To be selfish — or not? That is the question.
I am always reading the news and find myself stumbling upon articles around mental health, which, of course, catch my attention. This week it was an article in the Times about The Benefits of Wise Selfishness. I had to laugh out loud as I read how the article had to spin selfishness (something our society judges as a bad thing) into something that is OK to be these days. Actually necessary.
I tend to agree with this article, but I wouldn’t call it “wise” but rather absolutely necessary and critical to our own mental health. And it is mind boggling to me that people feel that it is wrong to think about themselves and hold their interests in mind. Like everything, just because we are thinking about ourselves does not mean we can’t also think about the other.
If you think about it, in the airplanes, during the safety instructions, parents are always told to put on their own oxygen mask on before putting it on their child. Intuitively, we must be cared for before we can offer care to another — even our own child in this case!
It is important that we hold ourselves in minds throughout our days that make up our lives. That we are living out of alignment with who we are, our values, our bliss, our boundaries, and more. It may sound selfish, but I don’t see it that way, I would actually argue if we cannot hold ourselves in mind and take care of our desires, needs, and wants we really cannot extend that to another in an authentic and true way. When we turn our backs on our own selves to be selfless there is something inauthentic about how we are doing for others — rather than it springing forth from a full well of ourselves, it is motivated by a turning away from ourselves to sink into the other, perhaps putting their needs above our own.
This is then applauded by society. This type of person is so selfless and does for others with asking for nothing in return for themselves. What exactly is going on here is where my mind goes? Why is it so difficult for the person to be with herself and be there for one’s self? Often the message is you are selfish and bad for thinking about yourself.
Ah, selfish, selfless — such judgements on people and situations which we hardly know the truth of it at all. It isn’t wise to be selfish and it isn’t unwise to be selfless. We love to organize our minds with things being all good or all bad. The truth is holding yourself in mind is mentally healthy and then allows for us to be there for others that are authentic and true to who we are as we are also held in mind alongside the others we are holding in mind. This can be in parallel and does not need to be an “either/or” situation.
Let’s all practice remembering ourselves first as a basic tenet of good mental health. From there, it’s up to you how you would like to do or not do for others. Selfish, selfless — it’s time to drop these judgments.