Reframing our me-time: why being selfish needs to be seen as positive

Published by Ali Gordon-Creed on

Do you recognise these statements?

“I’m just so exhausted. I barely know who I am anymore. I need some time out.” Or “It took me 15 years to realise that it was ok to take time for me.”

Time, and how we use it, has become one of the most investigated and analysed issues of our modern society. We continually feel we have less and less but we also feel we need to take more and more to counteract the mania of everyday life; the constant stream of data and information that comes at us and the many, many roles that each individual plays in life.


It’s time for a reframe

But we don’t. Why? Because we’re afraid of being labelled as ‘selfish’.

Selfish isn’t aspirational. No-one wants to be considered in this way or labelled as such. And yet, being selfish is about putting ourselves first.

Perhaps it’s our brain’s habit of loving negativity and pain that has conditioned us to create this feeling around being selfish. It’s seen as toxic behaviour; a selfish person takes account of no-one but themselves.

Instead we strive to be self-less. We teach our children to be the same: to put others first and be kind and giving. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but often it comes with an added insinuation: do this at the expense of your investment in yourself.

We quickly learn to be martyrs to the cause. We feel bitter and resentful that we never have our own time or space. Is this what we intended? Is this a positive cycle?

‘Venus and Mars’

Let’s look at things from a gender perspective. Women are often cast as self-less. They give, they nurture, and they care. And a very high proportion, these days, also work and run a home and bring up children. It’s no wonder they’re exhausted. Men, on the other hand, can often find themselves accused of being selfish. To quote the stereotype, they come home and expect dinner to be on the table. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, or so the saying goes.

Isn’t it interesting that we cannot win? If we’re selfish (investing in our own well-being like the hungry man at the end of a busy day), we’re wrong. If we’re self-less (like the woman who is learning that you cannot pour from an empty cup) we’re wrong.

This situation must be at the heart of the vast majority of marital arguments and yet there’s a simple solution. We need to accept that all of us need time and nurturing of our own souls. We cannot give more than we receive. It simply doesn’t add up.

So what is that reframe?

Perhaps the word ‘selfish’ just has too much baggage. We need something new. We need to think about this time we give ourselves as self-nurturing. We need to get comfortable with giving ourselves the right amount of time, at the right time. It will replenish us and help us to thrive rather than simply survive.

So what is this new, middle-ground? What can we come up with which will give us the permission we need to break from old habits and start building a relationship with ourselves?

In some ways, this solution is easy to discuss but not as easy to implement. We have to shrug off a whole evolutionary journey which has seen us become highly self-critical. We’re not kind in our own minds. We possibly believe that we don’t deserve the time, that we don’t deserve to indulge the positive version of selfishness.

What do you think we should call this new approach? I listen to lots of examples of people in relationships, partners or husbands and wives, who boil down to one thing: they are two totally knackered individuals, living the same lifestyle and beating themselves and each other up for wanting to feel better, happier, more energetic.

I don’t know about you but I don’t see that as sustainable. I’m going to take some me-time and think about what word we should use. I’d love you to do the same and then tell me your thoughts. Selfishness without the blame and shame – it sounds like a great idea to me.


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