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Redefining Selfish

For so long we have valued martyrdom. The more we give, the better we are, even if it means that our own self-care goes by the wayside. We are so worried that we may seem selfish that we have almost gone too far the other direction. We have forgotten how to take care of ourselves.
10/28/2015 03:38pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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From the time we are young we are taught to share, to be generous, to be thankful, and to care about others. We're also taught that it's bad to be overly concerned with ourselves.

If we care too much about our well-being, our desires, our hopes and dreams, we are considered selfish. The word itself has such a negative connotation that I would never want to be called selfish. Judgment is overflowing from the word selfish, and the trouble with judgment is that there is little to no compassion when we are judging. In other words, we don't see the positive intention in selfishness.

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For so long we have valued martyrdom. The more we give, the better we are, even if it means that our own self-care goes by the wayside. We are so worried that we may seem selfish that we have almost gone too far the other direction. We have forgotten how to take care of ourselves.

Using the word selfish to describe ourselves or others discourages us from receiving, and equally as importantly, discourages us from taking care of ourselves.

Let me tell you a little secret.

Selfishness is not only a good thing -- it is the key to healing our world.

That's right. You heard me. Being selfish, taking care of you first, is the key to healing our world. Why? Because who benefits when you are taking care of you? When you feel good in your body, when you are exercising, eating well, taking care of yourself, doing personal growth work -- who benefits?

I can guarantee you that it isn't just you. Your family. Your friends. Your co-workers. Your kids. Your students. Your patients. Your clients. EVERYONE.

I don't know about you, but when I feel good I am nicer, more patient, more loving and easier to be around. So could it be that being selfish, taking care of you first, can actually benefit everyone in your life?

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Absolutely! When you feel good, they feel good. When I come home from working out, getting a massage, doing yoga, going for a walk, doing lunch with a friend, or anything else that fills me up, I have so much more to give to my husband, my daughter and everyone else in my life.

We have been flying a lot lately and because we have a little one the flight attendant comes by each time and reminds us that if there is a change in cabin pressure we need to put on our oxygen mask first before assisting the baby. But, oh no, isn't that selfish?

No! It is imperative to care for ourselves first. In the case of the oxygen mask, we would literally pass out if we don't take care of ourselves first. And what good am I to my daughter if I am passed out?

If being selfish still sounds bad, wrong or uncomfortable, I want you to think of the last time you gave someone something. How good did it feel to give? Whether it was a compliment, a gift, a lift, or just a smile -- did it fill you up to give to someone else?

Of course! It feels amazing to give.

So, with that in mind, how could you deny someone else the opportunity to give? Uh oh, does that mean you have to receive? I think so. Be it a compliment, a gift, a lift or just a smile, you learning how to receive, to say yes, to say thank you, is a gift to someone else.

Let's redefine selfish. Let's start to value taking care of ourselves because when we give from a place of fullness or abundance it is much more appealing for the recipient than giving from a place of emptiness or depletion.

Okay, I gotta run. It is time for my massage. Think of five people in your life who would benefit from your self-care. Please share with someone who is always giving too much and not being selfish enough.

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