If there is anything I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that you cannot have a fulfilling and happy life without being selfish. Society has reared us to believe otherwise, which is why you probably furrowed your eyebrows after reading that sentence; but it’s true.
From the moment we’re born, we’re taught to do things that we don’t want to do, so that we aren’t selfish. As toddlers, we’re told to share; which is fair. But your younger sister was playing with your favorite Barbie for an hour. When you finally get your Ballet Barbie back in your grasps, after ten minutes sis’ begins to cry. Mommy says, “Share. Don’t be selfish.”
In elementary school, our teachers send home notes to our parents, informing them that if birthday party invitations were sent to classmates, all should be included for the sake of no kid feeling left out. That means that you have to invite little ole’ Eric, who tugs on your pig tails during recess and calls you names. Little you reluctantly invites him for the sake of your school discouraging selfishness.
These are just two examples of how we’re taught at such a young age to be selfless, or put our feelings on the back burner for the sake of others. You can find a multitude of examples if your really think about it. Even in our adult lives, we play this game of tug-and-war between being selfish and selfless. You text your ‘bff group chat’ about wanting to go out to the bar. But, one of your girls really wants to bring her new boyfriend along. You’d rather it to be a girls’ night. But, you don’t want to be selfish so you allow her to bring him. This battle between selflessness and selfishness is intertwined into every area of our lives. It’s the reason we think long and hard before responding to texts. It’s the key reason we do things we don’t want for/with people we don’t like. And, a lot of times, it’s the reason we’re unhappy.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a distinct difference between having selfish boundaries and being a selfish person. What’s the difference? Selfish people are assholes. Selfish people are those who say they’re going to pick you up from the airport, and then cancel on you last minute, leaving you standing alone in the terminal with 3 suitcases. Selfish people are those who respond with, “Oh, that sucks. Wanna go out?” after you texted them that your dog just died. Having selfish boundaries means that you don’t let your sibling borrow your car because they never refill the tank. Having selfish boundaries means that you ignore that one guy’s 10:00 p.m. “WYD” texts because he’s just trying to hit it and quit it. There are differences.
In my life, I’ve learned that I must set selfish boundaries for myself in order to be happy. No one is allowed to alter them, but me. These boundaries represent my respect for myself, my time, and my sanity. It also helps me to evaluate the relationships I hold with others. An example? I prefer to have one night of the week to myself.
As an introvert with a full-time job, and two side hustles, I need time to recharge. It’s usually a weekend night. If someone happens to ask me to hang out with them on my recharge night, I usually can rearrange my time. But, on nights when I really need that time to myself, I’ll tell that person, “No, I need to relax tonight.” If that person says, “Oh, can’t you do that tomorrow?” (it’s happened) then a mental alarm goes off in my head and I immediately begin to reevaluate my relationship with that person.
Another example of a selfish boundary I have is that when dating a person, I don’t accept bullshit. Sounds vague, I know. When I say this I mean that I don’t allow myself to be treated less than what I deserve and expect. This means I won’t tolerate a man who is emotionally/physically abusive or manipulative. I expect to be spoken to every day as circumstances allow. It also means that every now-and-then, he should do something romantic or take me out. Any man who doesn’t do this may lose me. Boundaries. Expectations. It’s different for everyone.
I write this blog post today because the depression and suicide rates are at an all time high. People are dragging themselves through life, without really living life; relationships without loving and friendships without caring. And lots of people, including those close to me, are putting up with things or are involved in situations that bring them nothing but misery. All of this is usually because they’ve put their selflessness for others in front of their happiness for themselves.
I hit rock bottom a couple times over the past year. I was stripped raw of things I cared about like my job and my man. In those times of darkness, I was able to rebuild myself. Bit by bit, I’ve armored myself with caution, standards, and self love. Being selfish is a form of self love. I said “No” to senior executives who told me the only way they could help me with my career is if I took an entry-level position. I distanced myself from friends who loved to party with me, but didn’t care about my well being. I’ve learned to step away from any man who wouldn’t treat me like a Queen. They may see me as selfish, and it’s true.
I am selfish, though I am not a selfish person. I am putting my happiness at the forefront of my life. I don’t have time to tiptoe around your feelings because mine matter more. I can’t waste time teaching you how to be a better boyfriend or a better friend because I’m not your Momma. You can go and work on that by yourself while I continue to build myself and clothe myself in armor laced with self-love and positive energy.
It wasn’t easy to build this armor. It took a lot of second guessing and some backtracking. And I still have a long ways to go in building it into an impenetrable force. But, I want to serve as an example to show that it’s completely okay to put yourself first. I am strong, confident, and filled with love…all because I am selfish. Being selfish has made me the happiest I’ve ever been. I hope that you can find it in yourself to be selfish, too.