living for yourself isn’t cruel (8 cases when it’s needed)

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Living for yourself

When you say “yes” to others, make sure you are not saying “no” to yourself – Paul Coelho

In a society where being busy is seen as a badge of honor and being productive is idolized, self-care can be neglected even though people know how important it is. Living for yourself when its needed and practicing self-care can help to relieve off the pressures and thus lead your best life.

Although nurses are trained caregivers, they sometimes neglect to look after themselves while taking care of others. This in turn, affects their ability to do their duties effectively. Nurses need Selfcare more than anyone.

This is where phronesis comes in. Aristotle thought that phronesis is the highest intellectual virtue. It refers to perceiving and understanding something, consequently acting in a beneficial and benevolent manner.

Just because you are aware that you need to take care of your mind and body does not mean that you will do it. You may have the theoretical knowledge but fail to apply it in your own life.

Why it is Important to Take Care of Yourself First

No matter how often you hear it, it might still be tough to put yourself first. Even though it is hard, it is necessary. You have to find time for self-care. It is essential to put boundaries and find ways to prioritize yourself.

○ You cannot serve others with a broken pot

serve yourself first

Each time you get onto an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put on your mask first before you help others in the event of a sudden drop in cabin pressure. This is an important rule for survival because if you run out of oxygen, you will not be able to assist others with their oxygen masks.

So, if you are a parent and traveling with a child or someone who needs help, put on your mask first before you assist them.

The reality is that putting on the oxygen mask does not show that you do not love others. On the contrary, it shows that you love and care for others; that is why you chose to put yourself first. Living for yourself is important as you need to invest in your well-being first before you can help others. 

To take care of others, you have to start by taking care of yourself.

○ When being selfish is a good thing

Being selfish is being focused on yourself. At the extreme end of selfishness, you are psychologically unable to think about other people. This includes sociopaths and narcissists. On the extreme opposite end are people who give, give and give. This is pathology and involves denying yourself basic needs to help others.

In the middle of the spectrum lies looking after your interests first and foremost concerning certain needs and desires. It is vital to find the sweet spot between the two extremes to lead a balanced life.

In this case, the sweet spot of leading selfish life means prioritizing your own needs, not because you are greedy and egotistic but because you love yourself. To focus on your own needs, you will have to disregard other people’s needs.

Therefore, prioritizing yourself will be for the greater good. Good selfishness benefits you, as well as other people.

○ When being selfish is a bad thing

The key indicator as to whether selfishness is good or bad lies in “Who benefits from the selfishness?” Selfishness is bad when your own happiness is the primary or even only beneficiary of what you’re doing.

Selfishness is bad when you become overly self-indulgent and do not consider how your actions affect others. Taking time off to focus on yourself does not mean that you disregard others.

Stephen Covey describes this as a win-lose situation when one person benefits and the other does not. This is a one-sided transaction. In such a case, you pay too much attention to your own needs, desires, and wants, while not paying adequate attention to others’. This can often be described as being immoral.

8 Times When Living for Yourself is Necessary

Self-care is a highly individualized plan and results in greater rewards over time. When living for yourself is in your best interest, then it is the most important project of your life.

There is no set way on how it should be done. It would help if you decided on what you would like to do for your true self. Here are 8 times when living for yourself is okay.

1. When you are young and need to be independent

Young and Independent

When you are young, you are energetic, wild, and need to explore the world. Try new things and discover who you are. Since you are just starting out, you have fewer attachments in life; hence you have more freedom to pursue whatever you want without fear of failure.

Enjoy your liberty and independence, especially if you have just moved out of your parents’ house. You will progressively grow into an independent and capable adult by making your own decisions, making mistakes, and learning from them.

It might take a bit of trial and error to figure things out since it is human nature not to know what you want until you experiment with different things. So, do not let the opportunity pass you by. Start living for yourself and discover your potential and true desires in life, while you are still young.

2. When your priorities change and your life needs adjusting accordingly

When you are living for yourself, you need to pay attention to your priorities. Priorities are things in your life that are important to you. Focus on what you want in your life.

Priorities tend to change over time, so it is essential to realign your life accordingly. This might necessitate you saying no to other people if you are to achieve your goals. People might be genuinely shocked when you say no to. But it is important to stand up for yourself and define your new boundaries.

Since priorities differ from one person to another, you must prioritize what you want over what another person wants. Your new priorities should guide how you spend your time, attention, and even finances.

3. When you need to make a big decision

when you need to make a big decision

Change is good for us, but it can also be scary, especially if it is a life-changing decision. Making the decision is hard, but what is harder is coming out of your comfort zone and living with the consequences of your decision. That is why when you are making the decision; you need to question if it is a good decision for you.

Do what is advantageous for you rather than making a decision that will please other people without considering your needs and desires. Trust your intuition and pay attention to your goals and values and how the decision will ultimately affect you.

4. When you need to end a bad relationship or living situation

When you are in a relationship or living situation that is no longer serving you, it is okay to end it. There is no need to stay in a situation or relationship because you do not want to hurt other people’s feelings. If you do not disengage from such a situation, you will end up hurting yourself.

It is never easy to end a relationship, quit a job, or relocate to another city or country, but if you feel bad every time you interact with an individual, then it is time to rethink that relationship. If something is affecting your well-being, then it is time to leave it.

It is okay for you to end a chapter in your life and have a new beginning. There is no need to feel guilty about it. Staying in a bad situation or relationship will breed resentment within you.

5. When the give-take philosophy is violated

give and take philosophy

You might have a friend who does not mind mooching off you. Some friends might be aware of this fact but they do not care and there are others who might be doing this unconsciously. You might choose to do two things in such a case:

  • Cut the friend off completely.
  • Remain friends with them and explain to them the concept of giving and receiving. Let them know that it is important that they also give back to other people too once in a while.

Having balance when it comes to giving and taking is essential when interacting with someone. When the scales tip and you are doing much of the giving and very little receiving, you must do something about it.

Prioritize your own needs so that you do not end up harming yourself by too much giving. Having balance will avoid resentment and fatigue.

6. When all the people around you are too demanding of your time and energy

It would be best to manage your energy and time to improve your stamina. This will boost your capacity to get things done. When you are continuously exhausted, you will find it hard to do anything.

Time is a finite resource, so it should be well managed. To waste less time, learn to say no to commitments to avoid taking on more than you can handle. Do not feel guilty about saying no for the sake of pleasing others. Saying no can be one of the biggest favors you do to yourself and others. It will reduce your stress levels and give you more time to focus on what matters.

You need to identify and eliminate or change energy-depleting behaviors and people from your routine. When you eliminate people and activities that suck up your time and energy, you will feel more rested and more motivated to pursue your goals.

7. When nobody notices what matters most about you

nobody notices what matters most to you

It is very demotivating when people do not notice things that matter most about you. This can lead to self-doubt, and you may feel like you are being taken for granted. This can lead to anger and resentment.

To be a better person, sometimes learn to say ‘no’ to people, so they do not take you for granted. They might always assume that you are available to do things for them, but when you say no, you remind people not to take you for granted. It also helps you not to do anything that you do not want to.

8. You need to establish a new identity after an event in your life

There is nothing wrong with having healthy relationships with your loved ones. But after a major life experience, such as childbirth, death of a loved one, career change, or breakup, you may want to turn the focus on yourself. This is to help you re-establish your identity and define what you want out of life.

Without a well-established identity, it will be hard for you to focus on and achieve your goals, as an identity crisis can lead to a lack of clarity in life. A life event can cause you to change in different ways and may cause you to question what you knew about yourself before.

Taking time to find yourself will leave you feeling fulfilled and help you adjust accordingly to your new life situation.

Put yourself first, life can be better

The Chorus in Kenny Roger’s hit song The Gambler (written by Don Schlitz) summarizes the key point in this article.

“You got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run”

Self-care involves protecting your well-being and minimizing stress in your life. Do not neglect to care for yourself because you fear being selfish. Being a little selfish to take care of your well-being is a good thing.

Living for yourself will help you be less stressed. Self-care does not have to be expensive or complicated. It can be as simple as practicing mindfulness or meditation. 

Photo of author


Manasa is a passionate person who loves to share insights on life and everything it has to offer. She also love to explore the human mind, as well as offer advice for those seeking help in their journey of self-discovery.
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