I was fortunate enough to finally, after such a long year, get a nice, long, deep massage. My muscles needed it. After the last month of hauling and packing and cleaning and traveling and stressing, this massage was precisely what my body and mind deserved. The kids were sent off on an adventure of their own while I had the run of the house. It felt indulgent. Maybe a little bit selfish. And we have all been taught that being selfish is a very bad thing.
What if being selfish was actually a very good thing? What if doing something for your well-being, for you and only you, actually represented the best thing for everyone, not just one person? Can I do selfish things that serve a greater good without being considered a selfish person?
I have seen selfish acts. I have committed them, too, I'm certain. I tell my kids perpetually and incessantly to not "be selfish" with their things when friends come over. And to not be selfish with their time when their grandparents want to talk to them on the phone. And to not be selfish with food or money as we participate in drives to feed and cloth people in need during the holidays and throughout the year. We work so hard to instill the value that selfishness is rooted in keeping something you have in abundance away from someone else who could benefit from enjoying it as well.
No good comes from being selfish. It just makes you look like a terrible person for holding out on sharing. Selfish acts are not soon forgotten. Selfish people are shunned. Selfish behavior is never, ever okay.
Until it is. Was my massage selfish? Well - it was indeed for just me. I could have shared it, or paid for others in my family to enjoy one, if they really wanted to do so. I could have used that 90 minutes doing something more productive, like vacuum or make dinner or fold the laundry. I could have used that 90 minutes to spend time with them, driving around to find the coveted Coca Cola Slurpee that is often out of stock at the bodega nearest the house. But I didn't. I had a massage. I didn't think about them at all. I thought about me and only me. I was essentially very, very selfish.
But by committing to that 90-minute massage, I actually gave the ones that I love a gift. I gave them more of me. More of the relaxed, authentic, care-free me that they deserve to be around. That me is more willing to play, more willing to cook a nice meal, more willing to let the toys on the floor go undisturbed for another day. Something selfish like a massage actually isn't selfish at all when all of the benefits to others are weighed. The same thing applies for taking the time to workout each morning, uninterrupted. Or take a long bath uninterrupted. Or going to bed a bit early for a decent night's sleep. Or spending a little extra money or time for healthy meals. Or participating in a hobby that belongs to just me.
It turns out that caring for ourselves isn't selfish at all because of how it benefits us and those we care the most about. I wrote an earlier post years ago about self-care, which we now can agree is not related to selfishness at all. I have summarized the main points below. Let's agree to BE SELFISH so we have the energy to be selfless in all the ways that really count.
1. Do what you love for a little bit of time each day. A book, a craft, a television program, a workout, a massage....you name it. Your activity, your time.
2. Treat yourself. With a dessert, a manicure, a night off, a nap. Whatever you find indulgent and worthy. And you don't have to spend a dime.
3. Bring the spa to your door. Light a candle, draw a bath, eat at the table with your fine china.
4. Meditate. Deep quiet breaths. No screens. No distractions.
5. Monitor your self-thoughts that prevent you from finding peace. In other words, be kind to yourself in deed and words, even those spoken only in your head.
6. Nurture friendships.
7. Stay in for a change. Don't feel the need to always be on the run.
8. Set a mood. With music or lighting or cleanliness. Make your space the ultimate expression of selfishness.
9. Eat well. Just do it. No excuses.
10. Sleep. You won't believe how differently you feel after getting just 30 more minutes of sleep a night. Try it. Be selfish.