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Why Being Selfish Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

The word selfish has always had a negative connotation, and why wouldn’t it when it’s considered synonymous with words like egotistical, stingy, self-obsessed, parsimonious… you get the idea. I know I certainly used it as an insult to describe my little sister all the time when we would fight. When I got to college I realized selfishness has more than one meaning: the first is that you’re only concerned with yourself and are inconsiderate of others; the second is that you take responsibility for your personal, emotional, mental and physical needs before concerning yourself with those of others. And that’s a good thing!

The reason it took until this stage in my life to realize the benefits of being selfish is because when you come to college, you are really the only person who’s going to prioritize your wants and needs above others. Your parents are no longer by your side making sure you do your homework, eat three square meals a day, play on sports teams or drive you around to meet up with your friends because you don’t have your license. You’re essentially on your own to make sure you get fed, get to class, exercise and make time for a social life because no one else is going to do all that for you at this stage in your life. You have to ensure your own health and happiness before you can be concerned with that of others. Here are some of the benefits of being a little more selfish:

1. You’ll be healthier.

Trying to please other people can leave you tired and often disappointed. When you place others needs ahead of yours, it can leave you feeling unfulfilled because you’re distracted from living the life you desire. Selfish people tend to take better care of themselves because they block off time in their schedule to do the things that they enjoy like exercising or travelling. Self-care is so important because you’re devoting yourself to your own happiness and health and that most certainly is not a bad thing. You’ll be healthier.​

2. You’ll give yourself an advantage in the workplace. There’s a recent study that shows people who are more selfish come out above nice people in the workplace, and you want to know why? Because that more selfish person is striving to get ahead while the nice person is just worried about not stepping on any toes. Being selfish doesn’t have to mean you step on everyone as you climb your way to the top. But it does mean that when your boss is proposing a new position to the person with the best new pitch that you step up and present your new idea to the best of your ability without worrying about what your coworkers will think of you if you get the promotion.

3. It’ll strengthen your relationships. If you’ve been on an airplane, then you’ve heard the saying “Secure your oxygen mask before helping others.” I’d always thought, “wow they’re literally promoting selfishness” but in actuality, how helpful are you going to be if you’re dead from lack of oxygen? The same applies to relationships. If you don’t love yourself, how are you supposed to love someone else? How can you expect that someone else to love you? I’m not just talking about romantic relationships. Have you ever had a friend who’s just constantly unloading his/her own stress on you to the point that you feel bogged down by all their problems? Well you don’t want to be that friend because believe or not, that’s an unhealthy relationship. When you take the time to de-stress and prioritize your own well-being, it actually makes you a better and more supportive friend and romantic partner.

4. It makes decision making easier. Sometimes when it comes to making decisions, we let other people talk us down a certain path and belittling our own feelings about it. For example, when I went to college, I let my friends talk me into going to college in Virginia rather than in Pennsylvania because they wanted me to be closer to them. That was a huge factor in my decision and look where that got me: I transferred after one miserable year and hardly even see those friends who convinced me to make that big leap. Yes, I should’ve had a backbone and not listened to them and yes, I should’ve taken my own advice and really thought how each decision would impact me and my future. But I didn’t, and I wasted a fourth of my college experience because of it. Don’t be like me. If you have a life-changing decision to make, it’s always great to get your loved ones’ opinions, but don’t let those be the deciding factor. While long distance friendships and relationships can be hard, it’s not the end of the world and if they really mean something to both parties, then they’ll make it through this tough transition. It makes decision making easier.

5. You’ll be happier.  Selfish people spend time doing things they love to do whether that be a creative outlet or pampering themselves. You gain a sense of who you are and what you like when you take the time to really analyze and get to know yourself. Remember, it’s your responsibility to take care of yourself.

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Briana Thornton is a fashion merchandising major at VCU (although she certainly doesn't always dress like it). You can catch her if you can running between her job at the gym, soccer practice, and the many other activities she has chosen to overwhelm herself with this semester. She lives with the motto "Try everything once" because why not? She hopes to graduate in 2018, move to London, and run a fashion magazine, Miranda Priestly style.
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