If you are very exhausted do you cancel dinner with an old friend?
If you are overwhelmed at work, do you say no to a new project?
If you are terribly sad, do you say ‘I am sad, I need a little bit of time to look after myself’ to the people you love?
Are you able to say an unapologetic no?
Are you able to say an enthusiastic yes?
If the answer to all – or at least most – of the above is affirmative then congratulations! You are healthy selfish. Do you know about healthy selfish? Well, you understand the concept of putting your own oxygen mask on first. You comprehend that only if you care for yourself, can you care for others. You are prepared to invest in yourself. You are taking the long view… playing the long game. You will not burn out while setting yourself on fire in order to keep other people warm.
And, seeing as we’re here, what about those other people? Hmmm… as much as some (the emotional terrorists) may shrink from your ability to hold on to yourself, the rest will tend to understand on an almost cellular level, that it is OK to ask things of you. That it is neither an imposition and nor is it dangerous. That they are putting nothing at risk by needing you because you are able to regulate, draw on some boundaries and give a clearly yes or no answer.
In summary; aim for healthy selfish. Lean into it. Respect yourself and the world will follow. This is not bolshiness, unhelpfulness or neglect. It is, in essence, the very opposite. Healthy selfish. Stick it on a T-Shirt. Take it seriously. It’s the loving way forward.