“Selfish” is a terrible, awful, no good word that gets bandied about our society quite frequently. I find it particularly uncomfortable because I’ve had it aimed at me.
Usually, the selfish dagger originates from the fact that I am childfree; Husband and I have decided that the two of us will be the only humans in our family. Because of this, people assume that if I don’t devote my life to a child, I must devote my life to bon-bons, daytime television and my own hedonistic pleasure-seeking. It’s a shockingly common and enduring stereotype that makes my blood boil — along with the idea that childfree women are cold, uncaring, will never know real love and are not actual women…but that’s for another post.
People also tend to think those on a spiritual path are oblivious navel-gazers.
Oh yeah, and I’m an only child.
So, I am triple screwed when it comes to that selfishness label.
But, I am not selfish. I would list all the things I do that are selfless, but I don’t want to get all defensive and feel like I have to justify and prove myself. Not on my own blog.
Clearly, I have internalized this whole selfish thing. For example, I am a quilter. I am a tattooed, vegetarian yogi quilter. Unusual, I know, but I love quilting. I love quilts. I have gone to quilt shows just to admire them. I think they are stunning works of art and they bring me joy. I’ve been quilting for about six years but I recently realized something – I don’t have a quilt. Every pre-schooler within a 100 mile radius has a handmade quilt from me. I made a quilt for our guest room. The dog has a quilt. But I don’t have a quilt to call my own.
It suddenly occurred to me that this is odd.
So, I am making myself a quilt.
And I feel terrible about it.
Every time I sit down to work on this quilt, I wonder, should I really be spending time on this? It’s so selfish. Am I really sewing this quilt for myself just because it makes me happy?
Yes. I am sewing this quilt for myself because it makes me happy.
Aren’t happy people better for the world?
I am not hurting or neglecting anyone by making myself a quilt. Yet, when ever I make a decision like this, choosing something that is in my own best interest and makes me happy or improves my life in some way, I hear this hiss of selfish in my ear.
“In Mandarin Chinese, they have two words for selfish. One means doing that which is beneficial to you and the other means hoarding, greedy, and cruel. We, in English have pushed those two words together.”
There is a huge difference between those two definitions. We should encourage people who do what is right for them, what makes them feel fulfilled and able to face the challenges of being human. Not everyone in the world has the exact same opportunities and desires, and that is why you should take advantage of yours. Have babies or don’t. Work outside the home or inside. Quilt or sky dive or go to clown college. If your passions are not hoarding, greedy or cruel – have at it.
Be the good kind of selfish and share that joy.
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