Why being selfish can actually be really good for your mental health
Are you constantly saying yes to Zoom calls even though you’ve completely lost interest? Do you allow your friends to offload their worries on you?
If yes, then maybe it’s time to put yourself first and start setting some boundaries.
‘People think that in order to be a good person, you need to put other’s needs before your own,’ says Michelle Elman, author of The Joy Of Being Selfish: Why You Need Boundaries And How To Set Them.
‘And, if you do put your needs first, you are considered selfish.
‘The problem is, once you’ve put everyone else’s needs first, there is usually no time or energy left for you.
‘The cost of being selfless is your own self-care.’
Life coach Michelle has been cited as one of the 50 most inspirational women in the UK and, as a result of her work, she has amassed more than 300,000 followers across social media. Her latest book delves into self-love.
‘Women, particularly, are taught from a young age that they must swallow their wants and needs to be a good person,’ she says.
‘How often have you heard of a mother being called selfish for prioritising her own dreams above her family. We are told that being selfless is the best thing you can be, but I completely disagree with that.’
The word selfish holds a huge stigma in society. It’s associated with the idea that you disregard everyone and everything else and put your needs above all others.
But why wouldn’t you prioritise your health and wellbeing? How can you be expected to be the best version of you, if you are stressed out, tired and emotionally drained?
‘There are lots of terms like self-love and self-care, but what exactly do they mean?’ asks Michelle.
‘Is that a long bubble bath and painting your nails? To me, self-love is deleting your ex’s number from your mobile. I believe in order to have self-love it is necessary to be selfish. You can have as many baths as you like, but if you’re still letting others talk negatively to you, then that’s not self-love.’
So, what’s the answer? Michelle advocates boundaries. ‘Having boundaries isn’t about shutting yourself off, being mean or refusing to be a team player,’ she says.
‘They are about identifying something important to your wellbeing. That might be limiting time with a toxic friend, or saying no to a Friday night Zoom call.
‘Boundaries allow for connection and intimacy with the right people, but they are not to be confused with walls, and grudges. It’s not about cutting people off or pushing them away.’
According to Michelle, setting some basic boundaries for time management and friendships is a good way to start. In fact, boundaries are more important than ever if you’re working from home and need to re-set your work/life balance.
‘Boundaries are how we communicate what is acceptable and what is not,’ she adds. ‘They are essential for self-esteem, confidence and personal power. When you demand respect, your self-respect flourishes and you will have much better idea of your self-worth.’
Here are five ways to get started….
Start saying no
‘The first time you do, it’s awkward and weird, but that’s usually how it goes when you set your first boundary. Never give a reason why you are saying no. Otherwise it gives people a chance to pick holes in your reason. If you always have to have a reason, then it undermines your no.’
Watch out for manipulation
‘When you start setting boundaries, it’s not going to be convenient for other people in your life and it makes people aware of their own boundaries. When you first set a boundary people will try and manipulate you in order to change it for their own personal gain.’
Build a relationship with your body
‘If you aren’t aware of the feelings that exist inside yourself, then it’s harder to set boundaries. The biggest signs your boundaries are being crossed are anger and resentment. If you don’t know what that feels like in your body, then you won’t know how to rectify it.’
Believe you have a right to being treated better
‘Get rid of the fear of being disliked. When you make the first step to set a boundary, it will be messy and confusing. However, to believe your time is worth something more, is huge. It all comes down to self-respect.’
Have a support network
‘One of the main problems around setting a boundary with your best friend or partner is you fear of losing them. When you have a support network you have other people to rely on.’
The Joy of Being Selfish by Michelle Elman (Welbeck Publishing Group) is out now, £11.11.
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