You read that right. Read it again, just to be sure. Yes, you read that title correctly. Now, repeat after me:
It’s OK to be selfish.
Read once more. Say it out loud. Get the flavor of those words in your mouth and embedded in your mind. It’s OK to be selfish.
This is a hard lesson for many people to learn. We’re told so often that we should think of others, that we should stop being selfish, that what we do or say helps no one but ourselves.
You know what? Sometimes, it really is OK to be selfish.
This is important not only for mundane life, but for magical practice as well. In everyday life, most of us are surrounded by people: on our commute, at our jobs, at home with family, etc. And how many times have you heard “Stop being so selfish” or “you shouldn’t be selfish, you should share,” or any other variation? My guess is, most of us have heard it many times over the years, and usually when someone wanted something from us, whether that something was our time, our attention, our services, or our toys. (And don’t even get me started on sharing books . . . that’s another topic entirely.)
It is ingrained into us early on. Selfishness is bad. Selfishness on any level is bad. Being selfish is horrible and negative and ugly.
After 26 years of life, my response is a big “screw that.” Because I have finally learned it’s OK to be selfish. It’s OK to take time for myself. It’s OK to not waste my time and energy helping other people solve their problems when they don’t really want to solve their problems in the first place. It’s perfectly alright to say no to someone’s request or demand. It’s OK to not want to share certain things, especially if they’re special to me. It’s acceptable to be selfish and place my wants and needs first.
Now, I’m not saying we should all turn into selfish brats that never share, never consider other people, and never place others’ needs first.
I am saying that there is a balance. But first and foremost, you must take care of yourself first. Otherwise, how can you possibly help anyone else? If people are asking too much of you and you feel run-down and drained, it’s OK to step back and say you’re not going to help anyone else for a while until you’re back on your own two stable feet. If people want money from you, but you have bills to pay, it’s OK to say that you have to pay your bills first and don’t have money to spare right now, but that maybe later on you would be able to help. If people are invading your space and you’re trying to concentrate/study/sleep/relax, it’s OK to request that they leave or quiet down.
It’s easy to overextend yourself, especially if that’s already in your basic nature. I used to give so much of myself away to other people without even thinking about what that meant for me. Then I would feel exhausted and drained and wonder why. Eventually I figured it out: I was spending so much time and energy focused on others that I had stopped caring about myself. And that’s when I discovered how pernicious and corrosive the never-be-selfish mindset truly is.
Magically speaking, I think it’s almost necessary to be somewhat selfish. You have to make sure you’re not too drained, for example, so that you have enough energy to do whatever working or spell you want to do. Protection spells are all over the place, but some people (myself included) never think to work one even when they need it. Why? Because you aren’t necessarily thinking about yourself first, you’re thinking about the other person or people who has posed the threat. And in much of Paganism, the path is what you make it. The right path for you is what feels right for you. No one else. If that’s not selfish, then what is? You have to place your feelings and your intuition at the forefront of your mind, because that is what tells you if something is wrong or right. Someone else could say such-and-such ritual is practiced all the time or so-and-so is a widely respected individual in the community, but if something doesn’t feel right to you, then for you it’s not right. This idea of going with whatever works best or feels right for the individual is often spoken of in the wider Pagan community, but has anyone stopped to consider how selfish that notion really is? It’s selfish in that in order for it to be true, each person must put themselves and their feelings first in their world. And that’s perfectly OK. You have to know what it is you want for your life in order to go after it, and what you want likely will not mesh with what other people want, or want for you.
It’s OK to put yourself first. It’s OK to be selfish. Just don’t get a big head about it!