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Posted on 8 Jun, 2015 | 8 comments

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.”

Its Not Ok

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.

And yet…

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

8 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this and appreciate you voicing the privilege argument which I think is still lurking somewhere in the recesses of my mind. Reading this reminded me of an Aha moment I had years ago when I realised that my high risk and self-destructive teenage behaviour was not the rebellion I thought it was, but rather played right into those messages of ‘not good enough’ and ‘don’t deserve better’. I realised that the most radical rebellion against dominant culture would be to love myself! It’s taking some years of practice, but I am now convinced that standing up to the ‘others needs are more important than yours’ and ‘who do I think you are?’ story has brought a lot of joy into my life and those around. Far more than trying to ‘be everything to everyone’ and ‘earning my place’ here ever did….! So I agree wholeheartedly, Eilat, ‘Viva choosing to live for me, viva!!!
    Katy

    • Wow Katy. What a powerful message you give. I can feel it right through the screen. It’s gratifying to hear your journey with this. I especially like, ” I realised that the most radical rebellion against dominant culture would be to love myself! ”

      The waves of that move through me and strengthen me and hopefully everyone who reads it.

      Thank you so much.for sharing this

  2. You can’t give what you don’t have. We all need more joyful people to show us the way. We teach best by example. No need for more victims. Reach out for your oxygen mask and help yourself. I know from experience that the times I was NOT given help and ended up having to find my own way were the times that made me stronger. There’s always the difference between giving someone a fish for one day, versus teaching them how to fish for a lifetime. So what kind of help were you thinking of giving? The one depriving you of your own oxygen? Or the one given from a place of strength, from lungs full of oxygen? Win/win? Questions we each have to answer for ourselves. And an easy way to know which kind it is, is by noticing whether our actions drain us of energy, or fill us with energy. Follow your energetic joy …. Is what I think. Of course, that’s just an opinion

    • And a potent opinion too! Thanks Michele. That oxygen mask thing is always a good point of reference. Do I have enough joy in my lungs to be able to share it with others?

      I guess we breathe out what we inhale, right?

  3. It was interesting to read your thoughts on this. I have battled the “Why do I get to have all this privilege?” mentality, too. I am white, middle class, and conventional-looking. I loved your perspective: “if we DON’T choose that [meaning our own joy], what ARE we choosing?”. I have worried on occasion that I do too much “navel-gazing.” Then I remember that it is my divine purpose to learn how to be joyful, and to model it for other people like me, who forgot that purpose.

    • “Then I remember that it is my divine purpose to learn how to be joyful, and to model it for other people like me, who forgot that purpose.” Love this Rachel!

      Thank you. I think it’s a conversation to continue in our hearts and heads – to always keep integrity both with our conscience and with our soul.

  4. Hi Eilat.

    I believe it’s a question if which part of yourself you are trying to satisfy and what need it is that you are trying to fulfill. I don’t believe humans can be altruistic unless they are connected to a higher-self. Until that happens we will always need to fulfill the needs of our lower-selves which of course we know can never be fully satisfied. I truely believe that sustained joy or happiness happens when we are in true equilibrium, which in my mind means a gentle flow of information between the mind, body and spirit. And this require silence and an opportunity for connecting not only with our Soul but with our spirit too. When we manage this joy narurally flows through us. The challenge we face is disciplining ourselves into believing we deserve to be in this natural state and actually committing to grant our selves that, something of which I still struggle with as I cling to my Egoic personas and the roles I play in this world. I do however pray for guidance, courage and strength to improve on my efforts. Good luck on yours.

    • Ah Zubeida, it’s lovely to hear your thoughts. Thanks for the good luck wishes. Its a tricky balance to manage. “The challenge we face is disciplining ourselves into believing we deserve to be in this natural state and actually committing to grant our selves that” Amen. May we all succeed. Imagine what a wonderful world we would live in if each of us allowed ourselves true joy.

      It’s interesting that the commentors so far resonate with allowing ourselves joy. So far only one person has said “What about considering others”.

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