"Don't be so selfish!"
If you want to manipulate or guilt-trip somebody if they don't do what you want them to do, all you need to say to them is: "You're so selfish!"
To call somebody selfish is the big hammer - it works with nearly everybody and they will immediately feel guilty. We never really think it through. It's totally ingrained in us that to do what we want to do - to put ourselves first sometimes - is selfish. For hundreds of years selflessness was promoted, especially for women, in order to keep them in their place.
It's quite complicated. Of course there is selfishness. We are selfish if we have no consideration for others, if we are only concerned with our own benefit or pleasure, if we think the world revolves around us, that everything is about us and everybody else should be concerned with us. It's a deep, sometimes ruthless neediness that makes us blind for others and their needs and experiences.
Some people can only talk about themselves and if you tell them about yourself they will immediately say that the same thing happened to them but of course much worse! Truly selfish people are incapable of compassion or even of consideration of others. It's often selfish people who will accuse others of being selfish in order to manipulate them into submission.
The word "selfish" is probably one of the most abused words in history. It's not selfish to have needs, to know what they are and to fulfil them. It's not selfish do what feels right for you. It's not selfish to put yourself first now and then and to treat yourself to some time on your own, a corner in the house that is your space, to have other interests than family or work, or whatever would make you feel good. It's called self-care. To neglect ourselves and what we want and need out of fear of being seen as selfish is not a healthy thing to do. To force ourselves to live a life that makes us feel bad, depressed, frustrated, even angry or resentful is not good for our mental health.
Basically it's about allowing yourself to be who you are and to give yourself what you need, even if some people might not like this because they can't use you for their own purposes anymore. It's also about allowing others to be who they are and to get for themselves what they need, even if you might not like this because you can't use them for your own purposes anymore. Allow them to be themselves and don't call them selfish. And do the same for yourself. Life is not about crushing ourselves and each other, it's about learning how to blossom.
If you find yourself relating to the issues in this article, counselling can help you to find out how to free yourself from guilt, how you can learn to blossom and to live a more fulfilling life.
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