Why We Need to Embrace the Word Selfish: Part 2

I hope you enjoyed Why We Need to Embrace the Word Selfish: Part 1. As promised, I am back with Part 2 of the series, including 10 Radical Ways We Can All Stand To Be a Little More Selfish
I've enjoyed engaging with many readers and hearing some of your responses on the subject. Some highlights: 
  • Annah Edmonds said she faced this issue 20 years ago. 
    "I was grappling with my love of art making and the notion of my own happiness and self care as selfishly indulgent. Then I learned how crucial it is to put ourselves first. Otherwise, how are we to have the energy for others without risking burn out?
    Love yourself, then share that love with the world - whatever you can. And that is enough. To ask anything more of a person would be downright (ahem) selfish!"
  • And Sara Silletto shared, 
    "I think becoming a mama has definitely made me stand up a little more for myself and for what I need.  If one is always giving of him/her self, then there isn't much left at the end of the day/month/year/life. And ironically, isn't that kind of selfish?"

What great points you've all made! It is interesting how trying to behave selflessly, while neglecting our own needs, can backfire. When we can be a little more selfish in little everyday ways, by practicing self-care and setting boundaries, it prevents a buildup of negative energy and resentment that can lead to true burnout and breakdown. In fact, small selfish acts help open us up to giving by being who we truly are. 

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had some clarifying thoughts about the word selfish. One definition I came across is “caring only for one's self.” This has gotten skewed in the real world, when some of us (particularly women) are shamed and labeled as negatively selfish for practicing self care. There is a big difference between caring for one's self and caring only for one's self. When we take the time and energy to nourish ourselves it develops our innate power. Then, it is up to us to use that power in a way that contributes positively to the world. With adequate self-care, I trust that we will use our power for good.

I propose reclaiming the word selfish and wearing that badge with pride so that others cannot use it against us to shame us out of our self-nourishing ways.

Without further ado, here are my top
10 Radical Ways We Can All Stand To Be a Little More Selfish 
  1. Break out of your rut. If you tend to always give, let someone else do something for you. For example, massage therapists need massage, parents need caring, and volunteers need to receive as much as they give.  It may feel uncomfortable at first, but challenge yourself and see how much you can accept from others. After all, the heart grows stronger not just because it pumps forth the life-giving force of love, but because it expands to allow the flow back in. 
  2. Come out, come out, wherever you are! Coming out is a term that has been used within LGBTQ culture that means coming out as far as sexuality and gender, and it can also be used beyond those circles. Perhaps you are more liberal or conservative than your friends or family. Allow yourself to explore more of your true nature. Even if only to yourself, dare to embrace and own those parts of yourself that may not be acceptable to others. Then perhaps tell one safe friend or a counselor. Maybe then you will feel comfortable taking one small step toward authenticity in the larger world. Go at your own pace and don’t force it. It can be a lifetime journey. Feel free to comment below if you want to practice coming out as more of your whole self. Here goes mine: I am queer, feminist, child-free by choice, and I sometimes feel confined by regular gender roles. For example, I really dislike being called a "lady." One big step for me to coming out was cutting my hair in a non-gender-typical way recently, and I’ve been loving it. 
  3. Go for it! Whatever it is! Take a risk. Go on that trip. Enroll in that class. Pick up a brush. Then, celebrate when you do it! Howl at the moon. 
  4. Ask for it! Give voice to your dreams. Sometimes we don’t think we are capable of creating the kind of life we really want. But we can never get what you don’t ask for. It is our responsibility to let others know how they can help us realize our truest desires. And perhaps things will line up and by getting more of what we want, we can also help them realize their deepest wishes. 
  5. Say it! Say the thing you’ve really wanted to say, sensitively of course. I recommend Nonviolent Communication or Compassionate Communication. It’s outlined in this wonderful book and taught by various teachers around the Asheville area and world. (See resources below for more info.) 
  6. Make it! Make more time for yourself. Make more time for art, music, writing, or whatever you love! 
  7. Turn off your phone, computer and tablet. Go outside. Sit under a tree. Use your hands. Connect with people in person. Free your mind for electronic interference. Let the texts and emails pile up, and allow yourself freedom from the incessant notifications that fragment your day. 
  8. Just Say No. Click “Not Going” on Facebook and do something that really calls to you. Allow yourself to opt out of an activity that stresses you out. Perhaps saying no even means declining an invitation to something you’d enjoy at a time when you are just feeling overloaded. 
  9. Say yes! Say yes to yourself. Say yes to art. Say yes to what you really want. Say yes to love and lightness and freedom.
  10. Try something every day that scares you- in a good way. For me, I know I’m on the right track when I feel my heart flutter. Whether it’s a big trip or speaking up for myself, doing things for my own self care sometimes make me nervous. I’ve learned to look at that nervous feeling as an excited feeling. It actually feels the same in the body- a quickened heartbeat, shortened breath. I’ve learned to let go and release my fears of what everyone else thinks, and fly. 

Would you add anything to this list? Leave a comment and let me know!
Check out the book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marhsall Rosenberg at your local bookstore.
In Asheville? Take a class at The Real Center
Outside Asheville? Maybe there are classes in your area.  The Center for Nonviolent Communication

Originally published 9.21.15

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