What may seem selfish to one person may actually be loving and honoring oneself to another. Sometimes, an epiphany can lead to that, and at other times certain forced circumstances lead to it .
These are the definitions as I see them:
A selfish person is one who thinks of no one else but him/herself.
A selfless person is a person who always puts others before him or herself.
A self-loving person is one who honors his or her needs while continuing to love others and do what he can, when and if he can.
Just because a person makes his choices to get on with his or her life rather than be weighed down by guilt, shame and regret that leads to the carrying of excess baggage caused by hate and/or disappointment by being let down by loved ones, does not mean that he/she is selfish.
I completely relate.Growing up, I was constantly told not to complain, not to put my needs before anybody else’s, not to speak up or stand up for myself, not to argue, not to talk back, and never to demand anything, as these were all traits of a selfish, self-centered person. I was also told never to confront anything or anyone, but simply accept things as they came, even if they were wrong.
I have carried some of those wrongfully ingrained traits from my childhood to my adulthood, and I call it being a ‘victim of my conditioning’.
Most people experience this in one form or another.
Now in my fifties, I finally want to stand up and shout, ‘Enough is enough!’.
I am not being selfish by wanting to honor my own needs at 51. I am not being selfish, as my first and foremost responsibility is to myself.
This is definitely not a selfish need.
I was diagnosed with Secondary Multiple Sclerosis in 2006. Since then, I have had to giveup a lot of things I enjoyed and cherished, like family visits, going for walks, running, swimming, reading, teaching and other things that I took for granted like being spontaneous and just being able to get up and go somewhere and doing something new on the spur of the moment.
I will admit that I was much more selfless (maybe a little too selfless) before I was diagnosed, but I still try to do what I can when I can. I cannot do as much I would like to. That is not being selfish, but simply adapting to my new circumstance.
MS brings with it limitations on the body and the mind, which in turn affect the spirit.
Now, everything has to be planned. Every minute of every hour of every day, and even that may change depending upon my energy levels, stress levels and/or how my body decides to behave that day.
I cannot travel on a plane or make long car journeys without having to stop to stretch or rest and just because I decide that I need to take care of these needs, does not make me a selfish person.
I cannot just decide to do something without considering its effects on my body.
This means that I am unable to devote attention to family matters, unable to attend to day-to-day household matters or chores, as well as simple things like getting groceries, going to the bank or to the post office, and just because I choose not to do the things that harm me or cause me strain or stress does not mean that I am selfish.
If tending to my health and to the demands my illness makes on me, makes me a selfish person, then I wear that selfish label proudly.
If fighting for my survival is going to make me selfish, (and I choose to fight with all my might), then yes, I am selfish.
Those who know me know that I have never put myself first. Had it not been for the MS, things would never have changed. But, things did change. My whole life changed and my priorities changed.
Am I going to sit here and be a victim of my illness or am I going to take the bull by its horns and move on as best as I can?
Am I going to sit here and refuse to recognize what is causing me harm and therefore keep away from it, or am I going to willingly walk into a fire that I know will burn me?
I have always looked at my life from a good news/bad news point of view - hence the title of my last book, ‘I Have Good News and Bad News’. Even though it is half empty, my glass is always half full. Even though there is bad, I will find the good.
This is no different, and I do have good news and bad news - The bad news is that I have Multiple Sclerosis and have become unable to do the things I like to do and really enjoyed doing. I also cannot and will not devote time to situations that cause me stress and things that exacerbate my illness.
The good news is that I finally found myself and the purpose of my life, I learned to work with and around the limitations that MS brought by listening to my body and help it heal it rather than succumb to its effects.
In the process, I may be considered selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed after all, lots of people have illnesses. They do not ignore their duties to focus on healing themselves!! I choose otherwise.
Forgive me if I choose to put the people who actually care for my needs, my disability, my occasional inability to dress, bathe, drive or tend to myself on a day to day basis, and those who actually understand and appreciate what I go through, first.
Forgive me if I choose not to attend funerals or family functions or to prance around solving problems when I have more than enough problems of my own simply by getting out of bed (some that I cannot even solve).
Forgive me of I forget birthdays, anniversaries or to update my Fb page daily.
Forgive me for putting myself, my healing, my learning to cope with my illness and my treatments first.
Forgive me for focusing my energies on my healing and ignoring and keeping away from things, people and situations that cause me to get worse, so that I do not become completely disabled and/or a bedridden vegetable.
Forgive me for fighting for my own survival and for giving in to my own inherent God-given survival instinct
Most of all, forgive me for being ill. I did not choose to be so, but I am, and I am trying to cope to the best of my ability and to fight with all my might using the limited resources and the only support I have.
If all of this is considered being selfish, then I am very proud to be selfish.
If all this is considered making the wrong choices, then I am guilty as charged.
If the people in my life do not care to understand what my illness really is, what it really does and how it affects me, and continue to cause me stress (which only makes my condition worse), then they have no place being in my life.
Just as I purge myself of all toxicity to make my life better, I will purge myself of all toxic relationships including the people I love the most and those whom I thought loved me, if they cause me emotional harm.
I’ve spent more than half my life living by other people’s standards and terms. I think it is about time I lived life on my own terms.
I have even better news:
Getting Multiple Sclerosis helped create this awareness (which I rather like) in me. It finally made me look at my own needs for the very first time.
If this makes me selfish, then so be it.
I’d rather be considered selfish than become disabled or dead.
But wait.............there's more:I have Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, and it taught me to prioritize my life to finally give myself the importance I deserve.
Thank God for my illness!!!