Have you ever been called “selfish” for focusing on yourself instead of others’ desires?
While most people would not consider selfishness a positive trait, are there times when one perhaps should be selfish? I have been asking myself this question frequently as of late.
Defined by Meriam-Webster Dictionary as "concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others," selfishness does not sound like a positive quality.
The more I think about, the more I have come to realize that this definition is not always correct.
I believe self-reflection and self-care, sometimes at the expense of others’ desires and wishes for you or your time, can be a positive thing. When we focus on inner healing and personal development, everyone—including our family, friends, colleagues, and strangers—benefits.
Speaking from experience, I can tell you that this has been true in my life. There was a time in 2013 when I realized that I spent too little time focused on my personal growth, and too much time focused on what everyone else was focusing on—the latest news, television shows, and sporting events.
This lack of focus would not have been as much of an issue if I were content with where I was in my life. But I was not. Like many people, I was just going through the motions of life (work, fitness, and socializing) with no focus on cultivating my gifts, or finding my purpose, or seeking true contentment.
However, everything changed when I learned about the power of meditation and mindfulness. These gifts brought about awareness of where my life was lacking and what I could do about it.
This new level of self-awareness motivated me to focus more on myself, and less on other people. As selfish as that sounds, I needed to figure out what I had to offer the world and would leave me feeling more fulfilled.
Instead of spending hours a night catching up with family and friends over the phone, computer, and in person, I spent those hours reading books, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and speaking with people about topics related to personal development and my search for purpose.
There were undoubtedly people who would have preferred that I was more available and present in their life, but I had to keep my communication limited to the closest of friends and family.
Two to three years later, when I had found my purpose and launched Conscious Motivation, my value to those in my social network grew exponentially. I could now be there for them in a way I could not have before—listening more authentically and putting my full attention towards what was going on in their lives.
In essence, my decision to be selfish with my time provided much greater rewards than what people believed they had lost during my search for meaning.
Below, I'll share the four reasons I support you being selfish as well.
1. You Cannot Truly Love While Suffering
First, we cannot be entirely present to love those around us when we are consciously (knowingly) or subconsciously (unknowingly) suffering.
Listening to the pain that others are experiencing often triggers our own inner suffering, and this makes it difficult for us to support them at the highest level of our ability.
This unexpected result of our attempt to help exemplifies why—at times—it is more important to be committed to focusing on self than helping others. Because once you heal yourself, you will be much better suited to facilitate the healing of those around you.
2. Short-Term Suffering for Long-Term Rewards
When you decide to take time for yourself, your partner, family, and friends will undoubtedly suffer at some level from your absence.
The resultant suffering is human nature and a natural reaction to losing the presence and energy of someone or something that has become an important part of your life.
However, as in my situation, this will be a short-term loss that will later offer much greater rewards.
Like me, you will become a better partner, a better family member, a better friend, a better colleague, and a better servant to the world.
3. The World Needs You To Cultivate & Share Your Gifts
Every one of us was born with a special gift, in the form of a seed, that we are destined to share with the world. But not every one of us waters this seed so that our gift can blossom.
Og Mandino had it right; too many of us focus on other people and things without ever bringing our greatness and greatest gift to the world.
I have known people that served others to a fault—ignoring their own destiny. If they were more selfish with their time, they would cultivate their gift and have much more to offer than they were at the current moment.
4. Personal Development Is Necessary
Jim Rohn once said, “Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job, you can make a living, but if you work hard on yourself, you'll make a fortune.”
Very few people are in a job that brings true fulfillment and happiness into their life. If you are unhappy in your job/career, you should explore focusing more on yourself than you do on your job.
Personal development, being self-centered with your free time so that you can develop your strengths and examine your weaknesses, is the path to finding a way to do what you love for a living.