Is Being Selfish Always Wrong?

Buying a Red magazine before I go on holiday has become somewhat of a ritual over recent years. Ever since I cancelled my monthly subscription due to too many editions being left to gather dust, I have reserved it for treat time only. Just looking at that brightly coloured, glossy front page signals ‘down time’ for me.

I now ensure that I devour every single page of said ‘treat’ and this month, I came across an interview with the (still, at 53) stunningly beautiful Yasmin Le Bon.

I love reading the pearls of wisdom from older women. I think as we reach middle age, we can be left feeling as though it’s all about the younger generation. Well let me tell you people, that’s a lie! I adored Davina Mccall’s book, probably for the same reason: older women have been there, we’ve made the mistakes, we’ve got the t-shirt and are re-writing the rule book. Don’t dismiss us!

Anyway, where was I? *Gets off soap box*

I agreed with every single point Yasmin made – bar one where she mentioned that she will always be best friends with her daughters (probably a post for another day) – but the one piece of advice that really got me thinking, was this:

‘Put yourself first because no one else will’

Growing up as a Christian, we were taught to put ourselves last. Always. ‘Jesus first, Yourself last and Others in between’ went the song lyrics (they spell JOY in case you were wondering!). Of course I agree in principle but as I’ve grown older (and maybe a little wiser) like Yasmin, I’ve realised that there are occasions when putting yourself first is absolutely essential.

When you’re a mother, putting yourself first is practically impossible to do. As soon as the midwife passes us that little bundle of joy, we are called to be selfless; it becomes ingrained in us and is a natural part of human nature. I don’t think motherhood would work any other way, but sometimes I think we can take it a little too far.

Along with that rush of selfless love that comes with motherhood, there’s a whole helping of guilt on the side and that my friends, is VERY hard to shake. I’ve been a mother for almost 18 years and I’ve been battling with it for the best part of those.

I still find myself justifying a lie-in, trying to prove to everyone around me why I deserve that 30 minute bath (by myself) and have even been known to jump up from the sofa when I hear the OH’s car tyres on the gravel outside our house!

Ok, when I write it down it sounds ridiculous to me too, but I bet I’m not alone in this.

There are a few reasons why I think that mothers (and everyone for that matter) need to put themselves first sometimes:

1. You’re the hub of the wheel; if you go down, everyone does.

Mental wellbeing has been overlooked for centuries. Thankfully, we are slowly beginning to realise that our minds are AS important as our bodies – we need to look after both.

If I’m not looking after myself properly (ie occasionally putting myself first), everyone knows about it: I’m grumpier than usual, my patience is severely lacking and resentment begins to slide its way into my thoughts. It won’t be long before my back gives way, forcing me to slow down and rest. What are the tell-tale signs for you?

2. Our children need to learn the importance of rest (and saying ‘no’).

I seem to carry around this little voice of obligation 24/7, the one that taps me on the shoulder and whispers ‘don’t drop out now, you committed to this and they are relying on your attendance’ when I know deep down that I probably need to put myself first.

I have one child who seems hell-bent on running herself into the ground. She finds it hard to relax and naturally likes to be busy. Like most teenagers, she isn’t great at listening to her mother’s advice so the only other option is to model it myself. That includes factoring in time to rest and show that sometimes, putting myself first is not selfish but a necessity.

3. Entitlement is a very real problem in our children’s generation.

Everyone is talking about the ‘Millenials’ at the moment; the generation growing up thinking that the world owes them something. To be honest, I feel sorry for the next generation and I think as parents we are partly to blame for this attitude of entitlement that they are accused of carrying around like a badge of honour.

This maybe a bit blunt for some but we really do need to say ‘no’ to our children more often! I think it’s important for them to realise that they are not always at the centre of the universe and that occasionally they do come second. If they don’t learn this valuable lesson in the comfort of their family home, they are going to come crashing down with a very nasty bump when the real world hits.

4. Motherhood is knackering.

Our culture is obsessed with busyness, feeling the need to prove to others that our existence is worthwhile and that we are significant. The truth is, we can’t be either of those things if we are so worn out that we have nothing left to give. I know that I simply cannot give my family (or those around me) my best when I am depleted.

Most of us want to help and be there for others, don’t we? We want to demonstrate to our children that being kind and putting others before ourselves is important but how can we actually do that when we are at the end of our rope?

It probably comes back to finding that elusive thing called ‘balance’ but if we want to be there for others when it matters, we need to put ourselves first every once in a while; it’s not selfish, it’s a necessity.

you can't pour from an empty cup

Do you ever find yourself justifying ‘down time’ or have you managed to ditch the guilt?

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25 Comments

  1. February 21, 2018 / 7:06 pm

    You are right. It is only recently that I have started putting myself first, but it is having a positive effect on all of us x

    • Suzanne
      Author
      February 21, 2018 / 9:00 pm

      Yes that’s the thing I think we overlook. When we ignore our own needs, we inevitably end up being horribly grumpy with everyone (or ill!). I just need to get into a routine with it. xx

  2. February 21, 2018 / 10:11 pm

    Totally get this Suzanne, I have got so much more selfish in the last couple of year, mainly down to the nature of my blog and getting to travel alone, but it has made me realise that everyone manages whilst I am away, if fact they like a bit of boys time. Its good for us all as they appreciate me more when I get home x

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      March 8, 2018 / 12:17 am

      Totally agree that spending a little time on yourself is good for everyone concerned. x

  3. February 22, 2018 / 9:19 am

    Such an important post. I am terrible at putting myself first. I find the time when everyone is out of the house is a good time to recharge my batteries, even though I’m actually working! At least I’m doing it in peace without interruption. Sadly although my husband realises how much the family relies on me, he doesn’t realise that sometimes I need a break to be able to keep going!

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      March 8, 2018 / 12:18 am

      Yes you definitely need a break! Sometimes I think we have to force it, whether those around us realise we need it or not. x

  4. February 22, 2018 / 11:33 am

    Oh I couldn’t read this at a better time of feeling like I am doing everything and no one is doing anything for me. Overhelmed with house, baby prep, business work, kids school stuff, homework, sports and running around. I was just thinking last night I best take care of me because clearly no one else is going to step up to the plate. Love this post. #wrc

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      March 8, 2018 / 12:19 am

      Oh Jenny, I’m sad for you! I think we need to get better at recognising the signs of when we need rest and to take better care of ourselves. Hope you’re starting to implement some self care. x

  5. February 22, 2018 / 1:35 pm

    Suzanne,

    Christians are told “Love your neighbour as yourself”, not “Love your neighbour instead of yourself”. Of course, loving someone isn’t the same as giving them whatever they want — so we shouldn’t be selfish or self-indulgent, any more than we should indulge other people (not just Millennials!) in their sense of entitlement. But there’s no virtue in being masochistic. As so often, we need to steer a course between equal and opposite dangers.

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      March 8, 2018 / 12:20 am

      Love how you’ve put this. Thanks for the reminder, my mum said exactly the same to me! Love your neighbour as yourself 🙂

  6. February 22, 2018 / 2:31 pm

    Love this post Suzanne, and you’re so right – I’ve learned to take a bit more time for myself over the past few months and now even have a couple of clubs that I go to once or twice a month – the difference it’s all made has been quite huge. I keep seeing posts about that copy of Red magazine and the interview with YLB on Instagram. I bought my sister a copy of it yesterday so I hope she lets me read it too! xx

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      March 22, 2018 / 10:43 pm

      That’s so good, I’m glad that you’re making some much-needed time for yourself. It’s so needed isn’t it? xx

  7. February 26, 2018 / 2:41 pm

    You’re so right, it’s something I’m terrible at as I know a lot of mums are. I swore I’d make more time for me when my youngest upped her hours at preschool but before she even started I’d made moves to line up some more work because I felt that we needed the money more than I needed the break. Oh well, one day!
    Nat.x

  8. February 26, 2018 / 5:50 pm

    Oh it really is important to have some my time even if it is just reading a mag for a few mins. We make a commitment to each other regularly to enjoy some time even if just 20 mins in the bath

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      March 22, 2018 / 10:43 pm

      I seem to remember you saying before that you and your husband are great at this. Love that it’s just part of your routine. xx

  9. February 26, 2018 / 9:34 pm

    I’ve not had a lie-in for eleven years now! I do escape for a walk on my own from time to time though – that’s my ‘me-time’. I used to feel guilty about it but not any more – it’s the one thing that keeps me mentally and emotional well and my husband understands that. Completely agree with modelling the behaviour we want our children (daughters in particular I feel) to learn, and also to saying ‘no’.

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      March 22, 2018 / 10:46 pm

      Yes I think that’s the way they learn and it’s a responsibility that we need to take seriously. I’m constantly having to tell myself that relaxation and time out is okay, though! xx

  10. February 27, 2018 / 1:35 pm

    I think a big part of being a good mum is being happy and content, and this means that sometimes you definitely need to put yourself first. I don’t necessarily think that means being selfish just realising that you deserve a treat every once in a while. My girls will always be my priority and I will always put them first when they need me but that doesn’t mean I can’t have the odd day or night off. Great post and so interesting!! Yasmin Le Bon is an absolute goddess…

  11. February 27, 2018 / 3:34 pm

    I don’t think putting yourself first is selfish necessarily — if I’m not well and content then I can’t be a good mother to my boys. Although, to be honest, I don’t 100% agree with the children coming first.

    I remember reading an article about Laura Ashley — she said she put her husband first, then her children, then her business —
    as ultimately, when the children flew the nest, it would be her and her husband once more.That really resonated with me!

    I think a bit of self care is a good thing — running on empty is no good for anyone.

  12. February 28, 2018 / 2:05 pm

    Love this Suzanne! I’ve just written a post on self care and I think it’s just so important, after all as you say you can’t pour from an empty cup. I always think of ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ what does it say of how we love others if we can’t love and look after ourselves? xx

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      March 8, 2018 / 12:21 am

      You’re not the first person to remind me of that verse! Very important reminder. Thank you. xx

  13. March 5, 2018 / 10:11 pm

    Great post Suzanne, and I couldn’t agree more. As I’m now working full time there is very little me-time where I am not doing something for someone and it does wear you down. Over half term I went out on my own for the morning, had my nails done (in Tesco’s because I had to do the shopping too) but then went clothes shopping and had lunch in a cafe, and I sat drinking coffee on my own watching the world go by. And I came home refreshed and relaxed, I need to book some time to myself in more often. xx

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      March 8, 2018 / 12:22 am

      You can get your nails done in Tesco’s?! And yes, you do need to carve out time for yourself and are not to feel guilty. x

  14. March 7, 2018 / 5:22 pm

    Great post lovely, I also bought that magazine on your recommendation actually and really enjoyed reading that article. Its is so hard to put yourself first as a Mother, with 3 little ones there is always someone who needs feeding, or reading with and hugging etc however this year I am really trying to take a little time to myself. I have even found myself explaining to my girls that Mummy needs a rest too at times. I have also got better at listening to my body – because if I get sick then it all pretty much comes to a standstill!!

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      March 8, 2018 / 12:25 am

      Lots of people said they bought the magazine after I flagged up this article! I think it’s a great thing to model to your children and show that it’s not something to feel guilty about. x

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