Confession: I have a conflicted relationship with the phrase, “Love yourself.” Maybe you do too. On one hand, Jesus said, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). On the other hand, “love yourself” has been used to sell everything from ice cream to fancy-schmancy sports cars, which makes it feel a bit suspicious. Is loving yourself selfish? Here’s what you need to know…
Psychology professor Dr. John A Johnson says there are actually three kinds of selfishness.
- “Bad Selfishness” – This benefits you at the expense of someone else. Take candy from a baby and you’re going to land on the naughty list.
- “Neutral Selfishness” – This is basic life maintenance we all have to do. Brushing your teeth may not save the world but it needs to happen.
- “Good Selfishness” – This turns out well for you and others. For example, exercise, a nap or even a massage might seem selfish but if it helps you to be a more loving friend, wife, mom or coworker then everyone wins.
“Good selfishness” also tends to boost our happiness. This might also seem self-centered but bestselling author and happiness researcher Gretchen Rubin has found, “Happy people tend to be more cooperative, less self-centered, and more willing to help other people.” Yep.
When you’re in doubt about a particular action, ask yourself, “What kind of selfishness is this?” Then choose option 1, 2 or 3 above.
If you answer “3” then carry on guilt-free. It turns out “good selfishness” is actually an unexpected code word for something else: love.
Next Step: Take ten seconds to pray, “God, thank You that when Jesus was on this earth He withdrew from the crowds, took naps and gave us an example of what it means to love ourselves in a healthy, holy way. Show me how to do the same today. Amen.”
Want to go deeper? Listen to the latest episode of my new podcast More than Small Talk. It will change your life in less than twenty minutes. Episode 11: Loving Yourself is Awkward has a giveaway! (New to podcasts? Start here.)