It’s ok to be selfish

“Being selfish is wrong!”, you say.

Sure, I agree in some cases it may be wrong. For example, Selfishness that hurts others is bad. A valid point.

Selfishness for selfcare is good.

Let me explain how being a little selfish is healthy.

First some context. For more than fifteen years I was a primary caretaker for others; my first wife taken by cancer, my daughter as a single father, my second wife (Kally) through her cancer treatment.

All that time I gave to them, willingly, lovingly. I exchanged hobbies, wealth, a home, activities, friends, and time for their care.

Now my daughter is an adult and Kally is a miracle in recovery. For the first time in almost two decades, I find I am feeling empty, almost bored, because I am no longer what I was, nor have what I gave away.

This is where it is healthy to be selfish.

Kally made me aware of this indirectly. Her recovery has her rebuilding her capabilities. While her life changes are another story, I can say she is in a place to rekindle lost abilities and find new meaning. Watching her find purpose is where I see healthy selfishness. She is devoting time to selfcare.

It made me realize that I need to be selfish too. Having spent so long giving to others of myself, I found I feel at a loss now that giving is less required.

In my case, I need to be selfish and make time to take care of my health, find new interests, and create a sense of purpose.

Emergency responders often have a saying; in order to save others, you must save yourself first. This is the reasoning on an airplane behind putting the oxygen mask first on yourself before helping your child. If you pass out, you can’t help anyone and you would need rescuing as well.

I feel guilt giving to myself, not because it is wrong but because I am unaccustomed to any selfishness.

This sank home for me when Kally suggested we take a class together. My habitual inclination is to say, “no, you go, I am fine.” But I am not fine, and there is every reason to take on this activity together. I, and we, will be better for it.

The same goes for taking care of my health. I can count my nights in a hospital in months, and none of that time was for my own issues. The selfish thing for me to do is to make the time to care for myself; get a physical and bloodwork, exercise, do fun activities on my own and with others. I need to enjoy life again.

If I stay healthy and find purpose in being, I can continue to help others when needed. Right now, however, I have the space for being a little selfish.

May you too find some time for a little selfishness.