To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost. - Gustave Flaubert
At a tumultuous point in my relationship with my mother, I broke down and told her that she needed to be more selfish. I told her I couldn’t stand her selflessness anymore. It was killing her, and me, in return.
“Just be selfish!” I demanded. “Do what makes you happy! Because until you make yourself happy I will never be.” It was a selfish demand full of selfless motive.
What most mothers don’t realize is their selfless love, that love that makes them only worry about others and never their own needs, becomes a burden for those around them.
It’s what makes them tired and weak. It’s what creates the lines of pain around their face and the constant worrying of those who just want to see them happy.
While selfless people may attain some slight glimmer of happiness from helping others, their sacrificial lifestyle is not good for their health. What selfless people also don't realize is they aren't making us happier with their constant giving, but rather, they're making us constantly worry about them.
Is carrying guilt a heavier burden than someone else’s needs? For sacrificial mothers everywhere, research suggests not. All those years of sacrificing for others does not necessarily make them happier, but less in tune to their own desires.
According to psychological studies, if you are able to get past the initial pain of letting others down, you are destined for a happier and longer life.
According to a report published by Daily Mail, people are most content when able to fulfill their most selfish desires. In a study conducted by researches at University of Pennsylvania, participants were asked to spend three dollars given to them by the researchers.
One group was instructed to donate the money to UNICEF, the other group was told to keep it and the last was given a choice. The students told to keep the money, thus fulfilling their selfish desires, reported themselves the most content, compared to those who had to donate or make their own decision about it.
The reports of the study suggested that even those who were given a choice, whether to donate or keep the money, felt conflicted, stressed and less happy because of the conflict of interest.
This is due to the lifelong burden that religion has ingrained in many since childhood. We are constantly wrestling against the notion that "selflessness" is good and keeping things for yourself is wrong.
For anyone with Catholic mothers, instilling a sense of selfishness can be harder than explaining why you can't wear white to your wedding. It’s not in their nature to think about themselves before others.
It’s not part of their religion to worry about their needs before their neighbors'. It's not part of their motherly instincts to help themselves before their children.
What their religion never emphasized was the importance of tending to yourself and your needs before others'. As they explicitly warn on every pre-flight safety demonstration video, you must attend to your own safety before those around you.
What our mothers don't realize is that we don't need them sacrificing for us anymore; we are fine. We can take care of ourselves, we are happy... and now, we need them to be happy.
We are tired of worrying about them, wondering if they are taking care of their needs and doing things that make them happy. So for all the children out there, worrying about their mothers, here's exactly why you should tell them to learn to be a little more selfish.
Your relationships will be better off if you worry about yourself
Imagine how much better your relationship would be if your mother stopped worrying about you and started having fun for herself.
Daily Mail published the findings from another study that measured the relationships of couples and how selfishness played a role in their happiness. The study, conducted by Casey Totenhagen, surveyed 154 married couples.
In her research, she asked the couples to record daily activities they considered to be sacrificial for their partners. These were chores or acts done to satisfy or help the needs of their partners, rather than themselves.
The research found that when a person who was already stressed and overworked committed the altruistic act of taking over something for his or her partner, it strained their relationship.
Rather than the feelings of contentment that come with helping those in need, the sacrificial partner grew resentful of the extra work her or she needed to do. The study concluded with the advice that it doesn’t help your relationship to do a bunch of selfless acts in the name of another, but rather, creates a rift.
These findings could be aptly applied to the relationship of mother and child. Children, once they reach an age of maturity, begin to feel the strain when their mothers refuse to help themselves, but only worry about the need of their kin.
Once we reach an age at which that self-absorbed attitude turns to one of compassion and empathy, we no longer want their sacrifices.
There’s nothing worse than watching your mother sacrifice her happiness for yours.
Being selfless is selfish
In a weird way, mothers everywhere are being selfish by trying to be so selfless. They don’t realize that their blind attempts to make us happy are actually making us miserable. Their selfishness is quite selfish.
There comes an age at which we go from being self-involved adolescents to caring adults, and the burden of the parents is entrusted to the children. Rather than them worrying about us all the time, we start worrying about them. Are they healthy? Are they comfortable? Are they happy?
In a case of role reversal, we no longer want our parents sacrificing for us, but would rather they let us sacrifice for them. We want to see them sit down and relax and finally reap the benefits of having capable adult children.
We want to know that they are enjoying themselves and taking a break from the 20 plus years they spent raising us. Refusing to let us sacrifice for them is in its own way, well, selfish.
It’s so you can live longer… and we can have you longer
According to Melissa Deuter, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, being selfish means taking responsibility for your personal and emotional needs.
It's a necessary process that keeps you living longer and making sure both your health and emotional states are in check. Some daily "me time" isn't just vital for your sanity, but your good health.
According to Fast Company, being selfish means taking care of yourself. Your relationships are not supposed to be co-dependent, with you giving up your life for the benefit of others.
They should, rather, be two semi-selfish people enjoying each other's company. When you start giving up things for those around you, you grow strained and resentful.
Being selfish doesn't have to be some punishable act, but rather, good for your health.
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