I just love words.
I love to learn new words and use old words. I love to use the word “Word” when I wholeheartedly agree with somebody, followed closely by the word “up” or “dude”.
Nostalgically, two of my all-time favorite words are “cudgel” and “habiliments”. I learned them when I was about 8 years old and was able to work them into daily conversation, thereby impressing unsuspecting adults. (Look them up if you don’t know their meanings – there are still thousands of adults to impress out there!)
Like people, words can be fun, supportive, educational and useful. Unfortunately, just like people, they are often misused, misunderstood, and harshly judged.
Take for example the word “SELFISH”.
What pops into your mind when this word rolls off your tongue? I was taught that “selfish” was an incredibly undesirable, inappropriate behavior. It meant you weren’t putting others (meaning everyone else) first – like you should. It meant you were not engaging in the act of making others happy before you took care of your own needs. People who were “selfish” were also labeled self-centered, snobbish, egotistical, stuck-up, and disrespectful.
At a very young age, I was incorrectly tagged with the “selfish” label.
A very undesirable label.
Which is why I quickly learned to be a people pleaser.
Which led to a lack of self-confidence and self-respect.
Which led to several failed relationships.
Which led to giving up on my dreams.
Which is why I didn’t show up in the world as the very cool person I truly am.
That is, until I realized my label didn’t fit. It just didn’t make sense to me.
So I looked-up “selfish” in the dictionary:
“The quality or state of being selfish; exclusive regard to one’s own interest or happiness; that supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, without regarding those of others.”
and broke it down…
“The quality or state of being selfish; (okay – no biggie) exclusive regard to one’s own interest or happiness; (good, good) that supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, (Hurray for everyone! I LOVE THIS!!!!) without regarding those of others.” (Yuck.)
The last 5 words stung, but didn’t make sense. They didn’t say “while being mean to others”, or “while deliberately dismissing other’s feelings”.
They said, “without regarding those (interest or happiness) of others.”
This may sound a little simplified, but wouldn’t that roughly translate into “while staying in one’s own business.”?
By my calculation, if everyone practiced the first 38 words of the definition of selfish and substituted my rough translation for the last 5 words, it would make sense that we wouldn’t need to put other’s interest or happiness before ours because they’d be taking care of those things themselves.
Isn’t the “bad” definition of selfish actually some type of Catch 22? I mean, if you think I’m selfish for not taking care of you first, aren’t you concerned with the “you first” before thinking about me? Isn’t that “selfish?”
I truly believe SELFISH is a good word. I practice it every day, and I fully encourage you to do the same. Nobody knows your needs better than you – so who better than you to fill those needs? You are all you really have.
And while you’re at it, here are a couple of other words you can practice at the same time that fit nicely along side my definition of “selfish” that DO regard those of others:
I just love words.
“Word up. Dude.”