Knowing my Self-Worth empowers me to be sure of who I am, what I deserve, and even what I have to give to others. It allows me to set boundaries and knowing my limitations enables me to give to others freely within my abilities. And that feels really good, by the way.
I’m trying to work on taking better care of myself, but I just can’t fight the feeling that it’s selfish to put myself first! Every time I have to say no to someone or try to do what I want to do I feel so. much. guilt. and like I disappoint everyone around me. How can I take care of ME without feeling like it’s selfish?
I’ve been wanting to do my blog “Dear Abby” style for a while now and it’s so crazy to me that this is the first entry because I literally just had this exact conversation in my office with a client before reading this! Maybe it’s a sign … a sign that we need to talk about the word selfish.
If you have a question, a topic you want me to cover, or something I can help you sort through- comment on this post, fill out the contact form on my website, or text me at 678-551-5016!
Apparently you picked the word of the day to discuss: Selfish. It seems like it is coming up for a lot of people lately, so for starters, don’t feel like you are alone here.
I think this boils down to words, definitions, how we feel about those definitions, and how we were raised to think about them too. For instance, most of us were raised to think being selfish is bad (I agree with this) and that we should feel guilty for being selfish. Take a look at this:
Definition of selfish according to Webster’s Dictionary:
2 : arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others
Look at this definition. It is the second half of the sentence that is the problem. In disregard of others. Exclusively concerned about self.
"Arising from concern with one’s own welfare"? Not necessarily a bad thing.
It is okay to be concerned with yourself. That, by itself, is not selfish. Does not make you bad. And does not warrant guilt. The problem I often see is that we are taught that instead of being selfish, we are to be selfless, and that this is a good thing! But I’ve got a problem with that. Let’s look at the definition again:
selfless : having no concern for self
No concern? At all? You mean the only way to be “good” is to not care at all about my own welfare?
No thank you.
Here’s the thing: most people, if given these two options, are going to opt for being selfless because that appears to be the less painful of the two. It has been ingrained in us to avoid selfishness, so we know there are consequences attached to it, but most of us weren’t taught the consequences of being selfless.
I equate being selfless to having no sense of self. Not just putting the needs of others before your own, but not even knowing what your needs are. Not knowing who you are. Literally having less self. Your identity is what other people want it to be in an attempt to avoid seeming selfish.
It is lonely and isolating and unfulfilling. Being selfless can be as detrimental as being selfish.
So...there’s GOT to be another option! One where you can love yourself, know yourself, and care about your own welfare. Have a voice. Set healthy boundaries for yourself and your needs. AND deeply and genuinely care for others, their needs, feelings, and care for them even when it doesn’t benefit you.
What is that third option? I think you might have to think about what word feels right for you here, but for me it always goes back to Self-Worth.
Knowing my Self-Worth allows me to be sure of who I am, what I deserve, and even what I have to give to others. It empowers me to set boundaries and knowing my limitations enables me to give to others freely within my abilities. And that feels really good, by the way.
I can take care of myself without feeling guilt because I feel confident that I don’t make decisions without regard for others. I also don’t make decisions that go against who I am, cause me to feel guilt or resentment, or jeopardize my relationships.
It is because I know my Self-Worth that I don’t need to be selfish OR selfless.
I hope you find this helpful and that you continue learning to release the feelings of guilt, because I know how heavy they can be.
Julie Hilton is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and owner of Empower Counseling & Consulting of Atlanta, LLC. For a free phone consultation with Julie, call 678-329-9129