This is a very important topic for the givers of the world, because “healthy selfish” is about setting boundaries with yourself and with others. It is about making sure that your “cup” is being filled, and when it starts to run low, you have the ability to recognize it and the proper coping skills to refill it. Now stay with me, we will re-visit the “cup” theory soon. If you are the type of person that can easily say “no” to others with a healthy motivation behind it, congrats! Gold star for you! However, If you find yourself more often than not wanting to make others happy, emotionally overwhelmed and/or drained, you might just need a quick lesson in healthy selfish.
We hear the word “selfish” and automatically equate it with unpleasant behavior. The word itself has a pre-existing negative connotation because the definition of selfish is as follows: chiefly concerned with one’s own interest, advantage, etc, especially to the total exclusion of the interests of others. So why am I promoting displeasing behavior? Well…I’m not exactly, there are some distinguishing qualities that separate someone from being “selfish” vs “healthy selfish” such as motivation, confidence, and consequences. I cannot stress the importance of motivation in the case of healthy vs unhealthy selfish.
Let’s revisit the cup analogy. Imagine a nice full cup, I personally like to imagine that mine is full of whisky, but pick whatever fluid best fits you 😉 Now because you’re such a kind soul, you enjoy sharing your whisky…or what have you. You offer it up to your friends when they need comforting, your lover when they have needs, your children because someone has to take care of them, your boss when they don’t want to do their own job. Basically everyone is taking turns sipping at your cup, and if the cup runnith over and you have all of that to give, super duper!!
Now let’s say your significant other, boss or friends aren’t sipping from the cup, but rather taking shots from it like they’re lil john at a strip club. You find yourself in an uncomfortable position. You don’t want to rock the boat, or hurt anyone’s feelings so you allow them to keep taking. You find your cup is now very low. You’re exhausted, maybe you feel like a failure, maybe you because angry and slightly resentful. Don’t these people realize you are doing everything you can to quench their never-ending thirst?! Not likely, no. Sadly most people don’t realize this, and some people just downright don’t give a shit and will happily take advantage of your cup, and they’ll blame you when it’s empty. They are, dare we say *gasp* selfish?! Some of them, yes, but the worst reality is that they are right.
It’s your responsibility to tell people when you’re running low and don’t have much to give. The exciting part is you don’t have to be an asshole about it. You can simply say “no,” “not right now,” “unfortunately I can’t,” “I need some time for myself,” as well as a long list of other options. I was and still have the tendency to be a people pleaser, but I found the more people took, the less happy I was. Please note, I didn’t say “the more I gave.” There were times I gave and times I was being taken advantage of.
It is vital to be aware of the toxic people in your life. I’m not saying everyone is bad. Some are unaware, some have no idea that they are taking, but some people will prey on your kindness like it’s a sport. This is a very disheartening experience, I found myself hurt because part of me expected others to be nice, a little appreciative…hell maybe even be there for me if I needed it, and some were/are! However, having the expectation that someone will be nice to you in return, or be there for you is a set up. Not only to them, but to yourself.
I’m not saying don’t expect anything from anyone, but understand that kindness is a good deed, but reciprocation of a good deed makes it a job.
So what can we take away from healthy selfish?! It’s ok to say no. The more you take time to fill up your own cup the more you can give to others and feel good about it. When that cup is low, the quality of what you have to give will not be at it’s finest or coming from the best place. Don’t give all of yourself and then become disappointed or upset when it’s not returned, although completely understandable. Take care of yourself, and when that cup gets low, do something about it!! Find out what will help “re-fill” your cup, and fucking do it! Learn how to set boundaries with people, and avoid being a doormat. It’s incredibly empowering and this awareness and ability can change your relationships (good and bad), and it will also make you feel more confident and help bring more positive people and healthy relationships into your life.