Is It Ok To Be Selfish?
I’m grappling with this idea that everything I do has to be for ME.
I know it, I write it, I live it as much as I can, yet it is so different to what society normally teaches that I keep hitting snags as I strive to live it. Basically I keep bumping into some version of “It’s selfish to live just for me.”
Recently my brain is using the privilege card to argue against the selfishness case. It goes like this:
“I am only engaging with this concept of living in the way that suits me because I am privileged. It is my white, westernised, middle-class upbringing and status that allow me to consider that I am worthy of choosing to do the things that make me happy, walking away from things that bring me down and turning towards things that lift my spirit and bring me joy. Others who are less privileged don’t have the luxury of walking away from what ‘brings their spirit down’. They are thinking of survival. They have to somehow maintain a sense of self in the face of the white dominant Anglo-Saxon capitalist culture that subtly and insidiously negates their worth. Even if education and socio-economic levels are equal, someone who has a darker skin than mine has to face constant elusive derisions of their value and ability simply because they don’t fit into the mould set by western norms. I don’t have to deal with that daily onslaught. Despite the fact that internally I very much do not fit into the regular mould, I am given the benefit of the doubt because I look the way I do and speak the way I do. Even within my own grouping I happen to have many of the things that our society deems more worthy in terms of height, body type, looks, intellect… none of which I did anything specific to earn. So of COURSE I can spend my time on decadent thoughts and activities such as ‘what brings me joy’. But in fact, who the hell am I to tell others they should do that? And shouldn’t I rather be spending my time at a grass roots level uplifting others who not as lucky as me?”
Now try and argue back to THAT! Bloody hell.
I’ve lived according to that creed and it didn’t make me happy. I see others all around me living according to that angry and fear-based creed and it isn’t making them happy either.
Dr Phil likes to say, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Isn’t that so true? When you are low on patience doesn’t your whole family start acting out and falling apart? Mine does.
If the boss isn’t happy at work, is anyone else able to really shine when she’s around? If a teacher is unhappy and dissatisfied in his life, what happens in his classroom? If a politician compromises herself, how does it affect her leadership? If a child is forced to do things he doesn’t enjoy, how does that play out?
Is anyone happy around someone who is UNhappy?
You KNOW the answer is no.
So what am I doing for the world around me if I choose to live by a creed that makes me unhappy? If we all choose to buy into a way of thinking and being that drives who we are in the world and what we do – but it makes us all unhappy – what sort of world are we creating? What politics? What schools? What families?
So dammit, regardless of our context, I think all of us DO have choice. If you think about it, ALL of us have choice that we exercise minute by minute in our daily lives. It’s just that we are not often raised to believe we have permission to exercise that choice for our own joy and upliftment. But ask yourself; if we DON’T choose that, what ARE we choosing?
Unhappiness? ‘For you and for me and the entire human race’ (thank you Michael Jackson).
What if we can heal the world by each being deeply, genuinely, uncompromisingly selfish?
Here’s a link to the song: A wonderful 80’s flashback – We Are The World