The Upside of Being Selfish

If you were asked to make a list of all the people you love, who would be on it? Is it a short list or a long list? Most importantly, are you on the list? If not, why not? Although we may have heard countless times that loving oneself is a prerequisite for loving others well, we often don’t really believe it. Why does it matter? People who truly love themselves are happier, healthier, less stressed, and more available to others.

The dictionary definition of selfish is “having or showing concern for yourself and not for the needs or feelings of other people.” ( When we are told over and over as a child to “quit being selfish,” we learn that it is more important to treat others kindly than to be nice to ourselves. This mindset makes it difficult, if not impossible, to value our well-being. We become so worried about not appearing selfish that we often go to such great lengths caring for others that we don’t even practice the basics of self-care, let alone self-love.

There is a difference between self-love and narcissism. Loving yourself completely for who you are and what you have to offer the world is a precious gift. If we truly love ourselves, we know that we are worthy, and when we are worthy, we are much more likely to care for ourselves in an informed, empowered manner. How can loving yourself be negative if it allows you to be happy, healthy, and whole?

How do you practice self-love? Here is a short list that may give you some ideas.


  1. Reframe your definition of “selfish.” When you view self-love as an investment in your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, you are no longer burdened with guilt over negative associations with selfishness.
  2. Watch your self-talk. Start becoming aware of when you say or think something about yourself that is not nice or loving. As you become more aware, you will be able to catch yourself sooner and change your thoughts or words.
  3. Dedicate self-time. Whether it’s 5 minutes, 5 hours, or 5 days, it is important to spend time alone. What you do with that time is up to you- meditating, enjoying nature, exercising, reading, writing, or nothing at all, as long as you enjoy your own company.
  4. Pamper yourself. Treating yourself to a special little (or big) splurge sends a message that you are worth loving, whether it’s a cup of gourmet coffee or a spa treatment.
  5. Get enough sleep. Most people don’t get enough sleep, and it affects our mood, our hormones, our productivity, and our health.
  6. Set goals and track them! Many times, if it is not scheduled on your calendar, it doesn’t happen. View your self-love and self-care as important as any other activity on your calendar, and keep track of how often you succeed at following through with the activities. Notice how respecting your own schedule makes you feel empowered and cared for.

Think about all the things you do for those you love, and how it brings you joy. Now start treating yourself as one of those special people on your “love list” and watch your stress decrease, your outlook improve, and your vibrancy soar!

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