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Being Selfish – good or bad?

selfish copyI have been having several discussions recently with clients and friends around ‘being selfish’ and there have been some very interesting view points which I want to share.

Many of us have been brought up being told that selfishness is a bad thing. You should think of others before yourself or put others’ needs before your own. When someone is referred to as being ‘selfish’, it is often in the context that they are unkind or inconsiderate towards others. They do what they want, when they want to and have no consideration whatsoever about the impact this might have on others.

I understand that while raising young children, it is important to teach them about getting along with others and to share. Yet, when someone continues to put others’ need first and as a consequence lose sight of their own needs and requirements, this can have a detrimental effect on them. How many parents do you know who are exhausted and stressed because they are trying to take care of their children’s needs, their partners needs, perhaps even their aging parents needs, their boss and colleagues needs with themselves coming last on the list.

Thinking along the same lines as the advice you receive in an aircraft when, in case of emergency, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first before you help others. How can you help others in life and take care of their needs if you are burnt out, exhausted or become ill because you have not taken care of your own needs?

Until you overflow you are limited in how much you can give and if you do try to give, you will burn yourself out. – Jessica McGregor

It is therefore important to make sure you fuel up your own energy tanks in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual areas. This means that you need to have clear ideas of what will fuel you up and replenish your energy tanks. It also means having boundaries of things you will or will not do. Due to our upbringing, many might feel guilty when they say no to someone or do something that they need to do over helping someone else out. Yet, if you can remind yourself that you are doing it for reasons to refuel yourself; you will then in turn have more energy to give.

In terms of sports performances, there is a degree of selfishness that can be beneficial. This ‘selfishness’ means that you follow your own training plan and do what you need to do to be at your best. Therefore outings with friends just for a social jaunt might not do your training any good. Also, being ‘selfish’ right before a big event is also instrument towards success. Even if friends and family have come to support you, if you require some ‘alone time’ to get into the right mindset to do your event, then, the key is recognizing what you need and taking that time. You can catch up with friends and family after the race!

Benefits of being selfish

Whether you are an athlete or not, there are many positive aspects of being selfish including:

  1. Healthier because you are more aware of what you need to feel replenished, you make sure you doing those nourishing activities that help rather than hinder your well being.
  2. Successful because you will have the ability to focus on what you need to do to get you there, and take consistent actions towards your goals.
  3. Relationships because you have clear boundaries of who you are as a person and what you find acceptable, plus are more able to say no.
  4. Happier because you will do activities that you like to do and are able to communicate that to others.

Overall the positive side of ‘being selfish’ in a self-preservation kind of way means that you will have alot more to give to others after you have done what you needed to do. When you are true to yourself, you are true to others. To be selfish and selfless means to do everything you can to build yourself up so that you can give the most back.


In what ways can you nourish and replenish your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy tanks? What boundaries do you have in place at work, at home and with friends? How can you be selfish in order to be selfless?


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