Many of us at some point have had the internal dialogue as to whether looking after ourselves or prioritising our own health and fitness is selfish. From the initial outset it would appear to be; putting yourself first rather than others and looking after our own interests rather than our family and friends seems selfish. But maybe it is not as selfish as it would originally appear. This month I will address the question, is it selfish to be selfish?
One definition of selfish is: ‘lacking consideration for other people’ while another states: ‘concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure’. This is where it starts to become interesting because it entirely depends on our view of how we achieve pleasure for ourselves.
It is easy to assume that someone is keeping themselves fit and healthy because they want to feel energetic and look aesthetically pleasing. However, if their motivation to stay healthy is because they NEED to stay in good health to look after someone else, does this then become selfish? Because after all, if they become ill, who will look after their friend or relative?
Another even more interesting spin would be that someone like Mother Teresa was extremely selfish because helping other people made her feel great. So she was actually helping others for her own selfish needs to feel fulfilled.
If you have ever travelled by plane, you will know that when the crew go through the safety demonstration, they will always tell you to fit your own oxygen mask first, even before attempting to fit it to your own children. I assume this is for two reasons; the first being to reduce the chaos of everyone trying to fit each other’s masks but mainly for the second reason which would be, if you have your mask fitted, then you can help more people with their masks if they are struggling.
Happier & Healthier
Many studies have shown that people who tend to show ‘selfish’ characteristics are happier and healthier in life. They tend to spend time doing activities (or a job) they want to do rather than one they feel forced to do. Have you ever considered the idea that all self-employed people are selfish?
You will find yourself healthier because you are spending less time using precious energy trying to fulfil the needs of others, particularly when those needs are unnecessary, or dare I even say, selfish of the other person?
You will not be afraid to ask for a raise or a promotion because you have worked hard and been driven in a self-centred manner to achieve your goals and therefore your reward is justified. And if you are healthy and grounded and do not mind saying ‘no’ to people, you will have better relationships (both professionally and personally) as you will very rarely be taken advantage of.
Are We Selfish?
Once we start to see that the word ‘selfish’ does not always have a negative connotation, we can start to answer that question better. Obviously there is a negative side, but once we realise all the positive effects of being selfish, we start to understand it a little better.
I think the real question is, ‘What is your reason for doing what you are doing?’ If you are not causing harm to others, does it matter if it is selfish? The main issue which is not up for debate is this; when our health deteriorates so much, we no longer live. Surely that is enough motivation to selfishly improve our health?