”If Iʼm not for myself, who will be for me? If Iʼm not for others, who am I? If not now, when?”
From the moment we are taught the difference between right and wrong-- top of the WRONG list is usually selfish.
When we think about the concept of being selfish, it's easy to jump to a few conclusions: we envision someone who is self-centered, who is only concerned with what they can gain from relationships or experiences, and who possesses a general lack of consideration for others.
Instead, let us reframe the concept of selfishness. Think about it in terms of self-care, specifically your mental health. Being selfish is not only caring about yourself, but it's also about being radically honest with yourself. When you make your needs a priority --- you free yourself to provide help to others.
To understand what self-care means, here is an analogy:
When you get sick, such as a case of a common cold, you would take some over-the-counter medication, get some extra rest, and call it a day. However, if it were more severe, such as a broken bone or a heart attack, you would need help. More than likely, many of us would go to a physician who can guide us on best practices for getting well.
By contrast, think about a time when you might have had an “off” day, woke up on time, thought you were going to be uber-productive, but, for some unexplained reason, it didnʼt happen. Maybe, you studied really hard for the exam but left feeling like you failed it. Perhaps you didn’t get a job offer after an interview you thought you aced. You might be left with a sense of anxiousness, and you are not sure why, or what to do about it.
Often, when we express these thoughts to someone else, we are met with “Donʼt worry about it, it’s all in your head!” That offhand response not only invalidated your feelings but now they are amplified.
Not only are you anxious, but you’re anxious about the fact that you’re anxious. This can then causes our thoughts to cascade in a snowball of negativity, which can at times render us paralyzed and unable to take action.
At this point, you are at a crossroads. You can either continue to allow yourself to be paralyzed or you can take action to develop skills that will enable you to recognize your emotions and help you cope and deal with them.
Finding the time and implementing activities for self-care can help you achieve greater mindfulness, you not only feel more in control, but you are now able to do for others. Being ‘selfish’ is about becoming the best version of us. And when we priorities caring for ourselves we can do the same for others.
There are two activities that I have begun to practice in my life that has helped me clear my mind: meditation and journaling.
A lot of people think that in order to meditate that you must “shut off your mind” or “do absolutely nothing. I believe meditation can be found doing any activity you can describe for yourself as “therapeutic.” For some, that might be cleaning as the action of decluttering physical space to declutter one’s mind. Others find solace in music, painting, or drawing, as the mind is free to unfold at will. The point of meditation is to take a break from everyday life.
Albert Einstein came up with the theory that time is relative: if we are spending every single moment of every single day moving through monotonous tasks without realizing that we are not machines, but people, time will seem to move at lightning speed.
However, when we focus on and live entirely in the present moment, we can slow ourselves down and experience our lives minute by minute.
When we think of time, 10 minutes can seem like hardly any time at all. But taking out 10 minutes a day for Meditation can be a great way to exit the busy road we find ourselves on day-to-day.
For meditation, I use an app called Headspace. The app takes you through 10 minute guided meditations. Iʼve used it daily and also tried using it only when I felt necessary. But I found it was more benefit doing it every day and establishing a routine, that way it is a precautionary and maintenance measure.
Journaling often is taken as synonymous for keeping a diary or writing well- crafted memoirs of our daily experiences --- this does not have to be what your journal contains. Think of it as one place to turn your unclear thoughts and ideas into something tangible.
One of the things that used to keep me up at night was that my mind would be spinning and continuously thinking about the work I had done that day and what I needed to start tomorrow. I now have my journal at my bedside and dedicate time before bed to simply put my thoughts on paper.
I donʼt journal every single day because thatʼs not what works best for me. What I found works for me is to keep a “commonplace” notebook with me always. I have found that the benefit of this notebook is that I can go back and read what I have written.
Being able to reflect on my thoughts has helped a lot with personal growth. When I’m feeling frustrated or lost, I can read my thoughts from the past. I may not always be able to wrap my head entirely around my previous thoughts, but it is helpful because just reading them helps me to understand that once I externalized my feelings, I am able to control them, rather than the other way around.
So no matter if you meditate, journal or just slow down, the most important thing is for us is to make a little part of our daily lives our time to be selfish.
Because if we donʼt, then we are only being ourselves...ish.