New Year, New You: Why It’s Time To Be A Little More Selfish

A good friend of mine has been dating a guy for almost two years, and they seem generally happy together. It was not until a recent conversation with her, however, when I realized that the relationship was enduring complications she had not initially anticipated.

“I have to be honest. I’ve been working on myself recently and I think he might be holding me back from achieving my fullest potential,” she said. “But I love him, and I don’t want to hurt him. He needs me; I make him a better person. It wouldn’t be right to leave him if I’m helping him so much, would it?” She seemed conflicted and distressed by the whole situation. 

I could tell that she was not expecting the response I gave. “You have devoted the past two years to this guy, and you are now on the path to becoming the best version of yourself. So, does he make you a better person?” I said. When she realized that he in fact did not make her a better person, I continued, “Honestly, you deserve to be a bit selfish. I know you care about him, but the most important thing right now is to do whatever will make you the happiest, despite how it may make him feel.”

Ever since that conversation, I have been constantly contemplating the concept of selfishness, particularly for females. From a young age, women are told to be selfless and think of others before ourselves. We are also told to make a good impression on others before satisfying our own needs. Perhaps this is because women have historically been bred to be the caregivers, while men are supposed to be the breadwinners. Think about it; we are told to respect and care for others much more often than we are told to love and respect ourselves — and that’s a problem.

The often unspoken truth is this: sometimes it is essential to put yourself first. As long as you are being kind, do what best suits you before thinking of what may please others. Let’s call it “the airplane mindset”: put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting another person, because neglecting to care for yourself before others can be detrimental to your own health and happiness. For example, if you don’t like someone, there is no reason to be besties with them if you genuinely do not enjoy spending time with them. You should be able to control who you are friends with; you have no obligation to continue spending your time with someone who makes you feel unhappy. Or, if you are studying a school subject you do not enjoy but it pleases your parents, it may be time to rethink your major. You are your own person; you deserve to be loved for exactly what you are. And if what you are is an art major instead of a science major, chase it and embrace it.

It also seems wrong that women are still constantly reminded to be ladylike. “Remember, if you want to be liked, keep your mouth shut unless you are soft-spoken and agreeable,” we are told countless times. Assertive women in control are often seen as aggressive bullies. But instead of being powerless and shy, shouldn’t women be encouraged to be strong and express our authentic selves? So what if others find you loud or obnoxious; it’s better to be yourself and face a few critics than to shield your authenticity from the world for fear of being unladylike.

So for 2021, let’s put a positive spin on self-fulfillment and enlightenment. Be selfish! Don’t let fear of upsetting others stand in the way of realizing your dreams and achieving total happiness. Breathe in that oxygen and be good to yourself so you will have the strength and resilience to then help others around you.