myth 5 - selfish

Myth #5: It’s selfish to be happy!

The word ‘selfish’ often paints a picture that provokes a sting and discomfort within us. It is usually not associated with positive behavior and is readily shunned upon. People mistakenly believe that putting their needs first and making themselves happy is a self-centered and selfish act. We have been brainwashed to think that this is an undesirable trait especially in an Asian context where helping others is seen as a highly admired virtue. There is nothing wrong with helping others and making sacrifices but it should not come at a price that you are unable to pay.

Most of us take pride in ensuring the needs of others come first. That is wonderful I feel, but there is only so much you can do before you experience a burn-out. When this happens, you find that you are unable to make positive contributions and instead you will feel completely drained and mentally exhausted. More often than not, you feel unappreciated.

I often hear how my friends and colleagues would juggle the act of being a caring daughter, wife and mother.

By juggling multiple roles, they often do not have the luxury to set time aside for their own well-being. As a result, they become miserable and suffer nervous breakdowns because they are unable to cope with the never-ending list of tasks and responsibilities.

We often bend ourselves backwards to please others which usually results in unwelcomed stress and frustration. This is because we can never please anybody completely. It is virtually impossible to please others. There will always be others who have unrealistic expectations of you on how you should please them. Worse still, all of this is beyond your control and you will un-rewarded. By putting others first, your own dreams and goals are cast aside which leaves you feeling shortchanged and hollow.

Sometimes, we need to know that we do not need to sacrifice all the hobbies or goals that bring meaning to us. We just need to understand how we can prioritize and play a balancing act. As productivity experts would call it, this is known as ruthless prioritization. If you wish to excel in a particular field, eliminate the other activities that are time-wasters to ensure you can focus on what’s crucial to your required growth and development.

The real truth is that by ensuring your happiness is a priority, you are able to understand your inner self better and discover what is important to you. This cultivates a greater appreciation of your sense of self which boils down to loving yourself on a much deeper level. By doing so, you tell yourself that you’re worthy of love and good treatment. You will not accept any negative treatment from others. The kindness that ensues is crucial because you will not subject yourself to any behavior or circumstances that are not fair or worthy of you.

We find people in emotionally and physically abusive relationships because they feel they are not worthy of better treatment and that they need to stay to save their partner. If you are responsible for your own happiness, your loved ones will not need to worry as much on your overall well-being. This reduces co-dependency and you are in control and in charge of your happiness. You are no longer relying on somebody else to maintain your daily quota of happiness.

Happier people are also more likely to help others and be involved in charitable work. When we are filled with abundance, we have more to offer from an emotional and spiritual perspective. You will be more compassionate towards others and listen to their problems.

It is more selfless to be happy. Imagine if you are having a bad day and you are feeling very negative, it is very unlikely that you will think of others when you are drowning and wallowing in your own pool of misery.

According to the simplified atlanta website, one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy and one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. The first statement may seem simple enough but it is equally important to understand the magnitude of the second statement.

If you are happier, you will be better equipped to make others happy and this creates a healthy domino effect.

How to make yourself happy?

Put the oxygen mask on yourself first

Learn to love yourself. Give yourself permission to feel what true happiness and bliss can bring. Give yourself some credit and cut yourself some slack. You do not need to be the perfect parent, spouse, employee, boss or whatever. You deserve to be happy. In fact, it is in the interest of humankind that everybody is happy!

In an airline emergency, the message is always the same. Always put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others. If you don’t, both you and your partner may not survive the crash as you will run out of oxygen. Therefore, you need to have this philosophy ingrained in you. If you are emotionally unstable, you will not be able to provide sound advice to another. Taking care of your own needs is pivotal if you want to maximize the difference and impact you can have on another person’s life.

Learn how to say no

Learn how to say no and do not make it your main objective to please others as you can never be in control of their reactions to your actions.

If you do, you are actually indirectly giving them power over your happiness and emotions if they express displeasure. Do not base your happiness on their responses. This creates a healthier relationship and your well-being is not at their mercy.

If you do wish to help, remind yourself to know what are your limitations to ensure you have enough time and resources to spare. Do not immediately jump in to help but take time to step back and assess the situation.

Learn to know when you need to take a break

Learn to know when you need to take a break and recharge yourself. Schedule time everyday to indulge in anything that rejuvenates you. It could be something simple such as listening to music or interacting with nature by going for a walk in the park. Have a good laugh and try not to take life too seriously.

If you are ever in doubt on whether you should make your own happiness the priority, always remember that you effectively stop helping others when you stop nurturing yourself. If you are happy, you will have more to give. Taking care of yourself is not being self-indulgent or narcissistic, it is a necessity to survive and thrive. Do whatever it takes so that you are emotionally, spiritually and physically stable. Harness a peaceful existence within you.