THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SELFISH
“The stresses and strains of life turn us into different people, since we often find ourselves having to ‘perform’ not out of choice but out of necessity. Is the greatest gift of all our own happiness?”
So here I am, after months of anticipation, I’ve managed to finally leave behind the trappings of everyday life (oh okay, so maybe not all of them), my business, my day job, and make my way down to the Southwest coast of England. It’s nearly 06:30 and still dark outside so I’m unable to appreciate the stunning seaviews from my bedroom windows nor am I able to see the grey clouds scurrying above me through ceiling windows but I know they’re there, ready to make a special appearance as soon as dawn breaks. Through the slit in my window I can smell the sea, and I can hear the ocean pounding the shore in perfect symphony with ubiquitous seagulls on their morning run.
For me, it doesn’t get much better than this (okay, so there might be a few more things I’d throw in but that’s a whole new post). My point; being by the ocean is where want to be. It’s where I feel most at peace, where I feel free and, most importantly, where I am often at my most happiest.
The reason for my escapade to the coast is not just to take some time out and recharge my batteries but to write. The exciting thing is, I have two projects to choose from; finish the final draft of my supernatural thriller, UNSPEAKABLE (see what I did there?) or work on my well overdue non-fiction manuscript about relationships, COMING UP FOR AIR (and there goes the second plug). The latter of course being more ‘in keeping’ with my surroundings. I say that because one of the all-important chapters from the book is the very lengthy one about how in order to make other people happy we should first learn to please ourselves.
Yes, sounds like a contradiction doesn’t it? Being selfish has such a terrible reputation as it naturally equals our disinterest in the welfare of others, and there’s a lot of truth to that. However, like all things in moderation, being selfish is actually very good for you and for the ones you love.
There’s a great advert that demonstrates this point beautifully. The ad is glossy, colourful and it depicts a typical family of four (I think) but the most striking thing about it is that ‘daddy’ is not actually human, he’s an ogre! However, with each activity and each day, our daddy transforms from evil, ugly ogre to a human being once more.
The stresses and strains of life, as we know it, often turn us into different people since we often find ourselves having to ‘perform’ not out of choice but out of necessity. Work, chores, family visits and generally keeping up appearances. We all do that because it’s life but what we don’t realise, like the proverbial frog in the pan of boiling water, that each and every one of these things is taking its toll, often turning us into a completely different creature. I, like millions of others, am a completely different person when dealing with the demands of a very busy business than I am wiling away the hours before the spectacle of the rugged Cornish coastline.
Some may say I’m much easier to be around (although I couldn’t possibly imagine who).
We all know that, generally, life isn’t a permanent vacation (at least not for most of us), and that’s why it’s even more important to fit in, the best way can, the things that make us happy. And by us, I mean you, not your partner, not your children, not your family and not your friends but you.
I read an article the other day. In it, the writer talks about how, when embarking on the relationship with his wife he took in what he believes was a fundamental belief, one that had been instilled in him by his parents and their parents before them; family comes first. He believed, like most people, that to do right by his wife and his children, he would always have to put them first. However, it was his wife who explained to him that he was mistaken; to do right by them he would have to put himself first.
But how can this be? In order to be righteous, surely one must put others before one’s self? No?
Well, again, all good things in good measure.
The man’s wife explained that the quality of her husband’s life was no less important than the quality of everybody else’s. And that if he didn’t take care of business in his own personal life, one way or another, then he would inevitably burden others with his stress and his concerns. “I don’t want a husband and the children wouldn’t want a father who feels unhappy or burdened… the greatest gift you can give us is your own happiness,” she said.
How about that?
He then went on to explain that he had to hear that speech a few hundred times before he actually understood what his wife meant; a husband who felt happy and fulfilled in himself was a better husband and father. It was his responsibility and not that of his wife or anybody else to ensure that his needs are met and that he experiences fulfilment in his life.
It is true that many go into a relationship with the intention of getting something out. However, you can only be the best that you can be for others when you feel content with yourself. Do the things that please you, with others with similar interest. And yes, I know some of you may be wondering here but that it what I mean. What I’m saying is to nurture relationships with people of similar interests. E.g. if you love football but your partner doesn’t then make a point of enjoying football with a friend who does. If you enjoy spa days but your partner doesn’t then it’s crucial that you make time to enjoy these activities without your partner, and so on.
Now, it would be easy to mistake this for the usual psychobabble since it is something much easier said than done since it violates basic social protocols; being selfish is wrong, being selfless is right. This is what has been programmed into us for centuries. However, there is a lot to be said for being a little selfish.
“Ensure your mask is securely fastened before helping others with theirs.”
During the many years I’ve spent researching relationships for COMING UP FOR AIR and taking a keen interest in human behaviour, I’ve come to learn that the happiest people are those who are happiest in themselves with themselves. Similarly, the happiest relationships were those where one partner encouraged the other to take part in activities that made them happy first and foremost. There are various elements to this technique and I can’t include them all here today but you won’t be surprised to read that this subject features quite prominently in COMING UP FOR AIR.
Anyway, it’s light outside now, revealing a tempestuous Cornish Sunday, and I can hear a bell tolling in the distance, it’s reminding me that my time is up and I need to publish this post!
Until next time, take care of yourself and…… yourself.
You can read more on this subject in COMING UP FOR AIR. Available in Hardback, Paperback, for Kindle and as an Audiobook featuring a full cast.