Re-examining Selfishness

Selfish (adj) – concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.

This definition comes from the Merriam -Webster dictionary and pretty much accurately describes what we think of when we think of the word “selfish.”  Most of us do not want to be selfish, right? I think this is a common viewpoint that aligns with the morals and values of our society. However, I’ve seen this word shift a little bit in meaning with a lot of my clients.

Often, I will have clients struggling with depression and they often bring up not wanting to be selfish when we discuss ways to manage depression and anxiety. For example, I have heard some clients discuss terrible work environments but they do not want to leave because they feel like they owe it to their boss to stay. It would be “selfish” to leave. Or somebody bends over backwards for their friends and family without ever taking time to do things for themselves because they don’t want to be “selfish.”

Maybe we should look at becoming more selfish. There has been a big push in media to emphasize self care. While a lot of this can seem trite, overly manufactured and marketed, the basic premise is a great one. We really do need to take time for ourselves. But self care isn’t all about carving out quiet time, nice baths, and exercise. It is also about speaking our minds, expressing ourselves through creativity and work, and knowing what truly matters to us.

I think one of the most important things we can do is try to pay attention to when we feel better. When we feel happier, more fulfilled, and more at peace. Notice when these moments occur and try to build on them, and be selfish when doing so! If you need to turn off your phone for an hour and you are truly able to, then do it! If you need a five minute walk around the block, do it! Starting small will help you realize where you need to make the big changes like changing careers, relationships, and living situations.

I think a great way to live is to do what makes you happy without hurting others. You can be selfish and do what you need to do to increase your quality of life without hurting others. Sometimes there might be short term hurt, like if you realize that you need to cut out a toxic relationship. However, in the long term, both people will be better off. That is the great thing about making yourself happier….it will ultimately give you an even greater ability to help others. So being more selfish, in some ways, allows you to be more empathetic and selfless. Try it out! If you need some help reach out to us here at Wellspring.

Here is another resource about a similar topic:


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