Back in June, I wrote a letter to my oldest following a talk given at her high school graduation baccalaureate service that didn’t sit quite right with me. You can read my letter here: Sacrificing Isn’t Noble.
Curious about her perspective? Here you go.
LET’S TALK “SELFISH”
Funny that you should bring up this speech in particular from the baccalaureate service, because I was thinking about this one quite a bit as well. I certainly agree with the thoughts from your post almost entirely, though, as we’ve discussed before, perhaps I’d explain it differently (for instance, I think how we use/look at the word “selfish” varies). I think we do, however, have the same intent backing it. Here’s my perspective:
To me, “selfish” is not a “bad thing,” even with the connotations the word seems to have. In fact, my counselor and I have been working in recent years to push me into more selfishness (which may sound confusing to some people) — I’ll aim to explain.
Personally, I’ve lived the majority of my eighteen years finding a way to serve the people around me best. In some situations, I may have allowed some people to abuse my giving nature, but I somehow cannot bring myself to regret most of what I have done for others, if any of it at all. In doing this though, many times I felt that I was giving too much to others without much return. Being more selfish does not necessarily have to connote greed or arrogance; it simply means focusing more on yourself and your needs.
As one of the few students with a license willing to give frequent rides to those who need them last year, I got many requests almost every day. Although I did provide most of those people with rides, I’ve learned how to say “no” when a request feels overwhelming to fit into my schedule, like a chore, or interrupts plans I have. I’m not aiming for this to sound preachy or anything (“I overcame it and now you can too” type of stuff). All that I am saying is that being selfish is more about valuing your own mental health and time. If you set aside time to paint your nails tonight or watch that new TV show you’ve been looking forward to for the entire busy week you’ve had, it’s okay to be a little selfish and tell the person who asks: “I’m sorry, I have plans.” Because you do! You have planned to take care of yourself, which is entirely valid.
Yes, if your friend is in danger, it might be nice to help them out. I am also not suggesting that living with high levels of selfishness in which you act only in your own self interest 24/7 is a “good” way to live, but it’s all about balance. As you stated in Sacrificing Isn’t Noble: “When our own well is dry, it’s hard to give anything to anyone else.”
Fill your own well often — only then can you really give your best self to others.