It's Ok To Be Selfish

Being selfish is often considered a sin, we are taught that it’s not ok to be selfish and that we should put other people first. From being a child and being told to share and onwards, it is something that can be controversial.

Mental health is a game of 2 halves when it comes to being selfish. On one side we want to try and share ourselves and our time with those that are suffering, those experiencing difficulties and those simply needing someone to spend time with.

There is another side however. When dealing with mental health issues ourselves, then being selfish is very important. There cannot be extremes when it comes to the truth of selfishness, but something of a balance.

We need to honour our own needs and we need to make an effort to support those needs by putting ourselves first. The problem is that if we don’t, we can end up increasing those feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.

Lifestyles amongst my group of colleagues, friends and indeed family has shown that our lives are busier than ever before. I work in music and the creative industries and community can be a blessing and a curse. When you work in these pockets you tend to take on project after project, to sign up for groups, to join collectives and so on. You do it because of financial pressures, because of your passion for working in the arts, to help others, create opportunities and indeed for your own personal satisfaction.

Gone are the days when I could do a full day’s work, do some extra-curricular creative side projects in the evening and then fit in a gig. But I still do too much and recognise that. There is this strange guilt from saying no to something. It can conjure a feeling a failure, a fear of missing out on something or worry that someone will think negatively of you.

This also applies to people working in any capacity, you finish work and are so incredibly exhausted that by the time you have made something to eat, perhaps done some washing, your housework then it is almost times to wind down for the next Groundhog Day. This isn’t even taking into consideration people with children, those that are unemployed and struggling and more.

In fact, it means more when you recognise your own limits and saying no is a very important and valid thing when it comes to mental health. You need “me time” and this is another aspect of self-care.

Setting and sticking to workable and appropriate boundaries with other people, letting people know what you think and how you really feel about things, accepting help and even celebrating when you have succeeded in something are all aspects to take into consideration. They might be considered selfish, but they can be influential when it comes to your health and wellbeing.

We also feel that we need to come up with elaborate excuses in order to decline doing something or to just let ourselves take time out. We feel we can’t just say no without an explanation, but the truth is, we can. We have every right to say no to things, 9 times out of 10, the person you are saying no gracefully to will understand and will not really think much more about it. It is us that will let it eat away because of our own anxieties.

It’s ok to be selfish. It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to do what you want to do. The only one that is judging you is you. If anyone else does, they are being selfish for the wrong reasons.

[Halina Rifai]  

Halina Rifai