I find it interesting to ask this question because many people feel that it is wrong to be selfish. Somewhere along the way, many of us have learned to prioritize other people’s needs above our own. We keep doing all the things expected of us.
We keep saying yes and think how we can help. And we continue to give. How does that make us feel in the end? Burnt out and stressed. Because we have the formula wrong.
When you follow the wrong formula in life, it will feel wrong and off.
Listen in this week as I discuss what it means to be selfish and why our formula may not ever get us to where we want to go. It’s time to start considering the idea of ‘being selfish’ a little differently and make your life way more enjoyable!
You are listening to the Drink Less Lifestyle Podcast with Dr. Sherry Price, episode number 36.
Welcome to Drink Less Lifestyle, a podcast for successful women who want to change their relationship with alcohol. If you want to drink less, feel healthier and start loving life again you’re in the right place. Please remember that the information in this podcast does not constitute medical advice. Now, here’s your host, Dr. Sherry Price.
Well, hello my friends. I could not be more excited to talk to you today about this topic. I was actually going to be recording a different podcast topic but this literally jumped into my lap, grabbed my heart and my emotions so tightly that I just had to talk about it today. And I just had to get this out there because it is so good. And here’s what I want to discuss, this concept of being selfish, okay, this is going to be a good one so buckle in.
So here’s what I want to ask you as we begin. What comes up for you when I say go and be selfish? Yeah, very interesting, I’d like you to tune into that because I just coached a client today of mine on this topic and I feel it is so good that women and men everywhere benefit from this concept.
So we’re going to dive into it because I think maybe when I ask that question it felt downright wrong to say go be more selfish. Maybe you had this kind of feeling inside like that doesn’t sound right. Because I think a lot of us think that being selfish means that we put other people’s needs above our own or we don’t consider other people’s needs. Or that maybe we do things without regard for others. And yes, if you look up the definition of a selfish person what comes up is those that are seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure or wellbeing without regard for others.
Or here’s another one, a selfish person only cares about themselves, obviously, and creating happiness for them regardless of how others are affected. And I think we get lots of messages from society that selfish people are self-absorbed, or we’ve learned that it’s sinful, or not godly to be selfish, or it’s not kind, or it’s not compassionate, or it’s bad. Or that selfish people are jerks, or maybe we even have a more colorful word for that. And then we have memes like selfish people suck.
So I generally feel that when we talk about being selfish we think it’s bad. We think it’s wrong. We think we shouldn’t want things. And that’s what I disagree with. And let me just go a little further, we even teach this to our kids, not to be selfish. We say, “You need to share. You can’t keep that all to yourself. You can’t be selfish.”
And we hear it from others at work, we talk about coworkers who are selfish or don’t care about others, or trample on other people to climb the corporate ladder. It’s generally considered a bad thing and even derogatory. And sure I agree that trampling on other people or doing things at their expense is a bad thing. But I want us to consider selfish a little differently. I want us to see it through the lens that it may actually be a good thing.
Now, stay with me because I know your brain might be just like, what? This is not something I want to learn or discuss. And your brain just might be automatically rejecting what I’m saying right now. It’s like no, being selfish is bad. But I just want you to be a little more open-minded about this as I talk about a new definition of selfishness, or being selfish. Because I hear you, I used to get not a good feeling when I heard selfish, you can’t be selfish.
But here’s how I’d like us all to consider the word. So I’m just going to break down the word ‘selfish’ into the two parts, self and ish. So if we look at self I think we can all agree that it just means you, your person, who you are, yourself, your being. And then if we just look at the definition of ish i.s.h. we see that ish is used as a suffix and it means approximately.
So if you hear this in context you might hear it like as regard to time, it’s seven ish, it’s 7 o’clock ish, that means it might be a little bit before seven, a little bit after seven, so it’s approximating the time. Or maybe we’re using it to describe a color of something and we call it greenish. It has mostly hues of green but it might have some other hues in it like maybe tones of blue or tones of yellow but it’s relatively greenish, we’re approximating the color. And we can use it to describe height, he’s tallish or shortish.
So I like the ish thinking there is a little bit of wiggle room or approximating. So if we put the two together we have the self and then ish which is approximating the self which sounds a little bit odd. But I take it to mean as knowing yourself, approximating what you want, what you desire, what you wish for. All of that I feel is the definition of selfish. It’s knowing what you want, what you don’t want, what rings true to you, what doesn’t ring true to you. And so I just want us to consider this example that I think highlights it very well.
We have some people who want kids in life. And there are also some people out there that don’t want kids. There are some people that know exactly how many kids they want and there are some people who don’t know exactly how many kids they want, they’re just open to the idea of having kids. Now, they’re just speaking about their wants of their self. And here’s the thing, it’s selfish to want kids. It’s also selfish to not want kids. Either way you look at it it’s considered selfish.
So we use that term in that regard but it’s actually just talking about what somebody is interested in, what their desires are. Wanting kids or not wanting kids is not about trampling others. Or it’s not about not doing it at one’s expense. It’s being honest with what your desires and your wants are. So I’ve seen selfish used in two different ways. And how I like to use the term selfish is knowing, connecting and understanding yourself. It’s being in touch with you. It’s knowing who you are, what you’re about, what’s important to you, what are your values, what are your priorities?
What makes your soul sing? What brings you alive? And if you ask me I think this is the most loving thing you can do. I think it’s important to know what you want, what you stand for, who you choose to be because you get to create that life. You get to make your dreams and desires a reality if you choose to. How is that bad? And here’s the thing we do this with children all the time. We actually encourage them to be selfish and to think about themselves.
Think of these questions that we ask children all the time. “What do you want for lunch? What movie do you want to watch? What do you want to be when you grow up”, which, by the way, I just read an excellent book talking about how that’s a dangerous question to ask but that can be for a whole another episode. We might ask, “Do you want chicken fingers, or pasta, or turkey sandwich?” And the classic ones like, “What do you want for your birthday? What do you want for Christmas?” Because here’s the thing, we are all wired uniquely and differently.
And who wants to get somebody a gift that they don’t appreciate? I’ve been there. Actually one year we got my daughter a Barbie doll, I think she was about three and a half at the time. And ever since she’s been born she’s been always attracted to vehicles, anything that moves or has wheels. So it’s planes, and cars, and trains. And she was into ambulances and fire trucks, all vehicles.
So she opens this Barbie doll on Christmas and she looks up and she is not happy. She is just like, “Whose idea was it to get me this Barbie doll?” And she flings it across the room and says, “I don’t want that toy.” So she’s not programmed, nobody conditioned her to like dolls. She came out just not liking dolls. And I love knowing that about her. From then on I knew she wasn’t a doll person and never has been. And there’s nothing wrong with that. She just desires vehicles and Lego.
So we are always talking to our children about connecting with what they enjoy, what they like, what makes their soul sing, what makes them happy. So that we can guide them appropriate in life. And here’s what I feel. When we are not sure of what we want in life, and we do not know what we stand for, and we do not know what we value and what our priorities are, that’s when we become lost and feel so disconnected from ourselves. And it shows up like confusion. And these are some of the things I look for when I’m coaching my clients.
Consider for yourself, how many times have you showed up in confusion where you say things like, “I just don’t know what to do.” Or you might say, “I just don’t know how to cut back on my drinking.” Or, “I just don’t know why I keep overdrinking.” I see this a lot in my free Facebook group and I’m always asking the ladies, “No, we have to uncover why. We have to understand why you over-drink.” It is important for the healing journey, not for shaming, not for blaming, but to understand yourself so that you can heal.
Or we talk about, “What job should I take next?” Or, “Should I leave this job or go onto a next job?” Or, “I don’t know how to lose weight.” Or, “I don’t know how to manage money.” Confusion, all of that, it doesn’t feel good does it? It makes us feel helpless, powerless, what do I do next? But yet we tolerate it for ourselves. And here’s what I also find is that women get together and they talk about their confusion and they wallow in it. I will never do that in my friendships. When I hear somebody confused I help them find solutions that work for them.
Yeah, if you get around a table and we’re all talking like, “I don’t know how to cut back on drinking.” “Yeah, I don’t either.” “Yeah, I don’t either.” What’s going to change? Nothing. And I’m not saying not to be empathetic but empathy doesn’t solve problems. You have to take it to the next step.
So if we condition our kids to want things and we ask them about their wants and we are genuinely encouraging them throughout life to pursue careers that they want, to pursue their interests, all of that because we know that leads to a life that has more happiness than less happiness in it, which we identify as a good thing. At what point does it become not okay to want things? At what point as adults do we go like, “It’s too selfish to want things?”
I find it very interesting because I think a lot of teenagers, early 20s; it’s so okay to want things. But then when I talk to people in their 40s, 50s and beyond they’re like, “I shouldn’t want things.” Where does the line come that we learn that being selfish and having desires is a bad thing? And here’s what I think, I think spending time knowing yourself, understanding your values, understanding what you want to do with your life, understanding your desires and wants, all of that is a huge gift to yourself.
So I don’t think selfish, approximating the self, thinking about yourself is a bad thing at all. I actually think it’s a key for success. It’s a key for happiness. It’s a key for contentment. It’s a key for satisfaction because just think about if we take this to the macro level.
What if we all took excellent and exquisite care of our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing? What if that was on everybody’s agenda? You know what we have? We have a much happier and healthier society. Mentally we’d be stronger. Emotionally we’d be stronger. Physically we’d be stronger. Tell me what the downside is to that because I’m not seeing one. And what does that mean? It means you need to focus on yourself. You need to improve these areas of your life if they are not serving you right now.
We see depression rates skyrocketing, anxiety rates skyrocketing, mental health is a crisis in our country more so than most other countries. That’s because we’re so disconnected. We think all these external things are going to fill the void, alcohol, food, internet, social media, whatever, it’s not getting what we truly, truly desire, they’re just distractions. Where they just give us a quick hit of dopamine and then we need more, and more, and more.
I work with some ladies who feel embarrassed, or sad, or can’t even tell their boss when they need a day off of work because they’re overstressed, or overworked, or there’s so much going on, or they feel overwhelmed, or even they’re sick. They feel guilty for being selfish. But we have to recognize that our bodies need rest, need recovery, they can’t be on go, go, go mode all the time.
And here’s what happens, if you expect it to be on go, go, go mode, guess what? You start turning to things outside of you to keep it going, to keep it functioning. And then we keep going, and we keep going, and we keep pushing harder, harder, faster. And then we’re overwhelmed, fatigued and we hit burnout and then we collapse whether that’s mentally, or physically, or we get sick because our immune system can’t keep up. And we just all of a sudden our bodies just say, “No more.”
Or we keep avoiding it, we keep avoiding that and we keep saying, “I’ll just pump myself full of chemicals”, whether that’s pharmaceutical agents or more caffeine, or to keep me up during the day. And then I need my downers like alcohol at night, my depressants so I can actually fall asleep. How many people rely on alcohol as a sleep aid?
And here’s the thing, the more you rely on it the more it becomes your sleep aid because guess what? It shuts off or turns down your melatonin production. So then you wonder why you can’t go without it. Well, it’s disrupted the complete natural cycle of your body to get healthy restorative sleep, the kind of sleep your body truly needs, not this medicated sleep that doesn’t even feel restful.
And how many of us wake-up at 3:00 or 4:00am going, “Oh my gosh, why am I awake? I’m so tired, I can’t believe it.” Because it’s the alcohol, it’s a chemical that wasn’t designed to be our natural sleep aid but yet some of us use it as such. And this is how we make ourselves sick. And then of course we collapse and then we resent people, we resent jobs, we resent things, we resent the drinking habit because oh my gosh, how did I get here? Because you give, give, give.
A lot of women are conditioned to keep giving to others, to give to the kids, to give to the marriage, to give to the employer, to give to this, to give to that. And they don’t give to themselves because they feel it’s selfish to think about the self, to acknowledge that you have wants and desires just like every other human that walks the planet. I find that really interesting and hard to believe that it could be a bad thing to get in touch with your wants and your desires, because we’re designed to take breaks. We’re designed to take vacations. We’re designed to take time away.
Our bodies need optimal input in order to create optimal output. And that doesn’t mean you’re plugged in all the time. Even our computers need a reboot. They need to power down. Our phones start to act all wonky if we don’t turn them down and power them down, they need a reset button. They need to wind down. They need their off button. This is not selfish of the phone. This is not selfish of the computer. And it’s not selfish of other people, nor should it be selfish of you.
But then the women will tell me, “Well, it’s too vain to want that.” Or, “Gosh, that’s so expensive.” Or, “That takes so much time away from my family, how can I do that to them?” How could you not? And what makes something vain, our judgments about it?
When people tell me, “I want to weigh a healthy weight,” what’s so vain about that? If that’s where you feel good and that’s where you get your optimal energy and that’s where you’re able to just do more of what you want in life, I don’t see anything wrong with that. And that’s not shaming people who aren’t there, it’s just owning your wants and your desires. And sometimes we can’t own those because we have been conditioned to hear that it’s bad to want. It’s bad to want that. It’s bad to want this but other wants are okay.
What if we just stopped judging wants because society collectively we might all agree on some wants, but there’s going to be a lot of differences on a lot of other opinions of other types of wants? And as women I don’t think we are designed to get the scraps of the barrel, to just get by with the necessities. Now, maybe you have to and that’s what you want but I think a lot of us have other wants and needs and we have the ability to do it. We just talk ourselves out of it because it feels bad to be selfish. What if it was good to be selfish? What if it was good to feed your emotional wellbeing?
What if it was good to feed your physical wellbeing, your spiritual wellbeing, your mental wellbeing? How would you feel? How would you show up? How would you contribute to the world? What would you do? I’ll tell you what, it would feel a lot better than sitting there sulking, sitting in self-pity or confusion, or bitterness, or resentfulness, or any of those emotions that don’t create anything good.
And here’s what I think, we’re all born uniquely with different desires, and different wants, different talents, different skills and that is a good thing. It creates society that we can take care of one another. We have different gifts and talents to contribute to the world. What if we all had the same wants, desires, and talents, and gifts? It’d be kind of boring. Would we even meet all of the needs that we have of the world? So I believe our wants, our desires are given to us by our creator or source. They’re wired into us.
So I have to give you an example from my own life. I visited San Diego for the first time while I was in pharmacy school. And when I was here it felt amazing. I don’t know how to describe it but I just knew I wanted to come back here and live. I don’t know if it was the people, the sunshine, I don’t know. All is I know is there was this yearning in my heart to live here. Now, I grew up in Pennsylvania, I was telling my parents, my friends, people, they thought I was nuts, of course.
Of course I see it from their perspective like why do you want to move to a state you don’t know anybody, no family, just pick up and move, that’s kind of far to go. And at the time California had a different pharmacy test to get a license here which was so much harder than the other states. So on paper I get it, it didn’t make sense. My parents didn’t understand it. My friends didn’t understand it. People teased me about it.
I get it because I can see where they were coming from. I understand how they saw it but they didn’t have the yearn. They didn’t have the desire inside of them. And how do you explain that to somebody? I knew I wanted to live here because my soul lit up. So I flew out, I took a review course to prepare for the pharmacy test. I took the licensure test. I passed it, not a problem. My early 20s brain didn’t see any of this as a huge obstacle because I knew what I wanted and I was told as a kid, “Go after what you want. Go after your dreams.” And I did so unapologetically.
I didn’t trample people on the process. I didn’t hurt people or tackle people to get out here. I had a desire and a want, and I went after it, simple as that. Because as far as I know we only get one life to live, why not make it the life you want it to be? Embrace your desires, embrace your wants. Go after what you truly, truly, truly desire.
And now here’s the thing, as I look back over my life I see how many wants and desires that I already have. I wanted a healthy, vibrant, loving marriage. I totally have that. And I’m so thankful for it and I so love it and I continue to water it. I wanted a great relationship with my daughter and I was on the path where I wasn’t creating that. But I reached out, got help and now I have a beautiful relationship with my daughter. It’s filled with hugs, kisses, artwork, poems, cars, Lego, and tears. We are radically honest with each other and I love that. That is one of my top values, honesty.
Now, I know she rejects me at times. She’s not in favor of all my decisions and I’m okay with that. And guess what else I desire? I still desire to live in San Diego and I am still here and I love it. Now, will I desire to live somewhere else one day? Maybe, I’m open to that, great. But while I have desire in my heart to be here and I’m here I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.
You know what else I desire? Helping other women stop the overdrinking habit. I love it. I love helping them love their life so much that they don’t feel they need alcohol. And I have that in my life, so amazing. And then there are other desires and wants that I have yet to fulfill and I love that I have desires for these things. And I know when the time is right I may have them, I may get them. Also I know I may not and I’m okay with that too.
For me it feels good to have goals and to strive and to want things. I feel it comes from within, not from a graspy needy place but from like now it’s time to have this. For me one of my next wants is a luxury SUV, really high name brand. And I’m so excited about this want. I talk about it a lot. And it’s interesting because for the past two decades cars weren’t that important to me. I just went with the standard reliable good household name type of car. But now my desire has changed.
I can’t wait to trade in my car and get a luxury SUV but I want it to be on my terms in a way that feels good to me. And one of those terms is it needs to be an all electric SUV. Guess what? The manufacturer doesn’t even make that kind of car right yet. So it’s just not my time to get it and that’s okay. I’m going to wait because this is what I truly desire. And here’s the thing, I also enjoy the wanting of it, kind of like you look forward to Christmas day or you look forward to the vacation after you’ve planned it. You spend all that time in that anticipatory wanting, it’s so good.
So it’s like you build and get the happiness while you’re actually waiting for it to happen. And I’m going to want that luxury SUV unapologetically. Here’s the thing, my old brain, my old thinking would totally judge me right now. It would say, “Oh my gosh, that’s such a waste of money, you can do so many other things with that money.” I understand. And I also love that old version of my brain and I also love the new version of my brain.
And I get it, people are going to judge me but you know what? They’re going to judge me no matter what kind of car I drive. And let them judge, I can’t stop them. But when I’m moving in the direction of my wants and my desires, not by stomping on other people, I’m just moving towards what I want, what feels good to me, that feels amazing. I don’t require outside things to fill me up if I am in charge of that because it’s you connecting with you. And what’s more important than that?
I remember when I used to say, “I really want to not want alcohol.” I used to say that to myself a lot, sometimes daily, sometimes even hourly and I just allowed myself to really want to not want alcohol. I wanted that to pull me from where I currently was, which was this trend to drink every night. But here’s the thing, I tried getting there on my own for years and I couldn’t do it. No problem because my desire kept me open minded and my desire showed me other ways of how I can get there, that didn’t require me doing it solo.
I found someone who can help me. And I’m so thankful for that person who helped me because sometimes you do need the help of others just like we need the help of other people to help raise our kids. Or if we get in a bind we need other people’s help and that is how we are designed, to rely on each other when the time calls for it.
So let’s consider the example that maybe I had a lump in my breast and now I’m worried it could be cancer. Now, I know I don’t have the technology to understand if it’s cancer. I’m going to rely on an oncologist to help walk me through this process.
I’m going to make an appointment and he’s going to say, “Hey, we need to biopsy that. I have the needle. I have the tools. I know how to do that. We’re going to look and see if it’s malignant. And guess what? If it is, I have great news for you. We have drugs, we have surgery, we have radiation where we’re going to shrink that and get you back to your health.” He’s going to help me heal, the doctors, the nurses, the support staff and the volunteers along the way. They’re all going to be part of my journey towards healing.
And so why are we so open-minded when we get cancer and we realize we can’t cure cancer by ourselves and we are so willing and appreciative of other people’s help? But yet when it comes to alcohol we feel that we have to do it solo. I’ll tell you why I think it is. It’s because there’s hardly any shame in cancer. It’s not like people with cancer say, “I did this to myself.” But you know what I hear a lot in the drinking circles? “Why do I keep doing this to myself?” And that means there’s shame. And any time there’s shame it makes it harder to move forward.
So needing the help of others, I don’t think is a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of hey, I’m ready for change and I’m ready to get it. This is what I desire. I desire a life where I don’t want so much alcohol, where I can take it or leave it. I can stop overdrinking. And guess what? That requires you to be selfish. I’m going to tell you right now, you have to go within and connect to what it is you’re filling with alcohol that’s not being met. How else can you fill that need? How else can you meet that need? And maybe you just need tools to learn how to do it. No problem.
When we don’t know how to do things we go back to school, we take an online course, we find out the way to do it. And when you’re loving your life and you’re listening to your desires, and your wants, your soul sings. You spread light and joy for the world to see, you contribute more, you show up more beautifully, more powerfully, more lovingly. Notice being selfish is about you, it’s not about stepping on other people. It’s about you living the life that you’re called to live.
And I just want to remind you that you get to live it however you want, however you desire. And when I work with my clients I have them go through their wants and desires because that is such an important process especially as women as we become disconnected from ourselves. And we do all the checkboxes that we think are going to make us happy.
And when we’re not and when we look fabulous on paper but yet our experience of life is ho-hum and subpar guess what helps? Alcohol, it helps that mismatch that we feel, that divide, that why can’t I be happy or I have all the things? I was there, I know, that’s because I wasn’t connecting with what I truly wanted. I was drowning my problems in the drink. I was avoiding what needed to be paid attention to.
And once I started paying attention to what needed to be paid attention to, that’s where I found peace, contentment, knowing of who I was, what I stood for and what was important to me. And when you get to that side of life you don’t need alcohol. You don’t even want it because it’s just a distraction to the goodness that you feel.
So here’s what I think, being selfish is an amazing gift to yourself. It’s knowing what you stand for, who you are, the life you want to create and you’re going after it with vigor, and determination, and joy, and gratitude, and appreciation. And you’re just so thankful that you get to direct it, desire to lead the good life because there you will need less alcohol. You will want less alcohol because your life and your lifestyle is so good alcohol becomes irrelevant. So maybe you just haven’t connected with yourself and your life in this way. And I urge you to. I highly recommend it.
Go all in and be more selfish my friends, go after the life you truly want, the one that lights you up, the one that makes your soul sing. Alright my beautiful ladies I will see you next week.
Hey, if you’re loving this podcast I’d love to hear from you. Please rate and review this podcast as it helps others discover this work and free them from alcohol. And I’d love to read your review and give you a shout out on an upcoming episode. Cheers.
Thanks for listening to Drink Less Lifestyle. If you’re ready to change your relationship with drinking now check out the free guide, How to Effectively Break the Overdrinking Habit at sherryprice.com/startnow. See you next week.