(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.
Most people would take the word ‘selfish’ as a negative one, and it often is. However, I believe being selfish depending on circumstances, has its own benefits.
I was sat in my seat right before take off, before 13 hours of binge watching movies and Friends episodes, when the Emirates pre-flight safety video was playing in Arabic, then English. The usual demonstrations of how to buckle your seat belt, where your life jackets are, switching off mobile phones for take off, how to put on your oxygen mask, how to wear a life jacket etc. Although most of us would (hopefully) never get to use a mask or life jacket, there are important life lessons in there of how being selfish can sometimes be a good thing.
LESSON 1: SURVIVAL
Always wear your own mask first, before helping others, including children and those less able.
Basically if you can’t breathe and take care of yourself, you probably won’t do a great job helping someone else. That to me, is good-selfish.
LESSON 2: MIND
Another example of good-selfish is taking care of our mental balance. There is no point in spending hours and days helping others, listening to their troubles, including loved ones, when it’s actually dragging you down and making you feel low or miserable.
When we notice this happening, we should take a break. Now, a break could mean being present physically for someone going through a crisis, but actively not engaging in their emotions. Detachment can help during fragile times. This may sound less empathetic, but when it comes to taking care of ourselves, others can only help so much.
For instance, I don’t think I can have a permanent job at a mental asylum or special needs centre, as I don’t think I would be able to handle my emotions on a regular basis. I therefore have tremendous respect for those who do, and admire their mental strength.
lesson 3: runaway money
I’m all for joint-accounts when people are married or in long term relationships, etc. However, I read something once about 'runaway money'. It’s basically having some extra cash for yourself in case you ever want to run away or take a break from a job, a relationship, a country, a situation... and it’s not because you would necessarily do any of those things, but because of the confidence it gives you that if everything blows up and it's just you left, on your own, you'll be okay. It minimises the need to be needy or dependent, and also releases an element of insecurity.
It could also affect how others think of you. It eliminates the chance of others feeling like you’re a burden (even if you thought they never would) or are overly dependent. They may even get some reassurance that you are with them because you want to be, not because you need to be (at least from a financial point of view!).
How you arrange for this runaway money (legally) is up to you really, whether it’s by using your piggy bank more, investing it in property or other assets, or generous relatives... do it.
LESSON 4: AVOIDING HANGER
I hope you’ve heard of the term ‘Hangry’ (Hungry + Angry). I know quite a few people, including myself, who get hangry if not fed for a long period of time. My mum once said a lot of crime has probably been committed when the criminals had an empty stomach.
Nowadays I carry some food in my bag. I recently went to someone’s house and they were going to serve dinner at 11pm, i.e. my bed time. Needless to say, by 9pm I was grumpy and famished so I calmly stepped out for ‘fresh air’ and got myself a BLT sandwich from Subway. I was a pleasure to be with for the rest of the evening and obviously didn’t tell the host as it may have made them feel bad.
Again, taking care of my self and buying me food when I needed it, meant that the knock-on effect on others was neutral or positive. And no one else had to change their eating timings because of me. Win-win.
We all know what bad-selfish behaviour is like, whether it’s when someone takes the biggest piece of cake from the table before anyone else, skips a queue, doesn’t contribute to projects (but still enjoy the benefits of the outcome)... and so on. Those who are selfish most of the time are probably more often bad-selfish than good-selfish.
It’s therefore nice to know that good-selfish is in fact, completely different. Good-selfish is when the situation requires you to look at the bigger picture and do what you need to do to make sure you’re able to be your 100% and therefore benefit those around you, including: yourself.