Selfish Isn't a Dirty Word

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By Melissa Ford

Coach - Personal & Business

Growing up, I was taught life lessons many little girls never received such as "being selfish is a good thing." My mother's message was crystal clear: "You are your top priority. You need to take care of yourself because no one else will," she would remind me. I took her words to heart, knowing deep down, there was truth in what she said.  You may be wondering, with this unorthodox upbringing, did I turn into a selfish person? Yes, I did, but I know being selfish is a good thing; it's about self-love and self-care.

Not everyone holds "selfish" in such high esteem, even the dictionary gives "selfish" a bad rap; check the definition: "lacking consideration for others, concerned chiefly with one's own profit or pleasure." The Thesaurus doesn't paint a pretty picture either, listing synonyms such as; egomaniacal, self-centered, self-serving, inconsiderate, thoughtless, uncaring. No wonder we aren't our #1 priority, especially if we're parents! 

If we put ourselves at the "top of our list" as Cheryl Richardson proposes in her book, Take Time for Your Life, wouldn't we be horrible parents? Maybe we'd even stop caring for our kids! Richardson disagrees stating, "Selfish isn't a dirty word. When you practice extreme self-care and put yourself first, you are then fully available to others without resentment or anger." 

Isn't that our job as parents, to be fully available to others? Can you imagine being available to your son or daughter without resentment or anger? I want some of that!

It's time to shift our parental perspectives, so we can happily parent with renewed energy and love, and discover the incredible benefits our children receive when we exercise self-care. No more wondering "When does my life start?" or believing "Good parents always put their kids first," or   "I can only feel important and needed if I sacrifice for my children." 

Do yourself a favor this week and be daring: Put yourself first at least once (if not twice) a day. Start small or go big! Meet a friend for coffee or a glass of wine, let your child pack her own lunch, leave the kitchen messy, take a walk alone, come home from work and put your feet up. Whatever you choose, enjoy taking care of yourself if even for 15 minutes. See how your mood shifts. Is life more fun? By taking care of yourself, what are the life-affirming lessons you teach your child?  

As Richardson explains, "Over time, you'll realize that honoring yourself is the greatest gift you can give to someone else." 

Give your child the greatest gift of all:  Learn to be selfish.


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Reader Comments

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Susan Lucci from River Forest  

Posted: June 1st, 2011 5:55 PM

As usual, we're on the same page today, Melissa. I just gave this lecture to a fellow circler - you got it - begin with self love and then let it flow! :)

Melissa from  

Posted: May 31st, 2011 4:30 PM

I agree that martyrdom seems to be passed through generations when the reality is - we only give because we want to. And, adding a little humor, my first thought was self-preservation!

Christina Pippin from  

Posted: May 27th, 2011 12:52 PM

I love the words self-love and self-care. It's as though our lexicon is devoid of a word that communicates this wonderful trait of joyfully caring for yourself in order to better care for others. I'd love to hear what other words exist to properly convey this.

Steve Bankes from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 27th, 2011 12:28 PM

Great article. I think this is why I've always disliked the book "The Giving Tree". Behaving like a martyr sends the wrong message and martyrdom seems like a terrible cycle passed from generation to generation. You don't have to be a doormat to care about others.

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