I used to think the word "selfish" was a bad one. Being called selfish by a parent, in a relationship, at a job, or really in any situation wasn't usually a compliment. But today, I'd like to challenge that assumption. What if we considered this idea of a self-centered or self-ish perspective to simply be the reality of how we move through life?
I actually believe a selfish way of living offers us the greatest ability to be of benefit to the world. How does that figure?
We are after all, in a body, with a self, through which we see the world. While I do believe there is much more infinity to us than the finite confines of said body, for now, it's what we're all working with. We see things through our eyes, hear through our ears, smell through our nose, taste through our mouth, feel through our skin (and on and on) and all of these inputs assemble themselves through the vehicle of self.
What's more, when we make choices that are in highest support of our own needs (mental, physical, even esoteric and spiritual) we are better equipped to be of service in the world.
For example, I am selfish with my daily meditation practice. It must happen come hell or high water. Sometimes that means it's happening at 5:00 AM. Other times that means I'll be meditating in the back of my Lyft to and from teaching or late night after the hubby has gone to bed. I must do it to get my self in the proper state of giving, teaching, and enjoying the life I live.
I am selfish with my food choices. While I love to eat (really I do), I have become more selfish with the things I do and do not eat. I am selfish with politely saying "no" to a slice of cake when it's someone's birthday and I don't really want it. I am selfish with my consumption of greens and ghee. I am selfish with my need to visit farmers markets and participate in local CSAs. I am selfish when it comes to nourishing my body so that it can be energized, strengthened, and healthy.
I am selfish with my growth. I am constantly investing in myself whether through my time, my energy, or my financial resources to learn more, expand more, experience more. I am selfish with my need for wandering - and I have been traveling much more because of it. This selfishness makes me appreciate the joys of home, and true lessons learned all the more. This selfish studentship also makes me a much more consummate teacher.
I think selfishness becomes a problem when it's the end goal - not the means. A self-oriented life is one of "enlightened self-interest" as Nathanial Branden once wrote - it's a curious understanding of and then dedication to what makes us feel best equipped to live the life we're meant to.
Today I'm declaring to myself and to others that I am indeed unapologetically selfish. You can call me that to my face and I'll take it gladly as a complement, hopefully one day soon passing it right back to you.