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The Power of Being Selfish: Selfishness as a Key to Mental Health

Selfishness & Mental Health

Mental health requires that you work on meeting your own personal needs, in addition to meeting any other responsibilities you might have.

I’m about to tell you something that your mother might not approve of…so for those of you sensitive souls out there, you might want to click on something less controversial.

Here it is:

It’s okay (and sometimes even essential!) to be a little bit selfish.

Conventional wisdom, and our parents, often tell us that it’s not okay to be selfish.  If you want to be an effective parent, you must learn to put your kids’ needs before your own.  Likewise, to be a good spouse, you must learn to  honor your partner’s needs.  These are truths, and if you aren’t living these truths in your daily life, it is likely that your relationships have suffered.


As with anything, these truths must not be taken to extremes.

I found myself thinking about this idea over the weekend as I was talking to a friend going through a particularly challenging situation.  In some cases, to be healthy, wealthy, and wise…we need to make specific efforts to honor our own needs.  If we don’t, we run the risk of completely burning ourselves out and suffering the ill effects of depression, stress, and anxiety.

What do I mean by honoring our own needs?

Some examples of this might include:

  • Celebrating your own successes at work, school, and home.
  • Recognizing and utilizing “me time” when needed.
  • Setting and enforcing appropriate boundaries with others.
  • Allowing yourself to feel pride in something you do well.
  • Learning how to gracefully say “no” to others.
  • Letting other people know your true opinions and feelings.
  • Accepting help from others (even when you could do the same job yourself).

Technically, these things are selfish.

But they are also essential ingredients for health, success, and wisdom.

Go tell your mother it’s okay to be selfish sometimes.  She’ll be grateful.

Questions? Comments? Sound off below.

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  1. Honestly, I needed someone to tell me this. I often burn myself out at school (I’m a college student right now), and the result is eventually missing a day of classes and assignments because I get nearly sick from the anxiety and stress (physical and mental) of it all. But if I were to be selfish in a way and focus more on my health, something that certainly seems selfish, maybe things like that wouldn’t happen so much!

    Thank you for your article.

    • Investing time in self-care can pay great dividends. Although it’s not always easy, it’s essential for finding the right balance.

  2. I use your article often in my groups at the Psychiatric Hospital that I currently work at. Many of the patients think selfishness has to be a negative attack on others, your article has allowed me to have many open discussions about healthy forms of selfishness! Thank You!

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