Self-centered. Self-absorbed. Self-righteous.
Self-care. Self-exploration. Selfhood. Self-sufficient. Self-aware. Self-assured.
What do you notice when you read the words above?
When I consider the words that we as a culture use to describe the relationships we have with ourselves, it strikes me that the language of selfhood is divisive and polarizing.
Some of the words of selfhood are damning, often used as highly charged criticisms that serve to diminish.
This especially occurs in families where getting one’s needs met is not valued.
For many adults who were raised in narcissistic households, “you’re so selfish” was a frequently heard criticism. When a child’s need conflicts with a narcissistic parent getting their own needs met, sparks can fly.
This is often how children begin to lose contact with their clarity about what they need, or their intuition about something feeling “off.” This is where co-dependency begins.
As adults, we need to take our autonomy back. To reclaim our power and to make choices based on our internal guidance system, not out of fear of someone else’s lashing out or punishing us through guilt or obligation.
“But, is it ok to be self-ish?”
This is a trick question. It all depends on how you define “selfish.” Here’s how Webster does it:
Selfish 1 : concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. 2 : arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others
What I propose is a redefining and rebranding of “selfish,” one that puts the value of having a self and, yes, even putting the needs of that self at the forefront in a positive light.
The aim is not to think of oneself exclusively, at the expense of others, but to view the value of having a self, and practice of tending to that self, as an acceptable and shared value. I’d like this to be a community-endorsed trait. We all are looking after ourselves and that doesn’t make any of us bad people.
Self-exploration is an individual process with universal themes. We all must find our own way home to the center of our individual selves; to learn what we love, what inspires us, and what keeps us rooted as we move through the world. If we were all engaged in that process of self-inquiry and self-care I think we’d have a much more peaceful world to coexist in.