WOW Word-Of-the-Week #477: Self-ish

September 26, 2013 by  

Self-ish to not disregard your own advantages and welfare over those of others.

Do you remember the last time someone told you, “You’re selfish?”  Was it because you were not doing what they wanted you to do? Do you often shove your needs aside and honor other people’s priorities, at your own expense? When was the last time you did something just for you?

This week’s WOW is for my “sister.” I purposely changed the spelling of the word because I want to focus on the word self. The following story comes from one my dear friends who is no longer living and I think of her often. Let me know if you can relate to any of this.

“The ethic or value that ‘it’s a bad thing to be selfish’ is taught to us when we are really young.  And that ethic of ‘don’t be selfish’ is perpetuated by reactions that you get from siblings, and parents, as you age.  There are several examples in my adult life, where members of my family, and in my case, my siblings primarily, really drove that point home.

In 1970, I was 27 years old, married, and living in South Bend, Indiana. In the summer of that year my sister a selfishSandi and I had planned to take our very first trip to Europe together. About one week before we were supposed to leave, my husband and I decided we needed to get a divorce. I was devastated emotionally because I wasn’t really prepared for it to happen and realized that this was going to be a life changing event.  I decided that I would want to move from the area, find a different job and that I needed to begin working on that right away!

 Immediately I called my sister and told her that we would need to delay the trip and cancel this one, for the time being. There weren’t any financial repercussions. In those days airline tickets could be refunded. My sister was very upset and said very little to me at that time.

On my birthday, December the 12th, of that same year, I was now living in Lansing, Michigan. I had just moved there twelve days prior, and did not know a single person in the entire area. I went to my mailbox and found a letter from my sister. I was delighted because it was my birthday and I thought for sure she was sending me a card and good wishes.  WRONG!

What I found when I opened the envelope, was a 10-page diatribe about how selfish I was.  She included a list of grievances that went back 25 years of things I had done wrong in her estimation. In addition, she listed a full page of things I owed her for, including the cost of a Frommer Guide for Europe, and misc. other things from over the past ten years that I had selfishly neglected to take care of. I will never forget this! I even remember the dollar amount, $28.68. Bottom line, I was devastated. I spent my entire birthday in tears. I couldn’t believe how uncaring and mean she was.

 It is my opinion that when people tell you, ‘You are selfish’ it is because you are not doing what they want you to do. I also believe that it has a lot to do with control. They want you to do something you don’t want to do, or they want to blame you for events that happen, rather than taking responsibility.

Being self-ish simply means you don’t allow yourself to be left out of the mix.  You can still serve others – however you make sure you are served in the process. It’s keeping things equitable, instead of sacrificing your desires at another’s request.

This week’s focus is on being self-ish. Do you believe that it is okay to value your needs and rights, occasionally putting yourself first? Maybe it is time to finally take a step back and make sure that you are taking care of your “self.” Are you?