IT’S okay to be selfish sometimes.
I don’t mean going around and taking away people’s things like it’s second grade. The selfishness I’m referring to is more in line with the fact that, as Easterners, we’re willing to inconvenience ourselves if only to make others feel better. You know the drill: someone asks you to finish up the group paper because he/she has somewhere to be. You do so, reluctantly, and grumble the whole time you’re typing up the Recommendation section of the paper, but you find yourself repeating the same, vicious cycle when the situation comes up again. I know this because I was often the guy who passed on work to the smartest in the group because they “clearly understood more than me.” And though my classmates and I have smoked the peace pipe on this matter, I still cringe at the thought of what I did.
Selfishness, in this case, refers to regarding yourself as important as everyone else. Speaking for myself, about 80 percent of the things I did for others when I was a teenager dealing with my insecurities was so that I would validate myself in the eyes of people—I needed to prove my worth to them. I needed to hear “Thank you for being so helpful” because that was the only way people would recognize me. You can imagine how batty it drove me when certain people I bent over backwards for still wouldn’t give me the time of the day. On the opposite end, I also met people that, no matter how much I messed up, wouldn’t hesitate to give a word (or meme) of encouragement even when I had nothing to offer back.
Hence, my battle for a positive self-image didn’t take a turn for the better until I decided to be selfish with my time—I took time off to nurture myself. I signed up for a gym membership. I splurged on “alone time” meals that I would have been too embarrassed to eat in front of people. I guarded my downtime fervently, dedicating an hour to either read fiction books or browse YouTube for knowledge bombs (and sometimes travel/eating vlogs). And I discovered that the world didn’t implode when I wasn’t 100 percent available. The people who cared about me didn’t start caring less; the people who couldn’t care less about me didn’t start caring.
Because of this, my mind is clearer. I’m better able to allocate my time to things that are worth pursuing instead of feeling like a square peg in a round hole. And that quiet voice at the back of my head saying “You’re worthless” is getting quieter and quieter.
Be selfish with yourself. Be selfish with your mental and physical health. You can only contribute back to the world that which you have experienced and believed for yourself. Before you can shine a light in your little corner, make sure you have your batteries charged first.