I am here to state my case for being selfish.
I know that selfishness is not a trait many would like to have, it’s hardly at the top of my resume stating: I’m a hardworking, enthusiastic and selfish individual, putting my own needs way before other’s.
However, I think selfishness gets a bad rap, and I’m about to explain why.
Allowing ourselves to get caught-up in what other people think is a common trait. In fact, in today’s world of “selfies” and immediate online gratification through the medium of comments and “likes,” it’s difficult not to be constantly aware of whether or not others are judging us (or not) for our every action. If someone “likes” our photo, we get a sense of satisfaction. If someone doesn’t “like” it, we wonder why, and even if they have liked it. we occasionally spiral into thoughts such as: but do they actually like it, or is it you know…just a facebook thing?
The concept in itself is an endless ridiculous spiral, and the whole thing is focused on what others think. Yoga allows us to form a sense of self, to turn our awareness inward and whether it be our body, our breath or our emotions, becoming more aware of our self.
Often, the word self can have negative connotations. The notion of being selfish in today’s world, is something we all hide away from and it seems to be a trait unable to co-exist with those such as kindness, gratitude, respect, generosity, love. In actual fact, a little selfishness can go a long way.
Yoga teaches us that not only is it okay to look after ourselves, but it is completely vital for our time here on the planet.
Once we understand ourselves and take care of ourselves, we can then (and only then) begin to take that awareness outwards: to others. Modern day life focuses all our attention on others, what they are doing, what they are thinking about us; we spend our time talking about other people.
Is it because we are so afraid to connect to ourselves? Afraid of learning about and exploring the self? Connecting to ourselves and even connecting the self to the rest of humanity may sound a little ethereal and downright weird, but somehow it makes sense. How often have you heard someone say I think I’m going to have a little ‘me-time’ and by this they often mean a long hot soak in a bubble bath, some trashy magazines and a large glass of pinot.
Whilst we all love these things from time to time, is this really looking after ourselves? Yes we need to wind-down and do what we love often, but claiming this as “me-time” seems strange, shouldn’t the majority of our time be “me-time?”
Caring for others is a big part of most people’s jobs. Whether you are in customer services, medical care, education or catering, the majority of the time you are serving someone else’s needs. It is rare that a job can benefit you and only you. So, in our everyday professional lives we are always looking out for other people, and of course even in our personal lives, it is inevitable (and only human) to be caring for other people.
Some would argue that we are innately selfish, which is why we are praised if we give a homeless man enough money for a bed for the night, or if we dedicate our free time to volunteering for a charity. I would argue that we are innately selfless, and that it takes quite a lot for us to be selfish. But, as they say, nothing ever worth doing was easy.
In my opinion, there are 4 things we need to focus on in order to bring the focus to the self:
1) Self awareness: it begins with breath awareness, our breath is our life force and once we have an idea of it (rather than simply knowing it’s there), it will then lead to noticing cycles of thoughts and inevitably link to bodily habits.
2) Self criticism: a controversial one, but nonetheless important. Criticism is a touchy subject, whether it be a bad review, some nasty behind-your-back comments from a colleague, or an argument with a loved one, its tough to take. But often, we are our own worst critics.
Of course it is important to keep a positive mental attitude, but a little self-criticism is fundamental for our personal development. In order to challenge ourselves and continue to achieve in life (whilst maintaining a sense of contentment and acceptance of failure), we should allow a small amount of self-criticism into our everyday life.
3) Self Acceptance: possibly the most essential. Just for a second, close your eyes and imagine a world in which every single human being had accepted themselves for who they are. There is no pretence, no deceit or discontent, there is simply a sense of satisfaction and pleasure. I’m not saying we want a world where fulfilment is achieved, what would we all be striving for?
I’m not saying it’s a world where you say: I don’t really need to learn anything else, I’m pretty content with the stuff I know already, or I’m on an average amount of money, I’m pretty cool with that, I doubt I’ll do much else with the rest of my life. Of course that wouldn’t be ideal, but moving towards that concept is almost better than the ideal itself. The advantages that we would come across along the way would lead towards a slightly more harmonious world.
So, let’s all just try it. Go out there and focus on yourself, totally immerse your awareness in the self, be kind, generous, grateful, compassionate.
And just a little bit selfish.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Dana Gornall / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo Credit: stuartpilbrow at Flickr