We’re taught from a young age that to be selfish is a bad thing. Those who are thought to be “selfish” are normally self-centered and arrogant and other names that no one wants to be branded. As a result, for years, I found myself spending a large majority of my life catering to others’ wants and needs just so I could prove to everyone I knew that I was able to be giving and selfless. I always made sure my family and friends were content before I took care of myself. I would give people advice until 3 o clock in the morning knowing very well I had an exam at 7:45 the next morning. I would buy lunch for friends who had no money on them when I couldn’t afford it. But as long as they walked away knowing I was generous and kind and never selfish, it was all worth it.
It wasn’t until this past fall that I realized that my eagerness to constantly please those around me wasn’t actually healthy. Making sure that everyone’s needs were met while ignoring my own eventually became exhausting. I realized that even though it was important to care for those around me, it was also really important that I remember to care for myself and focus in my own happiness while doing so. If I wanted to take an evening to just enjoy my own company, watch a movie, listen to music, catch up on sleep, or whatever made me happy, that was okay. And if partaking in these activities meant that doing things for others had to be put on hold for a short period of time, there was nothing wrong with that.
At 21, everyone keeps telling me that me that my 20’s are my “selfish years” and it’s when being selfish is acceptable, but I believe that’s there’s no set date to stop putting yourself first. At 25, 56, or 88 years old, it shouldn’t be looked at as a negative thing if someone is taking time to focus on themselves. Whether you’re single or married, a parent or childless, a student or an employee, you should recognize your wants and needs and honor them. It may be hard to learn how to tell people “no”, but taking care of yourself and doing the simple things to enhance your life is not practicing selfishness, but it is practicing self-love. At the end of the day, your life is your own, and only you are responsible for fulfilling your necessities and desires. So after a full day of trying to make a difference in other people’s lives, I now make sure to go home, brew a cup of tea, and watch a couple of episodes of The Office on Netflix to unwind, because I have to remember to take care of myself and acknowledge that catering to myself isn’t wrong.