is being selfish selfish?

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Selfish. It’s one of those words that is steeped in negative connotations. Being selfish or acting selfish is something we’ve largely been conditioned to assume is, in some way, wrong or bad. To be selfish is something to feel guilty or be ashamed of. Really? This post is about bringing balance to the notion of being selfish and why being selfish might actually do you a power of good.

On Being Selfish – Part I

I began working with a client recently, one whom needed some help in overcoming an injury.  After finding out more on the client’s situation and circumstances I showed them some exercises that I thought would be of greatest benefit. These were exercises that my client could do at home if so desired; no equipment was necessary and they wouldn’t take too long to perform. Yet I suggested to my client that they come to the gym and do the exercises there if possible. The reason? My client has a young family and, being a caring parent, would always put their needs ahead of their own. My client may find it difficult to find time to perform these exercises at home or – to be precise – to put their needs first.

I wanted my client to be selfish.

This posed a challenge but through discussion we agreed it was the best course of action. By taking time to be able to give the exercises complete focus, away from other pressures, my client would be able to help themselves, hopefully gain a feeling of achievement, potentially returning to everyday health sooner and to be able to have the subsequent time spent with their family more enjoyable and fulfilling. To be selfish now (and be OK with it) so as to be in a better position to give going forward.

On Being Selfish – Part II

I consciously have not created a post in the past weeks. For I too was being selfish. I had a re-certification exam paper to take and I wanted to take time to study, refresh my knowledge and pass the exam. I knew my best bet was to do so without the distraction of other matters as far as was possible. I’ve now written the paper and passed it a few days ago. Yet that’s not the end of the story, far from it. In studying in this concentrated manner I realised that whilst there were some gaps in my nutritional knowledge there were larger gaps in my application of what I already knew. The upshot: I have gained fresh insight and know that not only can I be of greater service to my nutritional clients, but that I can be of greater help to all my clients. By being selfish I’ve become a better coach.

Selfishness and Self-Improvement

If you look at most definitions of the word, to be selfish is to act in such a way that is (a) self-centred and (b) to the detriment of others. By contrast, the act of self-improvement is largely cast in favourable light. I believe the reason is due to Part (b), or rather the perceived lack of Part (b) in self-improvement. Self-improvement is not usually associated with actions that are to the detriment of others. Yet I feel there is something of a disconnect here. When someone is considered to be selfish their actions may well be self-centred, but are their actions also always without care or concern for others? Maybe the issue is not with the so-called selfish person but perhaps with ourselves, the person handing out the label? Do we have certain, definite, assumed expectations of the actions of others? And if those expectations are not met, if we are unexpectedly and immediately inconvenienced, then what?

Over To You

Time. You can’t make it, or acquire more of the stuff, but you can take time and choose how you spend it. Time is yours.

What do you want to take time to do? What is the highest and best use of your time? Could you take action in pursuit of that today?

In the two examples I wanted to illustrate that being selfish can be beneficial. With that in mind, what is the selfish thing you could do to improve not only yourself but the lives of others around you?

I look forward to reading your comments and yes, now that I’ve passed my exam I’ll be creating more regular content soon!

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