“You’re being selfish.” One of those good ol’ parental sentences to make us understand what we’ve done wrong, or at least to make us feel guilty. My mom still uses it on the kids she baby-sits, so I probably got a steady stream of it throughout my childhood. Nowadays if my mom said to me, “You’re being selfish”—well, I would probably cry. But if anyone else accused me of the trait, especially if the accusation lacked the disappointed mom tone, I would be likely to respond with, “Thank you.”
Watching children snatch toys away from each other, I think about the horrible things I must have done in my first few years. I was once two years old, I remind myself. I cringe.
But this “mine, mine, mine” mentality naturally accompanies the goal we are born with: survival. Our lives begin as, well, struggles for life. And if we’re lucky, that’s what our lives will stay until the end.
Survival has come pretty easily for me. I’ve been fortunate to be able to devote my effort so far to really living. A couple of my current goals are graduating with a bachelor’s in Professional Writing and building an environmentally friendly home for a family that needs a better place to live. These goals are purely selfish. They reflect what I think is important: education, words, home, family, hard work, Mother Nature, and helping those who help themselves. I can’t accomplish these things by myself. The people who help me with each goal share the same values that goal represents. Working to achieve them is really living. It’s pleasing ourselves by doing what we think is good, what is right and fun and worthwhile. It’s my kind of selfishness.
I believe in being selfish with time and using it as you see fit, always keeping your eyes wide open, always learning from whatever you do. I believe in the values that come from learning. I believe in the right of every individual to stick to his or her hard-earned values. I believe that selfishness in the right hands is the root of the world’s progress. It is the admission of your right to think and create and work and grow.
Selfishness is not an excuse to never have to share. It’s a reason to constantly improve yourself. It’s a reason to make sure you can trust yourself. It’s a reminder to earn everything you get. And it’s a reason to respect the people around you. They’re soaking up the world, too. They’re being selfish. Hopefully, they think they deserve their slices of the scrumptious pie of life. Hopefully, they’re right.
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