We were recently facilitating our ILM accredited coach training when a participant came to an ‘aha’ moment; you could almost see the light bulb pop up above his head. He concluded, “I need to be more selfish”. We asked what he meant by that as the word selfish can be laden with negative associations. He said that he needed to think of himself more, but found the fact that we had asked what he meant quite challenging.
This struggle to articulate wanting to put ‘you’ first didn’t surprise me. Business life can sometimes overemphasise the team and understate the wellbeing of the individual, so selfishness is often seen as disrupting a role and jeopardising the group. So whenever we suspect we are being a little selfish we automatically feel guilty and ashamed. Why?
Increasingly we seek to fulfil our roles rather than ourselves in order to do well and toe the line. However, success requires a certain level of selfishness that many are scared to face. Rather than run the risk of upsetting others we keep quiet and robotically deliver others’ objectives and priorities. But if you are not being selfish can you be sure you are taking good enough care of yourself? Sadly, selfishness is a principle that is greatly misunderstood but it is a principle that matters for the development of a happy individual and the making of a good leader in the work place.
Too often we are caught being selfless trying to fulfil expectations no matter what it takes; overtime, settling for pay cuts and allowing more responsibilities to fall onto your shoulders are some of the ways we overstretch ourselves at work. You may find meeting your needs like making more family time, demanding more money and adopting a manageable work load can help you perform better in a work environment.
Don’t get me wrong the ‘I love me’ philosophy does not have to mean other people suffer while you turn into a self-gratifying narcissist but remember generosity and good will towards others are just not sustainable without some self-caring. Believe it or not being more selfish by putting yourself first can make you better equipped to be a more generous person. It is a counter intuitive concept but trust me it is true! Being selfish can help you fit into business life. After all, if you’re tired, frustrated and lack enthusiasm how can you really be of use to someone else? Once you have met all your needs and are able to recognise yourself as independent of your role in the work place and society- you automatically become more confident, exuberant and will inspire those around you.
Try these tips on mastering selfishness to improve your performance at work:
1. Get you needs and objectives met- you won’t be able to help other people until then
2. Promote yourself- indulge in a little narcissism and show off your skills to gain some recognition
3. Make sure people know how to please you as well as knowing how to please others
4. Reduce your level of guilt – you are not letting anyone down by trying to make yourself happy
5. Get a good work life balance and stop trying to be a perfectionist
At a time where redundancies and unemployment are the norm it makes sense to reassess your needs and goals and make them happen now. No one else is going to do it for you, so why not try it? Put yourself first for a change and see where being selfish takes you.