19: You're Not Being Selfish Enough

Growing up, you’re taught that being selfish is a bad thing.

“Share your toys, Tommy, or that’s a time-out for you!”

When you’re an adult, maybe with the exception of your boss, no one tells you anything. You’re in total control of your life. Sure, there are a few basic guidelines to follow so that you stay out of jail, off the streets, and above ground, but otherwise, good luck, buddy, you’re on your own!

The natural inclination is to lean on the guidance you were given when growing up, i.e. that being selfish is bad. But in this case, I’ve learned that the opposite is true more times than not.

It’s OK to be selfish. In fact, it’s really good for you, as long as you do it right.

You’ve probably had a friend (or maybe even yourself) who’s been in a relationship that was extremely one-sided. You’ve seen them time and again put their happiness on the backburner in favor of their partner’s. Some people will go to incredible lengths to ensure their partner, friends, family, or whoever is happy. Even if they succeed, it takes a great sacrifice of their own well-being.

Think about the husband who only has a good day if everything is perfect for his wife. Or the engineer who busts her ass at work, making sure her boss is always pleased with this month’s results.

I get it. It’s easy to get caught up in life. Days and weeks go by as you constantly spend your time pleasing others, working to their agendas, and leaving your own needs as an afterthought.

But sooner or later, it catches up to you. It sure did for me.

  • I used to be the type of guy who needed his girlfriend to be happy all the time
  • I used to be the type of guy who needed his boss not to be angry at him
  • I used to be the type of guy who needed to be liked by his peers, always going to extra mile to seem “cool” or a “good friend to have”

I spent so much time dealing with everybody else’s problems that I completely neglected my own. As my body began to physically and mentally collapse, it became impossible to meet my basic needs, let alone everyone else’s.

Did these people who took advantage of me for so long care? No. And honestly, I couldn’t be mad at them. I mean, I could be mad at them, but I realized that in some sense they were just smarter than me. They were better at being selfish. Yeah, they were kind of assholes about it, but part of them had it figured out.

My life did a full 180 when I began putting my own needs before those of others. Kind of like those airplane safety messages that say “always be sure to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”

You can’t help anyone if you’re suffocating from your own lack of oxygen.

It’s OK to be selfish. In fact, you should learn how to be selfish and practice it daily. When you do this:

  • You start taking care of yourself and your own needs
  • You improve your physical health
  • You improve your mental health
  • You improve your self-confidence

Once you put your own oxygen mask on, then you can help others. And when you do, you realize that you’re in a much better place to help them than you ever were before.

What are some ways you can practice being selfish?

You could:

  • Make time to exercise and work on your physical fitness
  • Turn down expensive, alcohol-filled dinners with friends to stay at home, learn how to cook, and nourish your body with healthy food
  • Say, “screw it” and take a trip, experiencing life in a way most people never do
  • Make time for that hobby you really love
  • Cancel plans if you’re not actually looking forward to them
  • Cut friends and lovers who treat you like shit and take advantage of you
  • Chase the goals you want to pursue, not the ones that your parents think are best for you

At the end of the day, there are lots of ways that you can practice being selfish, some obviously much more intense than others. What worked best for me was starting with health and branching out from there.

I think you’ll be pretty amazed at how much your life improves once you start being more selfish.

Have a great week.