Ways to Be Positively Selfish (For Good Reason)

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

At the beginning of every flight, you hear the following safety instructions: “Please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”

But how many times do we reject such commonsense advice (by putting other people first when not at 30,000 feet), when it comes to our health, success, and general well-being? It’s absurd to think that putting other people’s needs before our own helps anyone in life at all.

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I once heard a life coach on The Oprah Winfrey Show echo this sentiment. She was met with a “boo!!!” from the audience. But she was misunderstood. And Oprah leaped to her defense. The coach wasn’t saying, “Leave your kids hungry and unsupervised and go party till 5 a.m.!” She was simply saying that a rested, fulfilled, healthy mother has more to give to her kids. Cause as the old saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Here are some ways to do you, so that you can enrich not only your own life experience, but impact those around you for the better too.

1. Take a day, a morning, or an hour for yourself to do whatever.

Whatever you can squeeze in—at least once a week. Maybe you’ll see a movie. Maybe you’ll read a glossy magazine on your sofa or in the bath. Maybe you’ll take a matcha latte to the park or catch up with an old friend for lunch and enjoy some hearty laughs together. Whatever it is, make sure it feels good and that you are unreachable (unless the house is on fire).

2. Spend some $ on yourself.

The other day I bought a pretty pricey pair of jeans on a whim and felt oddly guilty about it. I thought,WTF?!? Why do I feel the need to defend my purchase? I make money! As a regular bargain hunter who grew up poor and used to hand-me- downs, it’s still a new experience for me to splurge full-price on clothes.

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But then I asked myself: What about this is making me feel bad? Why am I even defensive about making and spending money? My irrationality came from a fear of not having enough (which is not true) and of not feeling deserving (definitely not true). I had to check myself and decide instead to enjoy my new jeans and lighten the heck up! Treating yourself to nice things is a wonderful sign of self-love. Force it if you have to.

3. Make time for something new and fun.

What have you always wanted to try but don’t have time to do? Don’t overthink this! My husband wants to try a sensory deprivation tank. My client Carrie has always wanted to see the musical Wicked. I’ve secretly always wanted to try a Pilates reformer cause apparently Jennifer Aniston does it, though I’ve always been too intimidated. But, in fact, I just took an intro class (it hurt like hell) and bought a three-pack to keep trying!

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So how can you do you somehow? Book a tango class, Italian cooking course, or French lesson? Opportunities are everywhere when you just open your eyes and look. You’ll thank me later for the fun you had! And you might even make a new friend.

4. Think good thoughts about yourself.

Self-talk is everything. Everything. Did I say everything? That’s why I love affirmations so much. Every time you see a mirror or your reflection, repeat something nice to yourself. I say stuff like:

  • You’re doing great!
  • I love you, Susie.
  • Life’s pretty sweet, isn’t it?
  • I am strong and smart and confident.
  • Good things are always coming my way.

5. Go the extra health mile.

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Can you spend $1 more on the organic blueberries? Could you push a meeting back 30 minutes to squeeze in a power walk? Could you sneak an inspirational book to bed 45 minutes earlier than usual for a little motivation boost and a more restful night?

Putting other people’s priorities before your own does not make you a good person. It does not make you selfless. By putting yourself in second place constantly, you indirectly harm others without even realizing it. When you’re burned out, exhausted, and resentful, you can’t be your best for anyone or anything.

The wisest thing you can do is be the fullest, happiest version of you. And that means some consistent, unabashed self-lovin’. It will also inspire others to treat themselves better too.

What will you do for yourself this week?

Susie Moore is ishonest’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday on ishonest for her latest No Regrets column!

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