Adding “Selfish” to Your Vocabulary

Yesterday, I was stuck. Not only with an assignment I didn’t want to be doing but also just stuck in my head–which is the WORST kind of stuck to be.

It’s that mental kind of stuck where you feel like each thought is drifting up through molasses. It’s a place of doubt. A place with no air. A place where panic begins to seep in and steal all of your truth, where lies will settle over you one after the other if you let them. And they’ll take you down so fast.

I think we can all agree that that’s a bad space to be in. So I decided to get up and leave the toxic thoughts that had started to pile up around my computer, get in my car, and drive to that little place of heaven we all know and love– Target.

I went to Target with the express purpose of buying a large and overly priced candle. Because yesterday, I needed to tell myself I deserved something that would bring me joy.

Here’s something about me: I LOVE candles. But very, very rarely do I buy them for myself because they aren’t toilet paper. Or groceries. Or batteries for the smoke detector. They just aren’t a need, per se, and money spent on them can feel wasted.

I do allow myself to pick up a couple candles in Dollar Tree now and then, because they are so cheap. But let’s face it. They are tiny, measly little wimps that hardly smell like anything. So yesterday I set out to buy the big, honest-to-goodness, yummy smelling real thing.

And let me tell you something. It felt SO GOOD to march over there, linger over all of them, evaluate each one by smell, design, and that “whimsy” factor (you know the one) before finally selecting the perfect one. Because sometimes you just have to buy that “frivolous” thing for yourself. You have to take notice when you are parched for joy. You have to tell yourself you deserve good things, the kinds of things that may serve no other purpose for no one else but you.

Too often, it’s far too easy to tell yourself that you come last. Because there’s so many other people to think of before yourself, like a sick or aging parent, or a coworker going through a crisis, or your kids, or your spouse. We label any sort of pleasure-buy for ourselves as selfish, causing us to go through our days feeling like a neglected, drooping house plant desperately in need of a little water.

But thanks to (an extensive) amount of counseling this past year, I’m learning to get more comfortable with the word “selfish”. As an only child, I’ve developed a sort of paranoia about people automatically assuming I’m selfish and self-absorbed. So when my counselor talked to me about learning to incorporate the word “selfish” into my vocabulary, I shrank back in disbelief. Selfish? Really?? The very thing I’ve always tried to avoid? 

But since then, I’ve learned that by “selfish”, my counselor didn’t mean self-absorbed. Or arrogant. Or narcissistic. Or rude. What he meant was simply learning to listen to my body and my mind and learn to discern when I need to slow down, or to tell someone no, or to place boundaries in relationships when I’m feeling overwhelmed. And also to dispel the lie once-and-for-all that merely wanting something does NOT make me selfish.

I am not selfish for wanting a candle. I am not selfish for purchasing something “frivolous” simply because it brings me joy.

This, people, is a radical thought.

Sometimes it’s necessary to listen to your soul when you are in a parched and dry place. What is it that brings you that silly, secret joy? A bright pad of Post-It notes? That set of calligraphy pens at Michael’s? A sparkly bath bomb? Buying flowers for yourself?

Or how about this one: How many of you ladies have been raking your legs over with a dull razor for months because those expensive, 5-blade razor replacements don’t benefit your entire household in some way?

Well, you listen to me.


At this point I also feel like it’s important to point out that this is not permission to bring financial ruin down upon your household by grabbing every home decor item in sight like some crazed, throw-pillow grabbing loony. I’m just asking you to ask yourself what that little something is that might honor the starved and weary place inside yourself.

Maybe it’s a kid-free trip to Starbucks. Maybe it’s a new, full-priced book that hasn’t hit the bargain bin yet. Maybe it’s the $16 bottle of shampoo you smell every time you go to the store before begrudgingly placing the economical $4 one in your cart. Whatever it is, it’s OK to want it. And to enjoy it freely, to its full extent, without guilt.

Not everything in life has to be about guilt. Isn’t that just the best news?