Good Selfish

I’ve been thinking about myself a lot lately and that feels selfish. I think about my mental health and what I really want. And after a full breakdown this week when I caught myself cussing out my plants at the top of my lungs (don’t laugh) and then cussing out myself for cussing out the plants (okay, you can laugh), I had to press pause and get introspective. Who am I right now? Where am I mentally right now? Why? What do I need? What do I want? These days, I’m craving less work and more intentionality around carving out time to engage in pleasure. It is a hard fight and I have to unlearn so much of what I thought made me a good human and good employee or colleague or friend. I read adrienne marie brown’s Pleasure Activism this summer at a time when it was exactly what I was seeking and trying to activate within myself. There are no coincidences. The book was revelatory, experiential, and filled with self-love and unapologetic acts of selfishness. So let me define this selfish thing. We’ve been taught that being selfish is a bad thing. Well, yes, it can be when you only think of yourself and only do things that serve or center you, regardless of the needs and interests of others. However, I find that many middle-aged folks, especially women like myself, don’t actually suffer from selfishness. We suffer from selflessness. It sounds cute and endearing, but it can be equally as harmful.

Give up the martyrdom. Give up the need to be efficient and perfect at all times. Give up the myth that you can do everything. Chill out and breathe. No really, stop here and breathe. When you are a consummate giver and also sandwiched between generations (read: caretaking for families on both ends, trying to pay bills, trying to claw towards dreams), there is a lot of weight to be carried. And you’re doing great! But do you have to carry it all, all the time? No. But when you are taught to dutifully serve and appease at work, at home and in social situations, you become the type of person who has a hard time saying no or setting healthy boundaries for yourself. When I say that “you” become this type of person, I really mean me; I’ve become this person. However, there is a tension in my spirit that has been brewing. Something isn’t right, so I must admit that the workaholic, the super productive one, the go-getter, the pleaser in me is tired of that hamster wheel. I’m over it. Now I seek less work, more harmony, more pleasure, more time to be, and more time for me. That feels so selfish, but I’m going to actively reject the judgment and predictable guilt of saying out loud that I’m committing to more time for self-exploration and leisure. Like Aunt Maxine Waters, I’m reclaiming my time and I’m not asking for permission anymore nor explaining why I need to step back and reclaim me. Oooh, that feels bold… and sel-fish.

Maybe if I move the hyphen over to read self-ish it might feel better. Yes, it does. “Ish” meaning kinda or somewhat or almost that. It feels hip in my middle-aged mind. How about if I add an adjective like “good” to the word self-ish? How about I just re-define the word for myself? Or maybe I do all of the above? Okay, here goes. My new definition of self-ish is (1) to be radically intentional about self-care, (2) to center pleasure and time for one’s self as an act of survival, a reflection of self-love, (3) liberation from selflessness. I think I’ll call this new definition good selfish which is exactly the term Saya Hillman used today when teaching a fabulous workshop called Design Your Life. This is my new design. I’m a work in progress, so let’s make art. And because I’m always here to serve despite my selfishness, won’t you join me? We can embrace this self-ish movement while embracing and honoring ourselves. What are the ways that you aim to be good selfish? How can you activate daily acts of joy? Let’s inspire and motivate each other to show up in our own lives, not just to serve others, but to ask ourselves, what do I really want? Then, we go get it. Get good selfish. Get back to you.

#goodselfish #selfcare #pleasure