Is it ever OK to be selfish?

When I was a boy my parents and teachers taught me right from wrong, how to behave. Essentially, all the “rules of the game.”

Some of the things I learned: Share. Be kind. Don’t steal stuff. Study hard. Work hard. Do your best. Don’t be selfish.

That last one was drilled into my head. Not only by parents and teachers, but by everyone! Friends, neighbors, society…as if the message is: “to be selfish is to be a bad person.”

GoFundMe campaigns. American Cancer Society fundraisers. The SPCA commercials with matted and emaciated dogs and cats. Morning Boosts, compliments of Hoda Kotb on NBC’s Today show. Billboards urging us to give until it hurts.

I’m ok with all of that. Would you agree that we have been programmed to believe that we should always put others first? That in order for us to be considered “good people” that we have to be second, third, or last in line?

Single moms will get what I am saying. You brave warriors awaken at 5:00am, make breakfast, finish a load of laundry, get the kids showered and dressed, clean the kitchen, put away toys, and dispense OTC medicine to the sniffly-nosed baby….all before 5:30am. The kids come first! Maybe, just maybe…you will have time to throw on some rouge and comb your hair before whisking them off to the daycare and school. On your ride to work you hope to hit a couple red lights so you can apply a little mascara.

So that gets you to 6:30am…when most of the rest of us are just getting started. You have a full 8 – 10 hour day ahead of you. That’s the easy part. At 5 you get to pick the kids up from daycare and after-school programs…on your way home. Start another load of laundry (the laundry never ends!), get some food on the table, help the kids get their homework done, clean up the kitchen, finish the laundry you started earlier, bathe the kids, dress them in their jammies, read em a bedtime story, prepare for the morning meeting at work, collapse in bed.

Next day, start all over.

It took a lot outta me to write that. I need a nap.

Is it selfish to want some relief? Is it selfish to expect some help? Is it selfish to request a break once in a while? Is it selfish to want a nap?

Yes.

I believe we need to be selfish…we need to take care of our own needs…so that we are able to take care of others’. As a therapist, I see people struggling with depression and anxiety…and often their story is the same. “I have been taking care of everyone else in my world but me. I am exhausted!”

Is it possible to keep up that pace for the rest of your life?

No.

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