More often than not the answer is yes. The word “selfish” for most people is associated with nothing but a self-centred, cruel and immoral person – someone with complete disregard for everyone they encounter. Generally, by definition any act “concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure” is selfish. Whilst in comparison being “selfless” (the opposite of selfish) is doing something for someone else despite self – that is, not expecting anything in return.
So when it comes to health…
Does prioritising OUR needs in order to survive
make us selfish or selfless?
The answer for optimal wellbeing and survival is… we must be selfish. Many patients talk of how they put other’s need before their own (selflessness) - feelings of guilt most likely drive this behaviour. However, the trouble with acting like this is …
You can’t be there to support others,
if you don’t look after yourself.
So therefore in order to be selfless, you first need to be selfish. And quite frankly, if YOU don’t look after yourself – is it anyone else’s responsibility to do that for you? …Surely making it someone else’s responsibility would promote further feelings of guilt?
So keeping this in mind help, if you’re down the end of your priority list, you need to re-prioritise yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to forget about those you do care for altogether, just bring yourself to the top of the list.
If you find prioritising yourself a challenge, it means you need to consider why it’s so hard… What, or who, are barriers preventing this?
Once you identify the reasons you may realise you need healthy boundaries to be in place with people who are expecting too much from you. Perhaps you could start telling them “no” for some (or all) of their demands? We’re not talking about abandoning children here – but maybe a partner, parent, or friend is expecting too much of you? However, in regards to children – is there someone who can help share the load?
Applying healthy boundaries and prioritising your needs, allows you to live a more positive and healthy life. Taking such action demonstrates self-respect and makes you a great role model. By observing your actions, those around you can learn how to make such beneficial changes in their own life.
Also, by making YOU a priority– really what you’re communicating back to yourself is that YOU MATTER! Promoting feelings of worthiness - this is beneficial to your overall mental health, motivation and self-confidence.
So don’t cringe thinking that prioritising your needs is an act of selfishness – instead remind yourself it is necessary to look after you, so you can also look after those you care about.
Please see the following articles for more information: