Healthy Selfishness Can Make You Happy

“Selfish” is such an uninviting idea – and when it’s self-directed, even more so. Thoughts of narcissists, the self-absorbed, overly regimented kinds of folks come to mind when we hear selfish. In part this is a cultural norm: we’ve learned that to be selfish is to detrimentally put others last. But what if what we’ve learned is the extreme? Healthy Selfishness can make you happy!

Let’s take a step back. When you’re working hard to achieve and keep it all together (health, kids, spouse, work) it can seem there’s never enough time slow down. In fact, in that mode, the very last thing you want to hear is to slow down. Because doers do, by golly! And we can rest when we’re dead, afterall.

But how often do innovative breakthroughs or creative moments come when you’re flat out exhausted?

We all know the idea that if the plane loses cabin pressure you are to (pray first!) put your OWN mask on before helping others. This is because when you have your own mask on, you can breathe while you help your neighbor – you are taken care of first so that you can do for others with a modicum of clarity.

Healthy selfishness is actually a wonderful practice. It’s self-care with priority. It is a high value activity, one that protects and supports your energy, your body and mind.

When we make it a priority to take care of ourselves, we think better, we are nicer to be around, we have more gratitude, creativity, more to give. What part of that equation sounds like a bad idea?

Healthy Selfishness benefit: Like attracts like and when you’re taking care of yourself and putting yourself first you tend to attract similar people – people who also value you – and it just grows and grows.

Many of us like the idea of taking care of ourselves, but when push comes to shove (and schedules fill up) we put our own care off. Women especially tend toward the people-pleaser, constant giver, and everything-doer side of the spectrum.

“Later”, we think – I’ll take a long bath and relax later. I’ll read or garden or play with my dog later when I won’t feel so guilty… because right now there’s just too much to do. Then we don’t. This “later” practice is, in fact, depleting.

Schedule self-kindness every day. Actively do this. If this is a new habit you need to create, I invite you to start with a meditation around it. This will help you create new neuropathways that make the action of healthy selfishness a tangible practice.

Try this visualization:

Close your eyes and let an image come to mind that represents you taking care of you – something that really nourishes you. Maybe it’s working in the garden or having a cup of tea with your dog on your lap… anything that’s nurturing for you. Really notice the details. What does it feel like? Is it joyful? Free? Peaceful? Grounded?

Keep watching that image and notice that whatever you’re doing is guilt free. If guilt or anxiety wants to pop up, just notice it… it’s normal and ok. Keep coming back to this image of you taking care of you by giving yourself this kindness. Where do you feel those feelings in your body? Stay relaxed, aware, and content as you feel these positive feelings about taking care of you.

Now, add in this phrase as you watch this scene: “It’s ok to take care of myself.” Continue to notice the positive feelings that come along with this image of you taking care of yourself. Watch yourself in that imagery and breathe in the contentment of how it feels to be the one to take care of you. Some describe it as a warm hug… how does this practice feel to you?

When we make self-care a priority, we can give to others from a place of love with abundant energy rather than depletion. Plan for play and relaxation until it becomes a part of you!

Leave me a note! I’d love to hear some of the positive things you felt during this exercise, or ways you are implementing this practice in your real life.

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