic is that it reveals that we don’t really know our true value and worthiness. We don't believe we matter.
It’s only been within the last decade that I’ve woken up to wanting to be more selfish. It’s such a hard habit to break. I still have a tendency to see my husband’s work as more important than my own. It shows up when I end up doing the dishes for him because I know he works so hard – always the people-pleaser!
But please don't think I'm blaming men!
Our inability to be selfish is all self-inflicted. We bring it all on ourselves. It reflects deeply how we feel about our worthiness and value. And yes, we can and do set up and establish boundaries for ourselves. But let’s not be fooled into thinking that it's other people who cross over our boundaries. That’s a myth we like to believe in. We are the ones that cross our own boundaries by giving in to others and not maintaining them; by not being selfish enough.
We can practice being more selfish by first tackling the smaller things in life. When you're asked what you'd like to eat for dinner, or what movie you'd like to watch, don't acquiesce and just go along with others. Pay attention is to your tendency to not value your desires. This is not about NOT compromising. Express your preference.
When we start practicing our preferences - when we practice selfishness - we'll begin the process of waking up to the fact that we are all meant to LEAD our lives; that we all have dreams and goals that are calling us and want to be honored and cherished. That we are all worthy.
Be confident in expressing your preferences. You have permission to be selfish.