If you grew up like me then the term “selfish” was never in your arsenal of vocabulary. I was taught to always be unconditionally loving to those closest to me. Give anything and everything that you can. Exhaust your resources, but don’t stop there. Keep giving. Even if you have nothing to give, are tired, and out of resources, you can’t be selfish and say enough is enough.
It appears to be a solid philosophy to have drilled into your head.
Seems noble, self-sacrificing right? Well that’s exactly what’s wrong with this way of living. You are not taught boundaries. The lines between caring for yourself and caring for someone else get blurred. And often times you sacrifice your own development and growth to tend to the real or imagined needs of someone else.
Slowly you drain away your inner light until it becomes too dark to see inside yourself.
I know because I’ve lost my light twice. But I refuse to lose my light anymore. It’s time to stand up and say enough is enough. It’s time to be artfully selfish. Not in the way that makes everyone around you miserable. Rather, be selfish in a way that keeps you sane, happy, and whole. This way you can still give others a portion of your love and happiness without draining it all away.
My entire life I thought that being selfish was synonymous with being a bad person. That if I ever did anything for myself then I wasn’t living up to my cultural or religious ideals. But I’ve learned that sometimes saying No and doing what you want is the most liberating form of self love. I’ve waded through that sea of brokenness. The one that we all eventually have to trudge through simply because it is the human condition.
Each time we spend weeks, months swimming and fighting against the waves to make it to shore. When finally we land on solid ground again, we stop to breathe. We lay on our backs, look up at the sky, and we realize that along the way we discovered something about ourselves. Something we never knew before. Then we return to our peers, wiser and stronger for having survived life at sea.
We have to teach ourselves that these are good qualities, but bad habits. The buck stops here. The moment to un-learn these self-harming attributes is now. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Otherwise you might find yourself still at sea broken, lost, and searching for meaning in someone that can’t give it to you. I’m not saying that this is necessarily all encompassing, but there are very few people whom you should place before yourself in this life.
Growth is rarely easy, and always hurts. But growth is necessary to live a life that we can later define as being fulfilling.