Why it’s alright sometimes to be selfish

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Selfish is a negative word. There’s absolutely nothing positive about it. Associate any other word with it and it just makes you frown or nod in disapprovement. Selfish mother, selfish lover, selfish friend.

Obviously this word has never brought anything good to it. However, I believe sometimes selfishness is good. I’m not thinking about a situation when someone’s drowning and you choose to buy popcorn and enjoy the view…but rather a situation, perhaps better said, a moment in your life when everything and everyone is pissing you off and stress is taking its toll.

I have met three situations and three types of people in my life that made me decide to be selfish.

1) When certain friends use you as their own therapist, as you would be giving free counselling classes. Perhaps you have some friends that when you meet them, all they can talk about is themselves and they never ever ask anything about you. Usually the meeting goes like this:

(Friend)- Hi! How are you? I haven’t seen you in a while!

(Me)     -Hi! Well, I’m…

(Friend interrupting rudely)- Oh, I’m so stressed about my clothes no longer fitting me/not affording that holiday/my socks being too tight…

(I let the friend talk about the problem, thinking I’ll get my turn later)

Later on, during the discussion, in a moment of silence I try to say something quietly.

(Me)- So, I’ve decide to get married/buy a house/ move to China!

(Friend diverting from my hugely important news to one of his/hers small story that has no connection whatsoever)

– Married/Buying a house/Moving to China?! Well…that’s big…that reminds me of when I wanted to go to this wedding/when I saw this decoration TV show/ when I saw a Chinese porcelain doll…

(Friend continues the nonsense story, diverting from your news and ignoring you totally)

2) When the boss thinks you are the slave of the company and makes you do extra work and extra stuff that he/she should be doing, but because you are new, scared of making a bad impression and not being fired on your first week on the job, you bow and smile “ Yes, sir”.

It happened to me at the beginning of a job, wanting to please everyone, I was doing extra work and I was getting extra no thanks.

3) When relatives take you for granted

I know some people have relatives that take them for granted, which means assuming that because you are a relative, you’re supposed to say yes. It’s worse if you’re an expert in your field- like an IT engineer, language teacher, mechanic or doctor. Your relative will call you in the middle of the night to fix their computer, repair their car or give free medical advice or translate a document. Sure, there’s no issue in helping people, unless they take full advantage and use you in every possible way, disregarding the fact that you might have your private life and maybe wanting to enjoy your free time.

So what is the right thing to do?

1) Regarding friends, I believe the right thing to do is tell them about this problem because friendship is a two way street, otherwise…they can go their own way. What is the point of hanging out with somebody who does not actually care?

2) Tell the boss you’re busy

What I did, after I realised that I have been doing too much extra work and no extrapayment or thanks, was to tell my boss I am too busy with doing my work and can’t take any more extra things to do. He/She got the message and did not ask me about it again.

3) Tell the relatives that your free time is your relaxing time and for fixing their things they can visit you in your office during the office hours. Sure, I did that and got some raised eyebrows but in the end I got my free time back.

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