Experts Reveal Why ‘Healthy Selfishness’ Is The Way To ‘Function At Your Peak’

Selfishness is generally considered a really bad trait, along with greed, dishonesty, narcissism, and the like.

However, in today’s fast-paced social landscape and the demands the festive season places on us, many of us will be left stressed, exhausted, and even penniless as we rush around trying to see and please everyone.

And experts have now revealed how ‘health selfishness’ could actually provide a positive framework for many.

Priory psychotherapist and director of therapy Debbie Longsdale told FEMAIL: ‘He’s working on how it works best. Once you’re doing that, everything goes on.

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Experts have revealed how ‘healthy selfishness’ could help combat burnout and stress (file image)

Meanwhile, the American psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman defined ‘healthy egoism’ as ‘having a healthy respect for one’s own health, growth, happiness, joy and freedom’.

He also emphasized that these things are important for our mental well-being and our daily lives.

Debbie added: ‘It’s about not constantly getting lost in a thick undergrowth of tasks that end up overwhelming.

Jess Baker, psychologist and author of The Super-Helper Syndrome reiterated this, saying that there are times when we should be selfish, especially if we are exhausted from doing things for others.

She said: “It can be healthy to be selfish for as long as it takes to recover.”

The experts went on to reveal the different ways you can put yourself first:


Scott explained that it’s important to put boundaries around yourself so people don’t take advantage of you.


Psychotherapist Debbie said that we often need to let go of what society thinks we should do and even let go of some of the traditions learned within families.

She explained: ‘Often it is the expectations of maintaining these that cause great distress or unhappiness; the two-hour drive to relatives on Christmas Day, the massive round table where we could have pre-ordered food and all the kids want to do is play.’

When this starts to get too much, he said, it’s easy to start feeling drained, and then it’s time to shake it off and see what happens.

She said: ‘Covid changed everything for all of us and taught us new ways of doing things, some good, some less so.

But it is a lesson for all of us. There are always new ways to approach a situation and do things differently.’

He said that by focusing on his own needs, he can also help others.

Debbie revealed: “It’s all about bringing the best of yourself to the table, and you just can’t do that without limits.”

‘Learn to say no’. We all know our strengths, weaknesses, and ability levels.

‘Do you need to say no to your daughter or son when they ask you again if you would mind babysitting this weekend? Say it.

‘Do you want time to take that walk or read that newspaper by yourself over a cup of tea, or see that play? Do it.

‘Whatever they are, the boundaries must be in place. Many of us lose our boundaries, whether related to time, money, space, significant personal injury.’

Meanwhile, chartered psychologist Dr. Meg Arroll said while it can take a bit of practice to develop healthy boundaries, it starts with recognizing when a situation, relationship, or expectation is wearing you down.


The experts said that if we suppress thoughts and emotions, they have a tendency to come back with a vengeance; and we find it difficult to reason with friends and family.

It’s important to take time to process your thoughts and understand how you can manage them.

Debbie suggested taking a step back to reevaluate your time and priorities to clear them in your mind.

She said that you should express how you feel, but not in the heat of the moment, as you should be able to clearly articulate what you are thinking and seek empathy.

She said: ‘You may be surprised that your partner and loved ones have similar emotions, or would like to express yours, and you may come to a compromise. And end the guilt.

“None of us should feel guilty doing the best we can, the best way we know how.”

Psychologist Jess explained that it can be difficult for people to maintain boundaries if they don’t know what they are, so communicate your needs clearly.


Dr. Meg explained that in the busyness of life, we can easily forget what our self-care priorities are.

Both Meg and Debbie suggested writing down what your priorities are and thinking about whether you need to spend more time on your health and wellness, your personal finances, or even the things you want to watch on TV.

Dr. Meg explained, “The power of externalizing our thoughts and needs shouldn’t be underestimated, so write down all your priorities and then rank them in order of importance.”

According to Dr. Meg, if you take this time to be “selfish,” you’ll find a better way to move forward in your relationships, friendships, and work.

Debbie quoted an old Chinese proverb that said: ‘Stress is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.’

She said: ‘When people demand too much of you, you have the right to say no.

“Or if that’s too difficult, use tactics like buying time (for example, I need to contact you again) or directing them to someone else who could help them instead.”


Ultimately, you need to be responsible for your own happiness and when the pressures from other people are too much, you need to take a step back.

Debbie said: ‘Learning to enjoy alone time is one of the most important lessons we can learn.

‘You may find this moment when you are walking through a store, in a coffee shop or in your garden.

“It could be when you listen to music, exercise or walk the dog. Find your sweet spot and enjoy it.

“It will do more for your physical and mental health than you can imagine.”

He suggested avoiding the temptation to dwell excessively on past events or try to predict the future.

According to Debbie, breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation can help with this.

He advised that focusing on things in your immediate control, as well as maintaining a routine and structure, can help improve your well-being.

Notice when you are worrying about negative thoughts and in a downward spiral.

She suggested: ‘Use simple techniques to reframe your thinking by acknowledging these thoughts, challenging them, and replacing them with others.

‘Some refer to this as ‘capture it, review it and change it’. And most importantly, avoid social media feeds.

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