Yes, yes I am.
Why is that so hard to say? Why is it so hard to admit? Being selfish is normal and human and yet we categorise it as an adherently bad thing.
As humans, we are always trying to rationalise everything and make sense of our worlds and minds. Have you noticed that everything we do must have a beginning and an end? Everything has a stop and start.
We put things into categories or labels and we create connotations to attach to those things. Married, Single, Widowed. Tall, short, fat, thin. Pear shape, apple, hourglass. They are just the basics. Categories are in themselves harmless, others put us in them and we put ourselves in them, life is easier to understand if we fit into a group (that’s why the Discovery Journal is broken up into simply digestible sections), but problems start when we connect connotations to those words and groups.
Connotation: - “an idea or feeling which a word invokes for a person in addition to its literal or primary meaning.
"the word ‘discipline’ has unhappy connotations of punishment and repression"
Basically, a connotation is what we think of when faced with a particular word.
Selfish is one word that has bad connotations. Even saying selfish is unpleasant, we think of hurt, unkindness and repulse. This is very irritating to me.
One of the ways I have “overcome” my anxiety is to recognize things about myself which are true but not always kind; I need to understand who I was instead of trying to be the person I thought other people would be more accepting of. I realized that my anxiety was partially due to a fear of others not understanding me or judging me and that I couldn’t hope to get over my anxiety without coming to terms with who I was.
That’s when I realized how damaging those connotations are. It took time and great strength to not only come to terms with who I really was but learning to accept them and care less about what anyone else thought.
The Frosted Glass
Selfish, impatient, indulgent, short-tempered and at times careless. These are all things I had to accept about myself.
They aren’t just words they are judgements and they invite interpretation from others.
Sometimes I think back on how I used to see the world, all lovely and glazed over like frosted glass. I would look around in a crowded space and think “those people are confident and carefree, why can’t I enjoy this night like them?”. At a shopping centre “I bet those people aren’t nervous, they could browse for hours and yet I have the sweats?”
Years and years of comparing myself to others based on what my eyes saw but no real understanding of those people. What did I look like to them? Were they thinking the same thing about me and not seeing my internal struggle?
That’s the problem when we create an ideal, we are constantly trying to reach it.
“This is what someone with confidence looks like”, “This is what someone who is ambitious does” when actually those people we see are made up in our heads, a fantasy of who we think we should be.
The Social Media Monster
Before I could acknowledge the faults, which make me human and accept them, I had to see the world for what it really is and social media is the worst place to try and regain any sense of confidence. It a complete world made up of false perceptions of those ideals.
We see timelines of smiling photographs, slim or fit bodies and stories of “great days out”, be honest when was the last time you saw something on social media and you felt 100% completely happy for that other person and not envious at all? Honestly, I can say I very rarely feel happy about what I see.
All I do is compare, compare, compare. “Why am I not having great days out? do people not invite me? Why not? What’s wrong with me?” “Look how pretty she is, I can’t compare surely?” or the worst of all “Why are they so much further ahead in life than I am?”
It sounds like I have a serious problem with self-esteem, right? But I don’t. I feel the way that I’m sure everyone does when they scroll social media, this difference is I know these things aren’t real and I know I chose a different path in life. I don’t want the same things they have so why be envious?
I' not about to rush to upload a picture of my naked, no makeup face crushed up against my sofa with multiple chins, crying that I feel left out and unevolved and nor are they! We don’t see the pain on social media, we don’t see someone’s loneliness and suffering, we only see what they decide we should.
Deception is part of social media and all this deception does is add to those ideals we’ve built and made them even more apparent and harder to reach.
Breaking the frosted glass
Investing in yourself pays off. There is strength in saying “I am selfish” or “I can be mean” because its that acceptance which taught me what it is to be human.
This was a turning point for me. As we grow up, we see the world as a set of ideals and things to aspire to be, to achieve and to accomplish. When reality hits it's unpleasant and unexpected; our brains aren’t prepared and mine certainly wasn’t open to reality. I think this is where the judgement of others comes from. We judge people on the basis of the ideals we have created for yourselves and in turn, apply those negative words and connotations to the situations.
To be selfish is not always to simply care for one’s self, being selfish fuels ambition if we didn’t want something, we would never do anything. It’s ok to want money so we can have a nice lifestyle, enjoy our time and look after our families and it’s ok to be selfish and protect ourselves from harmful influences and people.
I don’t feel guilty for natural normal human emotions and don’t feel like it taints who I am, it makes me who I am and I am happier now than I was before playing make-believe that I was “perfect”.