Selfish…or Self-Love?

A fellow writer-colleague of mine posted an interesting blog this week about selfishness.  That’s a word that sparks some emotions inside of me, and I felt the need to write a little about it myself today.

There are so many quotes about how selfishness is a sin/bad/mean.  There are just as many sayings about how selflessness will lead to enlightenment, Heaven, etc.  We think of selfish people as egotistical, conceited, and horrible, and while I do agree that someone who does nothing but think of him-/herself is quite self-centered, I think the term “selfish” gets confused too often with “self-love”.

In our society, it seems expected that girls should be very giving, and self-sacrificing.  We’re told that we have to be nice, and if we’re not, we’re called mean.  When girls grow into women, there are even more selfless expectations on us: be a mom/cook/wife/chauffeur/friend/volunteer/etc.  If we decide we don’t want to be those for a day (or even an hour), sometimes we’re called much worse than mean.  And I know it’s not just girls/women who are expected to be selfless; everyone is judged by the same meter.

“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live,
it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”
Oscar Wilde

It’s interesting to note, that the only times I’ve ever been called selfish were when I wasn’t able to do something that someone else wanted me to do.  If my life’s choices don’t interfere with what others want, nobody says a word.  But I have to admit that it’s not just others that stamp “selfish” across my forehead when I say no . . . I do it too.

The expectation to be giving and self-sacrificing are so ingrained into our collective psyche that I feel guilty if I want to say no to someone, because I’d rather do something for me.  Sometimes I’m able to talk myself out of that guilt.  Other times I give in to the guilt and sacrifice my own sanity, because someone else “needs” me.

I am a very giving person by nature, but I also see how frayed my emotions get when I forget to give back to myself.  I need that down time, where no one needs anything from me, and I am free to just be Alyx; not “daughter”, not “fiance”, not “admin assistant” or “massage therapist”.  Simply me . . . this being of skin and bones that enjoys some solitude, maybe with the wind blowing across my face.  After I’ve taken some of that time for me, I feel much more refreshed and willing and anxious to give to someone else.

Sometimes you have to be selfish to be selfless.
Edward Albert

Thankfully, there are many self-help books out there now that extoll the virtues of self-love.  I’m very glad to see that it’s becoming more understood that we have to give back to ourselves every once in a while, or we won’t be of much use to others.

I have a poster of Desiderata up in my bedroom, and my favorite bit from it is:

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
Max Ehrmann ~ The Desiderata of Happiness

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Ehrmann’s words.  We’re all deserving of the love and kindness that we bestow upon others.  So, the next time someone calls you selfish, try not to take it as a bad thing.  Chances are, you’re just doing a little bit of self-love, and I, for one, applaud you for that.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Pauline
    Jul 22, 2011 @ 14:56:08

    Doing things so you can feel needed can be as selfish as ignoring someone else’s needs. I’m sure we’ve all met the all-sacrificing mother who is definitely receiving a reward for all she sacrifices?! Often she totally identifies with her children and doesn’t allow them their own inviduality. I agree, woman as martyr or saint is so twentieth century.

    Reply

  2. Alyx Morgan
    Jul 22, 2011 @ 15:58:48

    A very good point, Paulline. Thank you for stopping by today! 🙂

    Reply

  3. Dolly Chamberlin
    Jul 22, 2011 @ 18:54:55

    I agree that it is important to refuel from time to time. It was explained to me that if we do not refuel our vehicle, it’s not going to serve it’s purpose. Same with our body, food is necessary refueling for the use of our body, just as self-time is necessary to refueling our inner self.

    Reply

  4. EBDavis
    Jul 23, 2011 @ 04:17:23

    I’ve decided that I need to be really “selfish” by getting published, working like a professional and promoting my writing–because if I do, maybe I’ll finally get a paycheck out of this, which in turn will “give back” so in the end I won’t be “selfish.” (If that makes sense.) Playing with your writing, as if it is a hobby, maybe selfish, but getting in the game is the only way to get your work seen and hopefully, published–and to promote that work will be totally painful and not selfish, if you hate promotion, like me. But then, after reading Nathan Bransford’s blog on hating promotion, I realize I’m not alone.

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Jul 23, 2011 @ 08:03:00

      That’s the interesting thing about us & our fears…we’re never alone in them, but it’s nice to see proof of that every once in a while.

      Good on you, Elaine, on choosing to do something for yourself now! And thanks again for writing the blog that inspired me. 🙂

      Reply

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