Self

The Benefit of Occasional Selfishness

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Photo by Vaughan Treyvellan
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Francesca White explores the power of taking time for yourself.

As women, we can find it difficult to be selfish. We count ourselves as mothers, wives, daughters, and friends. We are inexplicably linked to those around us – personally, professionally and romantically. We are shoulders to cry on when a relationship fails; we look after our relatives as they grow old and become ill; we create safe and loving homes for our children. We are so focused on meeting the needs of others, that sometimes our own needs are forgotten.

But selfishness isn’t about prioritising your own commitments over your partner’s or dominating the conversation at the table with a monologue of your recent holiday. It doesn’t make you a narcissist or a bore. Being selfish is simply about understanding where your own needs begin and end – and carving out the time to do so.

Others can stay in the wings, but put yourself center-stage.

Taking time for ourselves is key. We think more clearly; we are focused, less anxious. But time doesn’t mean a week-long yoga retreat in the Himalayas (though that’s lovely if you can make it happen). The easiest way to be selfish is to create a window for yourself – with no interruptions – as frequently as you can. A Pilates class will do; as will reading in the bath before bed. Walking a longer route to work, or switching off your phone whilst you eat dinner counts. Often, being selfish is about saying “no”, rather than “yes”.

Try also replacing “selfish” with “self-aware”; others can stay in the wings, but put yourself centre-stage. This way, I believe, when people need you, they’ll get you at your most capable – rather than frazzled or distracted. It’s like the safety briefing on an aeroplane: you can’t help someone with their air-mask until you’ve put on your own.