Why It's Ok to Be Selfish (sometimes)
By Ali Robinson-Rogers
Founder SerenityMode Coaching
Anyone who has ever flown in an airplane has heard the flight attendant detail all safety protocols and describe in detail the use of oxygen masks. Always included in the oxygen mask directions is the statement, “ put your mask on first”. For many struggling with showing up as their authentic selves and exhibiting confidence while still staying humble - determining the difference between having a focus on self and being selfish can be a challenge. People tend to confuse the two, be unclear about where the boundary line between the two exists, and maybe most importantly, be unclear regarding where they intersect peacefully.
Being selfish usually has a negative connotation and according to Merriam-Webster can be defined by being “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others” or “arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others”. Initially, the definition is not negative, however, noting the addition of the statement, “without regard for, or in disregard of” causes most of us pause.
Focusing on self implies that there is indeed no “disregard of others” and incidentally, has to be a priority for people desiring to lead a life full of peace and serenity. The fact here is that the two do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive, but in fact should be prioritized in order to achieve the desired self-focus necessary to thrive. Being selfish first, for a moment, disregarding what everyone else needs creates the condition necessary to focus on self. This process helps to ensure that when we show up we are authentic in that presentation because we are clear about what our needs, expectations and desires are, before moving into any situation or experience with others.
So how the heck do you ensure you do not linger in the selfish zone too long but move quickly into strong self-focus? There are three key components for a smooth transition to self-focus:
Practice self reflection daily and often. Consider your feelings, thoughts and emotions as you move into navigating your daily experiences. The more you practice the easier it will be to identify how you feel in situations that may not be easy to navigate.
Focus on you. In every reflection opportunity, be sure to focus on your response to your experiences - not what others have done or said. Ask yourself questions like, “what did I want to experience, how did I contribute to the experience being what I wanted it to be, and what do I need to feel safe in a future situation.
Strengthen your communication. Be clear, concise and even detailed in your communication. Understand that everyone does not think like you and not providing the appropriate amount of information has the potential to derail your desire. For example, saying, “I’m hungry”, is not the same as saying, “I’m hungry and would like to eat a steak for dinner." The first statement may get you pizza.
Having a strong sense of self-focus helps in the moment and in every situation and, similar to learning any skill, may take practice. Incorporating daily reflection helps to ensure you are actively learning to be deeply connected to your thoughts and feelings. Self-focus at its core is equivalent to the flight attendant telling you to put your oxygen mask on first, which also requires a moment of selfishness in order to ensure you are prepared to help others. Understand that you should not only focus on yourself first in an emergency, but learn to do it regularly. You are no good to yourself or others if you are not open, honest and clear regarding what you need, experience or desire in your daily interactions. Self-focus opens the door for you to show up as authentically as you can, help others with a clear head and heart, and subsequently leave situations with less resentment, anger, fear or simply miscommunication.
Ali Robinson-Rogers is an author, speaker, consultant and certified coach. She works with world-changers to break barriers and disrupt unhelpful thinking so that they can reach their goals in leadership, life and love. Learn more about Ali and here personal and professional development practice at www.serenity-mode.com.