Opinion: Learning to be selfish

Amanda Anastasia Paniagua

A trusted mentor once said to me, “Amanda, every once and awhile you have to learn to be selfish.”

When I first heard this, I was taken aback a little because I didn’t quite fully understand what she meant.

This is partly because as a society, we tend to think of selfishness as a negative attribute to possess. And indeed, in some cases it can very much be. For example, if we purposefully hurt or use others for personal gain, we are acting in a potentially negative way.

My personality is one that is incredibly giving. I consider myself an empath; someone who feels with all of themselves the emotions that others are feeling. I tend to take a lot more upon my shoulders than I should and when everything becomes due, I run around in a frantic panic mode, not knowing for sure if I’ll get it all done or accomplished.

Somehow, I end up fulfilling my responsibilities, but I’ve come to find that this is not the healthiest way to live.

Additionally, I tend to put everyone else before myself. Again, this can be seen as a good thing in our society; to be selfless, caring and loving toward others. Indeed, I would hope this is the kind of person I am most days, but there is a cost to being this kind of person.

This past semester, I have begun to understand exactly what selfishness means for me. In the midst of final projects, papers, assignments, work and personal commitments, I have learned to say “no” to certain things.

For example, I tried to take a second job this semester due to my financial worries, but when I was honest with myself, I realized that it would do me more harm than good. I have, in the past, been active on campus in student organizations. This semester though, I had to focus on the reason I’m here: school.

It doesn’t help that I want to do my best to stand up for what is right in the world. Fighting for social justice (on campus and off) is a daily struggle. This can also take its toll on a person. Sometimes you just have to turn off the news and meditate.

Sometimes I doubt myself. Sometimes I get stressed. Sometimes I just need a mental break from it all and need to unwind with a good meal and some Netflix.

And that’s OK.

My mentor used the term “selfish,” but for me, it has been a delicate realization that selfishness is sometimes just self-care. The only person who is going to take care of me is, well… me.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t really sure what to write about this week. I often comment on current events or social justice concerns I have, but this week I decided to talk about myself. This week I decided to be selfish. And you know what? It feels pretty good.

Amanda Anastasia Paniagua is an opinion writer for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].