Science says it's good to be selfish
There’s a certain stigma attached to selfish behaviour, but a new study and experts suggest that putting your own needs first needn’t be as bad as you first think...
When we think of selfishness, it conjures up images of someone who isn’t willing to share, doesn’t consider others’ wellbeing and stops at nothing to further their own interests. Sure, it’s not great if you’re always at the centre of your own universe, but you shouldn’t be ashamed to look after number one when you need to.
“Society has us highly accustomed to the notion that being selfish is a bad quality as it’s closely associated with greed, ego and entitlement. However, there are definitely times throughout our lives when being selfish or acting in our best interest is incredibly important,” says Lysn Psychologist, Breanna Jane Sada. “When you really think about it, there are lots of acts that fit this definition that should be (and are) encouraged.” Things like self-care, exercise or getting enough sleep are all self-serving acts that are healthy for us to experience.
You'll make better decisions
New research from Ohio State University has found that distancing yourself from a situation can help you make better choices overall. The study suggests that once we remove emotion from our decision-making, it becomes easier to be pragmatic about an outcome that benefits both yourself and the greater good.
Acting in your own interest can also remove the uncertainty that comes with change. “When faced with a decision, some of us struggle to commit to a decision. If you approach a task while keeping your own best interests in mind, it may assist in the process,” says Breanna. “This may also allow you to commit to goals with the intent of seeing them through, which is something so many people find difficult to do.”
You'll be kicking goals at work
Don’t be afraid to act in your best interests for your career, either. “Being selfish professionally does not mean you have to be an egomaniac or tread on other people's toes to get what you want,” says Breanna. Being assertive, standing up for what you believe in and asking for what you want are all selfish acts, but are essential for fostering working relationships and career advancement. “It can be as simple as making sure you get due credit for the work that you do, which helps others to realise your worth,” says Breanna. You never know, having those assertive conversations may help you get that promotion or pay rise you’ve been coveting!
It will help your relationship
We’re so conditioned to think that in good relationships, there’s no room for selfish behaviour – but the old adage, ‘In order to love others we must first love ourselves’ rings true. “We have to make sure our own needs are being met while attending to the needs of others. If we don’t do this, we can become bitter and resentful towards our partner,” says Breanna. “If all your time is spent attending to your partner’s emotional and physical needs, you run the risk of yours being neglected.”
It’s perfectly healthy to take a few hours out for yourself and indulge in some ‘me’ time. Know that this kind of selfishness can improve the time you spend with your other half. “You need to be able to bring your emotional and physical needs to the attention of the other person, and be confident that they will also be met,” says Breanna. Always be as honest as you can about what you need and want from your relationship – your partner will appreciate you more for it.
Your mental health will improve
“So often poor mental health stems from neglecting our own needs and placing others' needs ahead of our own. This can cause hurt, discomfort and possible disadvantage to ourselves,” says Breanna. “Self-care or prioritising yourself, which may come across as selfish to others, allows individuals to regain a much-needed balance to their lives.” The concept of ‘refilling your cup’ lets you focus wholly on yourself, which you need to feel relaxed, happy and confident. In a bid to nourish our mental health, this can sometimes mean taking a hard line on toxic relationships with friends, family or colleagues.
“Distancing yourself from people, places or things that are not positive in your life or are causing you angst can be considered selfish,” advises Breanna. These decisions often mean that you're taking control of your own destiny, building self-confidence and empowerment. “The idea of self-care and looking after yourself as a priority enables you to focus on what you need most,” she says.