“I can’t just go and play the piano in the evenings,” my client said to me. I asked: “Why not?” -“Because there’s so much housework to do and the kids want my attention. I’d feel selfish,” she explained. She was suprised when I told her that practically everyone I’ve ever spoken to, feels the same way.
Why is this sentiment so universal? I think it’s because it’s based on a principle that actually makes sense most of the time. It’s a good idea to get things done, to not postpone them indefinitely. The dishes are dirty now, so we wash them and get the job out of the way. If we keep procrastinating, we’ll eventually drown in chores.
But here’s the thing: Tasks like housework, or even pleasant things like spending time with your kids, are endless by their very nature. The dishes will be dirty again after the next meal. The kids come back with more questions and want you to play cards with them. If you did all the available work, all the time, you’d do nothing else all day. And indeed, this is what many people – especially women – end up doing.
Now when I tell you to be selfish, I obviously don’t mean you should neglect others or hurt them. What I’m getting at is a balance in your life which doesn’t only include your own needs, but actually puts them front and centre.
It’s the whole “passions priority” thing. In the following, I’m going to explain why it’s so incredibly important.
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Selfish is best for you
Okay, this one seems obvious. Anyone who puts themselves first, profits, right? I disagree. I think there are harmful ways of putting oneself above others, in the sense that it detaches you from the rest of the world. The difference is easy to spot:
If you care for yourself and at the same time don’t give a toss about others, you’re hurting everyone involved, including yourself. Why? Because you rob yourself of the enriching experience of connection with others. It’s a basic human need and many studies have proven that meaningful human relationships are vital for our mental and physical health, longevity, etc.
So in a way, being selfish at the cost of others is actually not good for you at all. This is where the “other” kind of putting yourself first comes in, the one I call “selfish” with a bit of a wink and a nudge. It’s the kind of behaviour that truly benefits you. Not surprisingly, it also benefits those around you.
Passion is best for everyone
Am I just stating the obvious here? I mean, everyone can agree that a balance between work and being there for others on the one hand, and self care on the other, is the way forward. Why even write an article about it?
I say: It may be obvious, but it’s far from the reality for most people. How many people do you know who spend a significant portion of their waking hours doing what lights them up? That’s why we need concrete steps to achieve this “balance”.
I put the word balance in quotes because in my experience, we actually need to prioritise – instead of just balance – what lights us up. This is the kind of selfishness which also benefits those around you. If you’re on fire, you’re quite literally like a torch. Everything and everyone around you is bathed in a warm glow, and if they get close, the flame will spread.
We need a world of people who have come alive. Leave the dishes in the sink for now, and grab that paint brush. Dance to that song. Create, perform, research, do whatever sets your heart ablaze. You owe it to the world to be “selfish”; it’s the best thing you can do to help turn around the state of modern society.
I can’t finish this without urging you to consider Coaching for this. Why?
In a world which collectively drills us towards functioning, it takes incredible effort and energy to be alive, joyful, and passionate. If you want to pull this off for more than a few days or weeks at a time, you’re going to need everyone in your corner, just to stem the pull of the societal tide in the opposite direction.
People often ask me why they would “need” Coaching. It’s for this exact reason – because feeling alive every day is incredibly rare. Because we’ve been conditioned for so long to make a living and, especially as women, to be there for everyone else, that it feels naughty and neglectful to put ourselves first for even an hour a day.