LIFE SKILLS (WHAT I WISH THEY’D TAUGHT ME IN SCHOOL) – Part 5: Selfishness isn’t a dirty word

by , on
28th July 2017

Last year that was a big thing about the Danish word hygge which describes a particular kind of comfort.  The Interweb was awash with pictures of roaring fires, scented candles and squishy sofas. Normally sensible folk ran amok in John Lewis buying cashmere throws and knitted cushions, trying to recreate their own little sense of hygge at home.

Unfortunately, there isn’t such a term for a particular type of selfishness and consequently our associations with the term are generally negative.  When I looked for some interesting memes to accompany this article (about selfishness not being a bad thing necessarily) there were none to be found. Quite. Literally. None.  Fortunately, I love a challenge and I did find one that expressed perfectly what I am trying to say here:

There is a very good reason why they tell you to fit the oxygen mask to yourself first, isn’t there?  In the event of a problem, it means that in looking after yourself first, you are able to help others. However, other than being 30,000 feet up in the air or in the middle of the ocean; in daily life a lot of us grapple with this concept.

As women; I think we particularly struggle with the idea of looking after ourselves before others; especially as parents. How many times have you heard a frustrated female say “he’s just so selfish” about a partner or spouse? Maybe this difference between the sexes (in the sense of putting oneself first) harks way back to when men went out hunting and women were left looking after the family.  In order to make sure he brought back food for his tribe, I am quite certain that the accomplished hunter took care of himself (in terms of being fed, rested and watered) before he did anything else. Which actually makes perfect sense: particularly at a time when the roles between the sexes are becoming increasingly blurred.  With more and more women now the major breadwinner or going it alone entirely; isn’t it about time we let a little of that prehistoric psyche win through?

But the benefits of being selfish, reach far beyond our ability to put food on the table.  Looking after yourself first will also enable you to show up in a friendship, job or relationship as the best version of yourself you can possibly be.  If you are emotionally and physically drained because you are constantly putting everyone’s needs before yourself; sooner or later you will be running on fumes and have nothing left to give.

So maybe being selfish isn’t such a bad thing after all, but if you just can’t bring yourself to think of it that way, then call it self-hygge.