It’s Okay to be Selfish--getting your needs met

I feel one of the most prominent concepts amongst the theories I learned from past psychologists was Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of (human) needs.  Our very basic needs are for food and shelter, then safety and security, followed by love and belonging, esteem or self-esteem, and lastly, self actualization— The achievement of one’s full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world.  Self actualization is the top need that one can strive to fulfill.  

If one of your needs isn’t met, you can feel unbalanced, frustrated, depressed, lonely, or many other emotions--depending on what need is not being met.  To be selfish means that one is concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself:  seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.  We are not talking about that here.  We are talking about paying attention to what you need, making sure you are not spreading yourself so thin that there is no room left for you.

To be selfless means that one is concerned with the needs and wishes of others than one’s own. It was really difficult to pick just one example of a person that I could share that would encompass all of what it looks and feels like to not be there for yourself, and put other’s needs before yours.  Selflessness is different for everybody.

If you feel that you give more than you get in any relationship in your life, romantic or otherwise--that leaves you feeling resentful, not considered, or that your efforts aren’t reciprocated, are you truly selfish?  If you’ve somehow ended up taking on extra work to please your boss, which keeps you from the gym or your favorite yoga class, and leaves you feeling grouchy—physically and emotionally, are you selfish?  What can you do to start on a path to empowering yourself to move away from too much selflessness, and getting your needs met?

Give yourself permission.  That old adage, “ You cannot help others until you help yourself.”  could be of benefit to look at.


Identify what makes you feel the need to give so much to others.  Knowing is half the battle can be more than a cliché.  Somewhere along the way you may have learned, or fallen into the role of the giver, the peacemaker, or the mediator in order to make others around you happy.  Knowing what is making you think the way you are can help lead you towards acting in a different way. 

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan… –Pablo Picasso

Set boundaries.  What do you want for your life that is missing?  Do you want uninterrupted weekends so you can get things done that have been nagging at you in the back of your mind?  Do you want Sundays to sleep in?  Do you have an activity you’ve been itching to try, but saying yes to others has kept you away from it? What boundaries need to be set so you can reach your goals?

Practice saying no.  I personally can say no to almost everything, and I know where and how I developed that skill. Right now I have four text messages on my phone. They are not priority right now. I’ve returned phone calls, had appointments with some of my clients, worked out at the gym, and am now working on this article after a yummy dinner that I prepared on Sunday. Taking time to prep my meals for the week saves time for me to get what I need to get done during the week with less rush or stress.  This means I’ve said no to other things on Sundays. Where and how did you develop the skill of saying yes to others, and no to yourself?  Here is a recent blog that may be helpful.

Do you value self care?  Self care is huge!  That’s what this article is really about.  Can you dedicate time to pamper yourself?  Can you cut corners on spending money on things you don’t need to get things you really NEED—like a massage, a quiet day on the beach, kayaking slowly alongside manatees?  What things will rejuvenate your spirit and well-being?

Can you find a work-life balance?  So many are so focused on their careers and success, and forgetting that there is more to life.  My father has always had the saying, “I eat to live, not live to eat.”  If we only live to work, are we then not working so we can “live”?  It may be difficult if you find a strong purpose in your career.  I very much get that one myself.  Maybe you cover for a coworker that goes home sick on the day a big project is due.  These days can happen.  But, if that becomes a pattern, at some point you may burn out.  Here is a past article on this catered towards my fellow therapists.  No matter what your career, too much can be too much.

Changing is a process.  Being a bit more selfish with your time and efforts can have plusses and minuses at first.  If you’ve been the, “yes man”, it may take others around you some time to adjust, but they will, and so will you--much happier. 

If you know someone that could benefit from this, please feel free to share.  Always feel free to reach out if you feel you could benefit from some assistance working on caring more for yourself.


 1.   Give yourself permission. 

2.   Identify what makes you feel the need to give so much to others.

3.   Set boundaries. 

4.   Practice saying no. 

5.   Do you value self care? 

6.   Can you find a work-life balance?